Book & Screenplay? Night & Day.

My most recent Jerks & Irks segment listed the reasons why I hate movie critics, my proof being a recent review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But I didn’t get into how I felt about the movie. So here goes: I liked it. But…

It was nothing like the book. It was as if the book was a mere suggestion. Would you like to know what the book and the movie had in common? Abraham Lincoln. And Vampires. That’s honestly, basically it. What’s even more amazing is the author of the book, Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay!

Say what?!

I know, my mind was blown too.

And I’m not the only one who noticed the disparity. One of SGS’s twitter followers asked him if he even read his own book before he wrote the screenplay. SGS’s response? “There was a book?” At least he’s maintaining a sense of levity about the subject.

Aww, are you impatiently waiting for me to tell you what the differences were? I thought so. Here are sixteen (in honor of our 16th president, of course!):

Oh, I almost forgot, **SPOILER ALERT**.

  1. The opening scene where a young Abe protects a slave boy from the whip of his vampire master? Never happened in the book.
  2. The scene where Abe’s mother is dying from an unknown illness that is actually a blood sickness caused by a vampire bite? In the book vampires dripped a few drops of their blood into the mouths of the victims they intended to kill (without turning them into vampires). There were no bite marks.
  3. Abe’s vampire hunting began with the killing of the vampire responsible for his mother’s death, Mr Barts, when he was still a boy.
  4. Mr Barts only had one arm in the book.
  5. In the movie, a grown Abe was hunting Mr Barts when he was saved by a stranger (Henry). In the book, as mentioned, Mr Barts was already dead. Abe was hunting a female vampire who fed on children when Henry saved him.
  6. Henry took Abe in while he was on the mend in both versions of the story, but in the book, Abe knew right away that Henry was a vampire. Henry anticipated this, which is why Abe woke up in chains.
  7. Who in the hell is William? In the movie, the same boy Abe saved in his childhood comes back as an adult and free slave and is almost like a sidekick. This character did not EXIST in the book! Agghhh!
  8. Speaking of added characters, the Adam & Eve, brother/sister, first family of vampires didn’t exist in the book either.
  9. The back story Henry provided for how he was turned didn’t happen that way in the book.
  10. That lovely scene where Abe and a should-be-dead-for-a-decade-now Mr Barts hop across the backs of wild horses like stones in a creek never happened.
  11. Henry tells Abe that vampires can’t kill each other. Not true. In fact, the book includes a scene where Henry and his friends save Abe and two other “hunters” from a nasty vamp-trap. They didn’t save them using double talk and peace offerings, let me assure you.
  12. There’s an entire character missing. Abe did meet and work for a man named Speed, but there was also a big, tall guy he became friends with. After the neighborhood bullies picked a fight with Abe and he bested said big, tall guy, they eventually hunted side by side.
  13. There was a woman Abe fell in love with before he met and married Mary Todd. I don’t remember her name, but Abe was going to propose to her but she was promised to a vampire and out of spite the vampire killed her with that blood sickness thing.
  14. Abe and Mary Todd had four sons, two of which died in the book. The son that died in the movie at least kind of died under the same circumstances as in the book. Kind of.
  15. All that stuff about bringing all the silver in the land down to the Civil War battle fields, and the decoy train, and the Underground Railroad smuggling the actual silver…NEVER HAPPENED.
  16. The movie ends with Abe and Mary heading out to the play. The book progresses through the assassination (John Wilkes Boothe was a vampire, of course) and Abe is subsequently turned by Henry in order to continue their vampire hunting fun.

I’m sure there are probably a half-dozen more differences, but these are the ones that left me seething the most. Hubby-pants insisted that I forget there was a book and “just try to enjoy the movie.” Which I admit, I did only in retrospect. And I also conceded the fact that the book, as it was, would not have translated very well into a movie. The biographical, journalistic style would have made for quite a boring two-hour flick, so I understand why SGS damn near rewrote the entire concept in preparation for its big screen debut. Personally, I think it took a lot of objectivity for him to do what he did. So my question is this, precious readers, what about your projects? Would you rewrite them for the big screen? Or allow them to be rewritten?

13 thoughts on “Book & Screenplay? Night & Day.

  1. I would never, under any circumstance, let anyone rewrite my work. Any contract would have an express “no derivative work” clause in it. (I know contracts better than writing.) If there will be a movie, you’d better brace yourself, or have a detailed discussion about the concept for a film.

    That said, I think you have to make a call based on the work. My novels I write in visual form, explicitly so they would be easy to tailor into film (ten or twenty years after I’m dead). Some of the short stories might be interesting, but they would need to be re-written.

    In general, I think books tend not to be converted easily to movies – especially anything with action. The plot goes, the character development goes, and what you are left with is plot and action. I think you have to be brutal in what you trim. I’d not give the hedge clippers to anyone else.

    • You make excellent points. I always joke about who will play the characters in my book in the movie adaptation, but in reality I know it won’t transfer well. Hubby thinks it would make a good Lifetime miniseries (which still works for Evangeline Lily playing the lead because, let’s be real, she’s not getting a lot of quality work since “Lost”), but that would be the only way it remained wholly untouched.

      That being said, I don’t think I would have the guts to let it be rewritten too much. But I’m sure that’s easy to say when there isn’t a check with a bunch of zeroes waiting for me to just sign the dotted line, haha.

  2. When I write, I imagine it like a movie so I think it would easily adapt into a movie. But would I write the screenplay? Probably not. I’d like to have a lot of say in how the movie is made, but I don’t know anything about writing screenplays.

  3. This reminds me of The Princess Bride. William Goldman wrote the book and the screenplay, but they differ greatly. The movie turned out better than the book in my opinion, although Inigo became my favorite character and I disliked Buttercup in the book. I’m not entirely sure why someone would change their writing so much for a movie, but it could be that the changes have to be made in order for a better movie to be made.

    • The Princess Bride is actually my favorite movie of all time, so I purposely never read the book. I tend to have strong mixed feelings regarding books and their movie adaptations, as you can see. Don’t even get me started on The Hunger Games…

  4. I’d write a screenplay based off a novel of mine. In fact, I can envision “One By One” on the big screen LOL. Letting someone else rewrite it is a tricky question. I don’t think I’d like someone touching my stuff because then I’d get blamed if it was bad. And, I’m one of those types to be like “It wasn’t me. I said it was bad from the beginning, but no one would listen to me, yadda, yadda.”

    Keep smiling,

    • I’m with you on that. I couldn’t let someone else touch it, but I definitely would want to be able to say someone else mucked it up, haha. I just think it’s amazing that Grahame-Smith wrote two completely different stories with the novel and the screenplay. I wonder if he wishes HE had someone to blame?

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