How Does A Great Book Become A Horrible Movie?
Here’s the thing about movies.
If you’re going to remake a film, a film that won multiple Academy Awards and received rave reviews, then you better do an unbelievably good job.
That’s why I believe the Gatsby film was a success. The previous film versions of the classic novel sucked, so the bar was set pretty low when Baz Luhrmann got around to making the movie. It wasn’t just better than previous Gatsby movies–it was a very good movie on its merit.
On the flip side, what about All The King’s Men?
With the novel, which is also my current read from the Time list, Robert Penn Warren won the Pulitzer in 1947. Playing off that success, Robert Rossen directed the 1949 movie, which won three Academy Awards, including the big one—Best Picture.
Here’s a trailer for the 1949 film, which starred Broderick Crawford.
Now, fast forward to 2006. Steven Zaillian decides he wants to remake a modern version of the classic film.
On paper, the movie seems like an easy winner. The all-star cast was ridiculous, and I mean that in a good way: Sean Penn, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini. It’s Hannibal Lecter and Tony Soprano in the same film!
But the reviews say the 2006 version of All The King’s Men is a complete dud. It has an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes! Granted, as I learned from the Gatsby film, you can’t always trust reviews. But 11%? Wow.
But, still, popular opinion is that this version of the film sucked—despite having what seemed like all the ingredients for success, including a proven story and great actors.
Here’s a trailer for the 2006 version of All The King’s Men.
So my question: What happened?
The book’s a Pulitzer winner. The original movie is an Academy Award winner. What happened with the 2006 movie?
How can a novel that translated so well to film, and seemed so right, go so wrong the second time around?