Novels and non-fiction titles have long been a source of ideas for movies. From ‘Gone with the Wind’ to ‘Lord of the Rings’, cinema has famously borrowed from the world of literature to produce some of its biggest blockbusters.
But there are some big hits, however, that you might not know originated from the pages of a best-selling book.
1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
In the film, due for release in the UK on 20th April, Lily James plays free-spirited writer Juliet Ashton, who forms a life-changing bond with the eccentric Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, when she decides to write about the book club they formed during the occupation of Guernsey in WWII.
After receiving a letter from society member Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), Juliet is so intrigued that she heads to the island to find out more. But she soon discovers that the trauma of war continues to leave its mark on Guernsey and its inhabitants as she tries to discover the truth about the society’s founder Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay).
The novel it’s based on was published in 2008 and was written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows as a series of letters. One of the key themes of the book was highlighting how words and literature can connect people and communities, a theme that truly resonated with the book’s millions of fans and remains at the heart of the new film.
Unsurprisingly, with its sweeping World War II backdrop, compelling romance and an intriguing mystery hidden at its heart, film producers (the ones behind ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ no less) spotted its potential. ‘Four Weddings and Funeral’ director Mike Newell took the reins, surrounded by an all-star British cast including Lily James, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.
2. The Notebook
Pouring rain, beautiful young actors, epic kisses – it seems something of a surprise that it took Nicholas Sparks’ swoony romance novel eight years to reach the screen, considering what a hit it became.
But at the time Ryan Gosling wasn’t Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams was also pretty much an unknown and Sparks’ books weren’t the conveyor belt of successful adaptations they’ve since become.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
For most, this 1961 bittersweet romantic comedy is pretty much peak Audrey Hepburn, as well as a showcase for some spectacular fashion.
What most people don’t know is that it’s based on a 1958 novella by author Truman Capote (often credited with pioneering creative non-fiction with true crime book ‘In Cold Blood’), which adds much more social commentary to the story of someone Capote liked to call an American geisha.
4. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The 2004 novel by Deborah Moggach on which this romantic comedy-drama is based is actually called ‘These Foolish Things’.
But with a stellar cast of Brit legends including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, the 2012 movie adaptation about a retirement hotel in India (run by Dev Patel) became a box office hit and spawned a 2015 sequel.
As for Moggach, she chose not to write an accompanying follow-up, but continues to produce novels and screenplays, including the movie version of her bestseller ‘Tulip Fever’ in 2017.
5. Father of the Bride
1991’s ‘Father of the Bride’ features a brilliantly befuddled performance by Steve Martin as the titular parent and a hilarious supporting turn by Martin Short as the linguistically-challenged wedding planner.
It was based on Edward Streeter’s 1949 novel, itself one of the biggest-selling books of that year, which spawned the first 1950 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor as dad and daughter.
That means that Steve Martin’s effort was actually a remake – at least that’s what they called them in the early Nineties. Now it would be a reboot.
6. Hidden Figures
This brilliant drama about the women of colour who helped put an American in space was a famously forgotten slice of American history until author Margot Lee Shetterly wrote her 2016 non-fiction book about it.
Telling the story of mathematician Katherine Johnson (played in the movie by Taraji P. Henson), engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and NASA supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), the film was nominated for three Oscars while the book hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
The success of the movie and its impact amongst educators has even meant that a special child-orientated version of the book was released.
Reese Witherspoon was nominated for an Oscar for playing Cheryl Strayed, a drug-abusing, depressed woman who decides to walk over a thousand miles of the famous Pacific Crest Trail alone after her marriage ends, in a bid to revitalise herself.
The film only came into being thanks to Witherspoon, who fell in love with Strayed’s 2012 brutally honest memoir and optioned it through her own production company. Heralded for its feminism and gritty tone, Oprah chose it to be part of her book club and it has since been translated into over 30 languages.
Patricia Highsmith is best known as the novelist who created books like ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ (itself a movie with Matt Damon and Jude Law), as well as ‘Strangers on a Train’.
But it was her romantic novel ‘The Price of Salt’ (one she first published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan) which director Todd Haynes brought to the screen to great acclaim in 2015, renaming it ‘Carol’ and focusing on the slow-burning relationship between two women played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is released in UK cinemas on 20th April 2018.