Books into Movies: Everything Old is New Again

Pride and Prejudice and Pop-Culture Phenomenon

Poor Jane Austen. When she first published Pride and Prejudice back in 1813, I don’t think she could have ever imagined how her story would become a literary classic — or inspire various film and television adaptations and spin-offs, from the much-loved BBC mini-series to the Bollywood musical version Bride and Prejudice.

An illustration from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

"Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, and delivered a swift kick to the creature's head."

But the most unusual and original spin on the Austen tale is surely Quirk Book‘s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which became an instant bestseller, spawned many more mash-ups, and will now be turned into a movie. The book takes the original text and adds in “Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem” — an unlikely pairing but one that actually turns out pretty interesting and amusing.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

Natalie Portman will star as zombie-killing, ninja-fighting Elizabeth Bennet, and will produce the film as well.

And speaking of Jane Austen mash-ups, the following faux movie trailer has been making the rounds on the Internet, and is a must-see for any Austen fan.

The first rule of Fight Club is one never mentions Fight Club.

Wickedly Entertaining

Ah, tales in the public domain. What would the movie industry do without you?

I’ve lost count of the number of upcoming movies based on the L. Frank Baum classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or some variation thereof — sequels, prequels, reimaginings, modern day retellings, and so on.

Most notable is Dorothy of Oz, a 3-D CGI musical with a star-filled cast providing the voices: Lea Michele of Glee fame as Dorothy, James Belushi as the (formerly Cowardly) Lion, Dan Ackroyd as the Scarecrow, and Kelsey Grammer as the Tin Man.

Concept art for Dorothy of Oz

Concept art for Dorothy of Oz

Also in the works but not confirmed are:

  • Oz: The Great and Powerful, a prequel focusing on the Wizard’s early life. Robert Downey Jr. is rumoured to be the first choice to play the Wizard.
  • Oz: The Return to Emerald City, a modern-day tale featuring Dorothy’s granddaughter as a big-city lawyer who is whisked away to Oz.
  • Surrender Dorothy, with Dorothy’s great-great-granddaughter using the ruby slippers to visit Oz and fight a new Wicked Witch. Drew Barrymore’s production company has optioned the script.
  • Wicked, a movie version of the popular Broadway play that is itself based on the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, which is a prequel of sorts to the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Whew. This one has been highly anticipated but without a lot of momentum until just recently, when Universal Studios started meeting with potential directors.

Russell Brand Does Shakespeare?

Helen Mirren? Of course. Alan Cumming? Absolutely. But can you picture comedian/actor/author Russell Brand starring in a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

Brand — best known for his role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall — will play the jester Trinculo in Julie Taymor’s big screen version of The Tempest. Helen Mirren will play Prospera in a gender-bending twist, with Chris Cooper as her brother, the usurping Duke of Milan. Rounding out the cast, David Strathairn plays the King of Naples, Alan Cumming plays his plotting brother Alonso, Alfred Molina will be the oft-drunk butler Stephano and Djimon Honsou will be the monstrous Caliban.

The Tempest will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, according to Variety, and open in theatres on December 10, 2010.

“My library was dukedom large enough.”
— Prospero, Act One, Scene Two

Life after Twilight

Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke is working on two more movies with literary sources:

  • First up is Red Riding Hood, currently filming here in Vancouver and starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman. In this version of the famous children’s tale, the big bad wolf is actually a werewolf.
  • Although details are sketchy, Hardwicke is apparently still signed on to direct a contemporary remake of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with Emile Hirsch in the lead role. At least Kristen Stewart hasn’t been cast as Ophelia, although rumour has it that both she and Megan Fox were considered for the role.

Meanwhile, fellow Twilight alum Robert Pattinson is wrapping up filming this week in Tennessee for the film version of Sara Gruen’s bestselling historical novel Water for Elephants. Pattinson plays a veterinarian who joins up with a travelling circus during the Depression. Reese Witherspoon co-stars as circus performer Marlena.

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

Three very different Edgar Allan Poe projects are currently in various stages of development:

  • Ewan McGregor and Jeremy Renner — of The Hurt Locker fame — are attached to star in The Raven, a thriller based on a fictionalized account of the poet’s life.
  • Poe, an animated biography of Edgar Allan Poe, will feature the voice talents of Alfred Molina and Dianne Wiest, and weave in five of his classic tales.
  • Sylvester Stallone — yes, Rocky/Rambo himself — has written a script for yet another Poe bio. According to a recent interview, Stallone has been working on this project for years, is still committed to producing it, but has realized the folly of directing and starring in it himself.
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About Erin

Bookworm, word nerd, grammar geek. Small town girl, living in a lonely world. Running a race-per-month in 2013.
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2 Responses to Books into Movies: Everything Old is New Again

  1. girlgeum says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to make a Jane Eyre series I can enjoy. 🙂

    • Erin says:

      Yes, a really good Jane Eyre adaptation is definitely needed! There is a new version coming out in March 2011 – it looks like the BBC is producing it as a feature film, starring Mia Wasikoska from the recent Alice movie as Jane, Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester, and Dame Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax.

      I have both the 1996 William Hurt / Charlotte Gainsbourg film and the 1997 A&E adaptation with Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton, but neither really wowed me.

      I’ve never seen the 1983 BBC version with Timothy Dalton, or the BBC remake from 2006.

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