Magazine article Book

Screen Writer

Magazine article Book

Screen Writer

Article excerpt

HOLLYWOOD HAS BEEN BUSILY TURNING BOOKS INTO movies since 1916, when the great D.W. Griffith directed his four-hour silent masterpiece, Roger's Thesaurus, with its celebrated scene of Lillian Gish as a deceived housewife screaming at her two-timing husband (Francis X. Bushman), "I hate you, I despise you, I loathe you, I abhor you, I detest you, I dislike you intensely, I spit upon your spats!"

Today's filmmakers are still enamored of the classics--as well as the not-so-classics. Having ransacked the better-known works of our greatest writers, the studios have begun to mine some obscure gems. As one studio executive explained, "When a scout tipped me that Leo Tolstoy wrote other stuff besides War and Peace, I was, like, 'Whoa, fax me the synopses.'"

For instance, how many people who saw The Hulk realized that its protagonist was actually created by Victor Hugo in his 1832 novel, Les Hulces lncroyables?

That little-known book tells the tragic story of Bruisse Bonaire, an honest peasant who is despised by the authorities because he dislikes cheese, then as now the mainspring of France's economy. Driven to a fugitive existence in the sewers of Paris, Bonaire falls in love with the diseased gypsy girl Encephalitia and fathers a dozen green mutant offspring who pop out of sewer openings by night, gnawing the ankles of corrupt politicians and venal businessmen. It is these intensely imagined scenes of moonlit violence, involving chomping incisors and bloody trouser cuffs, that inspired The Hulk's cutting-edge digital action sequences, though of course the book's revolutionary political overtones, as well as sixteen subplots, were cut.

A number of recent action flicks have distinguished literary antecedents and, even more surprisingly, so do many action-flick sequels. While everyone knows that the 2000 Charlie's Angels was based on the prize-winning Broadway drama Angels in America, few realize that Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle drew liberally from Henry Miller's last novel, Flexus. Narrating in his unique quasiautobiographical neopomolistic style, Miller becomes bored after years of exhausting sex with the same three poverty-stricken Parisian artistes, so he pretends to run a spy agency and recruits naive female tourists as "agents" in the hope of recharging his waning potency by watching them trying to sneak into foreign embassies in short skirts, spike heels and black masks. …

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