When a Book Becomes a Movie, Fans Are Never Satisfied
Bestselling books don’t necessarily make hit movies. What will happen when Gillian Flynn’s suspense novel, Gone Girl, makes it to the big screen?
In an unusually quick turnaround, the book that became a New York Times bestseller just last year is already a film in development.
Ben Affleck is reportedly in negotiations to play lead character Nick Dunne, the distant husband who may or may not have killed his wife. The Pearl Harbor actor has probably built up enough street cred by now to take on a tougher role after his gritty turns in The Town and Argo were well-received by fans and critics.
Under David Fincher's direction, the Gone Girl movie should have the twists and turns of the book, a suspense thriller that explores the psychology and dynamic of a husband and wife's longtime relationship. Fincher, known for directing The Social Network, can likely apply his earlier experience as director of The Game in 1997. The film starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn is also a psychological suspense thriller rife with plot twists.
But will Gone Girl be a box office success? Hollywood turns books into films like clockwork, but whether the movie lives up to the book is anyone’s guess. In a field of hit or miss, Gone Girl may be yet another movie that book fans will never be satisfied with.
A recent example of book-to-film failure is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a bestseller published in 2005 that became a film in 2011. Also directed by Fincher, the movie featured an A-list cast including Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and Christopher Plummer. It opened during the Christmas season and should have had a built-in audience of book fans.
But while The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was well-received by critics, it was a disappointment at the box office, struggling to make back its $90 million production budget. The studio planned a sequel anyway that may or may not eventually make it to the big screen.
Fincher’s take on the novel by Stieg Larsson was fairly well-received by critics but ignored by audiences; this year’s The Great Gatsby had the opposite problem. While the film based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic was a box office smash, it was universally panned by critics. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the latest take on The Great Gatsby starred Hollywood heavyweights Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan and still received harsh reviews.
Perhaps book fans can stay hopeful — the movie released in May was actually the sixth Gatsby film. Maybe someone will eventually get it right.
Of course, for every book that becomes a failed film, another is warmly received. J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy became a hugely successful film franchise. The Hunger Games was a New York Times bestseller that inspired devotion in new fans when the subsequent film was released.
Time will tell if Gone Girl joins the ranks of successful films based on books or not. Rights for the Gone Girl film adaptation reportedly went for seven figures, and Reese Witherspoon is producing. Besides the possibility of Affleck as Nick, the rest of casting is up in the air, including the pivotal role of Amy, the (possibly) murdered wife. Entertainment sites and fans are buzzing about the role, and Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, and Emily Blunt are said to be eyeing the part.