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Ken Kesey, 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'
The movie adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of only three films to win all Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and (Adapted) Screenplay. Even so, author Ken Kesey refused to see it because of creative differences. The movie notably removes Chief Bromden from his role as narrator and tones down some of the paranoid rambling. As Kesey once put it, “I wanted to do The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and they wanted to do Hogan's Heroes."
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Stephen King, The Shining
King’s well-known dissatisfaction with Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of his best-selling novel is related to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. According to King, casting Jack Nicholson after the actor won an Oscar for playing a mental patient gives away the central tension of the novel. "In the book, there's an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he's crazy," King told Rolling Stone last year. "And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene."
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Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess was an accomplished linguist, composer, critic, and author. Yet he’s probably most famous for Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. This never entirely sat right with Burgess and eventually led to him dismissing his own book. In his 1985 book Flame Into Being, Burgess wrote that “the film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.”
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Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
American Psycho is a famously ambiguous movie — how much of it is just inside Patrick Bateman's head? But it turns out the movie wasn’t ambiguous enough for its author’s satisfaction. “American Psycho was a book I didn’t think needed to be turned into a movie. I think the problem with American Psycho was that it was conceived as a novel, as a literary work with a very unreliable narrator at the center of it and the medium of film demands answers,” Bret Easton Ellis once said. “I don’t think American Psycho is particularly more interesting if you knew that he did it or think that it all happens in his head. I think the answer to that question makes the book infinitely less interesting.”
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Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The first film adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory openly changed the title to focus more on Gene Wilder's charismatic Willy Wonka, which disappointed Dahl. According to a trustee of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, the late author was also infuriated by the movie's added scenes, such as the "fizzy lifting drinks."
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Winston Groom, Forrest Gump
Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Forrest Gump was an award-winning blockbuster success, but author Winston Groom was reportedly less than pleased in the end. Rumor placed the blame on everything from the fact that he seemingly didn’t like the way it toned down his novel’s rougher, more political elements, to additional acrimony, which arose from Paramount’s use of arcane accounting to initially deny Groom a share of the film’s box office. Groom’s follow-up novel, Gump and Co., fittingly begins with the line “don’t ever let nobody make a movie of your life’s story.”
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P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins
Despite what the makers of Saving Mr. Banks would have you believe, P.L. Travers was not overly enthused by the Disney adaptation of her work (which she fought tooth and nail). She cried at the premiere not from emotional exuberance but from pure shock at seeing her character on screen, and loudly told Walt Disney at the after-party, “the first thing that has to go is the animation sequence.” There’s a reason no further Poppins movies were made.
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Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The famously irascible Moore did not take kindly to seeing his dark, violent, profanity-strewn literary mashup comic turned into a blockbuster superhero movie with additional characters and a different ending. Moore would later request that his name be removed from all movie adaptations of his work.
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Ursula K. LeGuin, Earthsea
Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books featured a wizarding school decades before Harry Potter. Yet when the Sci Fi Channel decided to adapt them for screen in 2004, they cut her out of the process. LeGuin was incensed that the filmmakers reshuffled plot points and changed the race of her characters. "I realized the producers had no understanding of what the books are about and no interest in finding out," LeGuin wrote in Slate. "All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence."