November 18, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Best-selling books made into movies usually need a plot, but some recent narrative-starved nonfiction projects suggest otherwise. (Perhaps Adaptation, the winningly off-center take on Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, is this year’s model?) Here are a few suggestions for this quirky crop of big-screen translations.


THE BOOK An anecdote-heavy look at the benefits of snap decisions. THE PLAYERS Producer/possible star Leonardo DiCaprio, writer-director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana). THE CHALLENGE Winnowing a crowd of characters, ranging from Greek sculpture experts to military strategists. WHAT WE’D DO Play it straight. Avoid I Heart Huckabees-style visual gags, a pitfall with pop-science material. And don’t give Leo a love interest. Who’d want him in a lab coat, anyway?


THE BOOK A breezy self-help smash aimed at women who just don’t get the hint. THE PLAYERS New Line Cinema and Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films. THE CHALLENGE How to film a series of advice-type columns. WHAT WE’D DO Coauthors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo know the turf, having written for HBO’s column-based Sex and the City. Since the Sex movie fizzled, why not just bring the show’s structure and tone to the big screen? One caveat: No voice-overs that start, ”And just like that…”


THE BOOK A muckraking exposé on the burger/french fry industry. THE PLAYERS Director Richard Linklater and star Catalina Sandino Moreno. THE CHALLENGE Finding the center of this sprawling, densely researched work. WHAT WE’D DO Let Robert Altman try to tell 42 stories in one movie. Focus on Moreno, who could portray a slaughterhouse worker in the manner of her Oscar-nominated drug mule in Maria Full of Grace.

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