'Tom Was Lestat For Me': Authors Who Loved the Film Versions of Their Books

Authors are notorious for hating the movie adaptations of their work, but Philip K. Dick, Dennis Lehane, Anne Rice and others found themselves pleasantly surprised.
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Warner Bros.

Last week, Flavorwire had a good laugh at the recently uncovered notes from the producers of Blade Runner, who seemed united in their hatred for the "deadly dull" sci-fi noir that would prove one of the most influential movies of the '80s. But it's important to remember that some of those casually involved in the production actually liked it quite a bit—particularly Philip K. Dick, whose book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was the basis of Ridley Scott's film. And while there's a long (and enjoyable) history of authors loathing what Hollywood does to their books, there are a few examples of writers who are utterly delighted with their page-to-film adaptations.

Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner

In a lovely letter written to the Ladd Company shortly before he died (and before Blade Runner hit theaters), author Dick expressed his enthusiasm for what he had seen of the film, and boldly predicted its response. "The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people," Dick wrote, "and, I believe, on science fiction as a field... Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day 'reality' pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be." In conclusion, he tells producer Jeff Walker, "My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER." Not exactly faint praise, that.

Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino took a few liberties with Elmore Leonard's book Rum Punch, changing the race and last name of its leading character to accommodate Pam Grier and the title to reflect her importance. But Leonard was still thrilled with Tarantino's film, which he says is his favorite dramatization of one of his books. "I've had some good ones," he said of his film adaptations. "Get Shorty and Out of Sight, and the one Tarantino did, Jackie Brown, those are good movies. And Tarantino's especially stayed close to the book. I was surprised that he stayed closer than anyone. And there have been other adaptations that have varied widely for the worse. That's the way it is with making movies. Most of them are not that good, so you kind of expect that. Hopefully it won't happen with yours."

James Ellroy, L.A. Confidential

"I think that if a writer options a novel to a studio or to filmmakers in general," novelist James Ellroy said in 1997, "then he has an obligation to keep his mouth shut if the movie gets made and it's all fucked up." But Ellroy helped promote Curtis Hanson's Oscar-winning adaptation of L.A. Confidential, telling reporters, "I am in the wonderful position of actually wanting to open my mouth and extol L.A. Confidential the film." Of the script, Ellroy said, "I saw that they had done a good job of compressing my story while maintaining the overall dramatic thrust of it, and I saw that they had contained the narrative structure of the three men. Of course when I saw the film it was very, very taken with it." Asked to compare his work and the movie, he shrugged, "The book is black type on white paper and the film is visual. That's it. It's a brilliantly compatible visual form of the novel."

Dennis Lehane, Mystic River

"I didn't want to sell Mystic River," Lehane told The Atlantic in 2004. "I didn't think anyone could film it, since the vast majority of it happens inside the characters' minds. It was only because I talked to Clint [Eastwood] and knew he got it that I said all right, I'll let him do this. And then of course they did it so beautifully."

John Grisham, The Rainmaker

The frequently adapted lawyer-turned-author gave a memorable interview to Entertainment Weekly in 2004, in which he candidly accessed all of his works to date, and films made from them—from good (A Time to Kill) to bad (The Chamber). He had the highest praise for Francis Ford Coppola's 1997 film, starring a still up-and-coming Matt Damon: "To me it's the best adaptation of any of 'em. Coppola really wanted my involvement, for whatever it's worth. And I love the movie. It's so well done."

P.D. James, Children of Men

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Jason Bailey is the film editor at Flavorwire. He is the author of The Ultimate Woody Allen Film Companion.

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