Film adaptations are frequently ridiculed for not being true to the original – it’s also much more fun to make a film which is simply ‘inspired by’ a old-school classic. We look at ten films said to be inspired by classic works of literature.
Being ‘loosely based on’, allows film-makers to hand-pick the best bits from the winning plot formulas of literary greats, and be as liberal as they like with the rest of it. Simples.
The upcoming comedy Easy A is ‘partially inspired by’ Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter – although if no-one told you, you might never guess. With that in mind, we thought we’d give you a run-down of the top ten somewhat surprising literary inspirations behind a few of our favourites…
1. The film: Easy A
Easy A is the story of a high school student (Emma Stone) who lies about losing her virginity and, when attempting to use the resulting rumour to gain popularity, finds herself facing the school’s religious fanatic (Amanda Bynes).
Loosely based on… The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 work of fiction, which tells the story of Hester Prynne, a 17c New England puritan, who is forced to wear a red letter ‘A’ as a symbol of her adultery. The book has long been a favourite on school syllabuses, and is in the film as the novel which Stone’s character is studying.
2. The film: Cruel Intentions
This 1999 drama starred the likes of Ryan Philippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon and Selma Blair as privileged New York City teenagers who make a bets based on seduction and manipulation.
Loosely based on…Les Liaisons dangereuses
Les Liaisons dangereuses is a 1782 French novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, in which two rival members of the French aristocracy turn the art of seduction into a game. At the time, it was one of the most scandalous and controversial books ever to be published.
3.The film: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Set in 1934 rural Mississippi during the Great Depression, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a modern satire starring George Clooney, in which three escaped convicts attempt to recover the buried loot from a bank robbery, whilst finding themselves in a series of sticky situations.
Loosely based on… The Odyssey
Homer’s Odyssey is an epic poem, following the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses) on his adventurous journey home after the fall of Troy. He eventually returns to Ithaca, and goes about the task of slaying all the suitors who are after his wife, having presumed him to be dead.
4. The film: She’s the Man
This 2006 romantic comedy sees Amanda Bynes pretending to be her brother so that she can take his place on the school football team. All goes well until she begins to fall for her roommate, played by Channing Tatum, who – just like everyone else – thinks she is a boy.
Loosely based on…Twelfth Night
Shakespeare’s comedic play, Twelfth Night, is the story of Viola, who believes her twin brother to be dead, and masquerades as a boy in order to gain employment as the page to Duke Orsino. It is believed to have been written around 1601.
5. The film: Apocalypse Now
This 1979 film is set during the Vietnam War, with US army officer Martin Sheen sent to assassinate rogue Colonel Kurtz, Marlon Brando, with direction from Francis Ford Coppola.
Loosely based on… Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella explored the topic of colonisation, and the narrator encounters a man who has gone insane, possibly due to the evils of which he finds himself guilty as a result of imperialism.
6. The film: 10 Things I Hate About You
This 1999 romantic comedy has Heath Ledger being ‘hired’ by a fellow high school student to take out the unsociable and nonconformist Kat (Julia Stiles), so that her beautiful and popular younger sister will also be permitted by her parents to go on a date.
Loosely based on…The Taming of the Shrew
Another spot of Shakespearian inspiration – the original depicts the headstrong ‘shrew’ of the title being subjected to comical and psychological torments by a gentleman of Verona, in order to eventually win her hand in marriage.
7. The film: Ivans XTC
This independent film released in 2000 depicts the last days of Hollywood talent agent Ivan Beckman, which happen to be filled with drugs, murder and excess.
Loosely based on… The Death of Ivan Ilyich
This 1886 novella from Leo Tolstoy is the story of the life and death of a 19th century Russian judge and, in particular, the moments of clarity which he experiences shortly before dying.
8. The film: Clueless
Set in a Beverly Hills high school, this 1995 film stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, and Brittany Murphy as superficial teenagers who are most concerned with, “Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Whatever.”
Loosely based on… Emma
Yup, this one was very loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, which tells the story of a genteel woman living in Regency England, whose attempts at romantic matchmaking go somewhat awry.
9. The film: The Claim
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, this Western which was released in 2000, tells the story of a man whose past catches up with him after he sells his wife and daughter to gain the rights to a gold mine.
Loosely based on… The Mayor of Casterbridge
This tragic 1886 novel by Thomas Hardy is set in Hardy’s fictional Wessex, in the less-than-wild West of England. A farm labourer sells his wife and child to a passing sailor, when they come back to find him, they expose the weaknesses in his character which brings about his eventual downfall.
10. The film: West Side Story
Set in New York City in the mid-1950s, this musical film explores the tension between a white American gang and a rival gang of Puerto Rican immigrants, with Natalie Wood falling in love with a member of the rival gang.
Loosely based on… Romeo and Juliet
It may have become something of a classic in its own right, but this film was originally based on another Shakespearian favourite. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy about lovers from rival families in Verona, whose feuding results in the eventual death of the young couple.
Easy A is due to be released in UK cinemas on 22nd October.