Literary adaptations -- Books like "The Golden Bowl" and "Little Men" could be big screen hits

By Maria Ricapito
Updated February 03, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Given the success of Little Women, a barrage of literary movies will be coming your way soon: Demi Moore as Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; an Emma Thompson-penned version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility; Nicole Kidman in a Jane Campion version of Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady; Pierce Brosnan in Miramax’s version of Robinson Crusoe; and Franco Zeffirelli’s (and Charlotte Bronte’s) Jane Eyre with Elle Macpherson. A recently unearthed Louisa May Alcott manuscript even led to a bidding war reportedly between such interested parties as Fox and Columbia Pictures (possibly for their Little Women star Winona Ryder).

<p. The problem with mining the classics is, sometimes you hit gold (The Age of Innocence, A Room With a View, Howards End), and sometimes you come up empty (Daisy Miller, Where Angels Fear to Tread). Here are some decidedly lesser classics that nonetheless could easily lend themselves to filmic adaptation, with our suggestions on casting.

Henry James The Golden Bowl (1904) In the London social whirl, heiress Maggie Verver (Sandra Bullock) meets dashing Prince Amerigo (Antonio Banderas), who marries her despite his continuing love for beautiful, common-born Charlotte Stant (Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson). Unknowing Maggie matchmakes her widower father with Charlotte, making Amerigo’s mistress his mother-in-law!

Edith Wharton The Custom of the Country (1913) Midwestern beauty Undine Spragg (Uma Thurman) and her parents (Sally Field, Paul Newman) move to turn-of-the-century New York City to take society by storm. But will a youthful indiscretion — namely her ex-husband (Robert De Niro) — spoil Undine’s plans?

Louisa May Alcott Little Men (1871) Twins Daisy and Demi (Amy Locane and Leonardo DiCaprio as adults, Anna Paquin and Elijah Wood as children) narrate the heartwarming escapades of the sons and lovers of the grown-up March girls. Features an ensemble cast of ”Jo’s Boys,” including Mark Wahlberg, Jaleel White, Scott Wolf, and Joey Lawrence.