According to the Internet Movie Database, at least 150 of the movies coming out this year will be based on books, be they fiction or non-fiction. While these adaptations range from intended blockbusters like Divergent or more niche independent films such as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For it’s evident that Hollywood has a wealth of source material to draw on. One can picture producers waiting in the wings of local bookstores to see which novels become bestsellers so they can acquire the film rights as soon as possible.
Except some books don’t even have to leave the publishing house before one production company or another snatches up the rights. Actors, producers and directors alike are always on the lookout for the next book to make it big, on some occasions waging multimillion dollar bidding wars just to be able to call shotgun. The following six books, arranged by order of release, were optioned before the public could even leaf through their pages.
6 World War Z, by Max Brooks
Originally optioned in June 2006, just a few months before its source material was published, World War Z didn’t hit screens until last summer. Directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and produced by and starring Brad Pitt, the zombie epic languished in development Hell for a few years as the script went through rewrites and distributor Paramount Pictures attempted to secure an additional financier. Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment had originally won the film rights to the book after a bidding war with Leonard DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, according to Variety. Though a review of the early script in 2008 by Ain’t It Cool News suggested that the World War Z film would be a fairly faithful adaptation of Brooks’ fictional oral history, numerous revisions led to a more mainstream blockbuster thriller. However, reviews were still somewhat positive, with Richard Roeper awarding the movie 3 ½ out of 4 stars.
5 The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
A genre bender that feels like Back to the Future by way of The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife tells of the relationship of Clare Abshire and Henry DeTamble, the latter who possesses a genetic fluke that allows him to jump from the present to the past or future—whether he wants to or not. He meets his future (past? It gets confusing) wife when she is a child, and over years of incidental encounters the two begin a romance and get married in the most difficult-to-explain living arrangement known to Man. This fascinating novel also explores ontological paradoxes and the hardships of raising a child that can and will randomly time travel whether you want them to or not. The film rights to Audrey Niffenegger’s novel were purchased by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment production company not too long before the book’s release in 2003, though the adaptation didn’t hit theatres until 2009.
4 The Longest Ride, by Nicholas Sparks
Since the publication of his first novel, The Notebook, and its wildly popular adaptation starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, Nicholas Sparks has been the biggest name in romantic fiction since Jane Austen. From 2008 to 2013, five of his novels jumped from page to the screen, averaging one a year. The Longest Ride centres on the interweaving tales of an older, recently widowed gentleman, a college girl, and her boyfriend. Though the book was released in September 2013 its rights were optioned the preceding February by Fox 2000 Pictures, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox, for $5 million, according to a press release on Hollywood news site Deadline. The film is due out in February next year, though as of yet no stars’ names have been attached to the project. In the meantime, Sparks fans will be able to see the adaptation of his 2011 novel The Best of Me this October.
3 Arclight, by Josin L. McQuein
If we’ve learned anything about the success of The Hunger Games and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, it’s that teenagers love dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. Heck, the same goes for adults: The Walking Dead is currently one of the most popular shows on television. It has to be all that tasty angst. So it’s not entirely surprising that Universal Pictures optioned the movie rights for Josin L. McQuein’s Arclight shortly before the book’s release in April of last year. Arclight is set in the future after a devastating incident, when all of the last known humans eke out their survival in the titular refuge that’s designed to keep out the “Fade,” a faction of nightmarish beings that stick to the dark and are repelled by the wall of light emitted from the compound. One day, a lone, amnesiac girl emerges from the dark beyond the Arclight, piquing the interest of her fellow survivors as well as agents of the Fade. Though the film is scheduled for a 2015 release, few names are publicly attached to the project and its IMDb is hardly a stub.
2 City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
A contributor to The New York Times Book Review and online literary magazine The Millions, Garth Risk Hallberg recently penned a 900-page epic whose movie rights were sold before it was even purchased by a publisher. Hallberg has kept mum about the particulars of City on Fire’s plot and characters, though we know it’s set in New York City in the 1970s and that its events revolve around a shooting in Central Park and a mysterious townhouse in the East Village—all of this gleamed from an excerpt posted to online arts and literature magazine Canteen and its accompanying interview with the author himself. The film rights were optioned last October by Scott Rudin, best known for producing The Social Network, No Country for Old Men and School of Rock and called “the world heavyweight champ of literary-minded producers” by entertainment trade website Studio System News. The book itself was purchased by Knopf for $2 million the following month, with reportedly 10 different publishers vying for the book over a period of two days, according to The New York Times, though for now it’s unknown when exactly the book will even be released.
1 The Martian, by Andy Weir
In the vein of Gravity, Apollo 13 and 1970s cult classic Silent Running, The Martian, by Andy Weir, is a sci fi adventure that pits a lone astronaut against an unforgiving interstellar environment—in this case, Mars. It tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, thought dead by his fellow explorers in the wake of an accident and left stranded on the cold and windswept surface of the Red Planet. Originally published as an eBook, The Martian saw its hardcover release earlier this month, put into print by Crown Publishing Group, a subsidiary of Random House. But even before Weir’s novel hit physical shelves, its film adaptation rights were optioned by 20th Century Fox. Drew Goddard, best known as the writer of Cloverfield and the director of horror film homage/parody The Cabin in the Woods, is set to helm the adaptation. Interviewed by Shawn Speakman for publisher Del Rey’s sci fi and fantasy website, Weir said he could see Bradley Cooper in the role of Watney, noting the actor’s ability to play similarly “smart ass” characters—though he added that he has no creative control over the adaptation.
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