Gone Girls, Found | Talking with Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed

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CHICAGO — The pairing of Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed seems at once too obvious and not obvious enough.

Too obvious because both are female writers who happen to have had best-selling books optioned by Reese Witherspoon and made into high-octane, swinging-for-the-fences films.

And not obvious enough because Ms. Flynn specializes in probing dark, unsavory recesses of the human psyche, like her antiheroine Amy in the 2012 novel “Gone Girl.” Ms. Strayed rocketed to fame the same year with her memoir “Wild,” about her redemptive 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail as a brokenhearted divorced 26-year-old grieving the early death of her mother.

Yet the authors share similarities that run deep. Feminists both, they create bluntly authentic, deeply engaging stories through characters that defy stereotypes.

They have also forged roads to Hollywood gold. Directed by David Fincher and adapted by Ms. Flynn herself, the film “Gone Girl” has earned more than $300 million globally. “Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, adapted by Nick Hornby and starring Ms. Witherspoon, is one of the season’s most anticipated films.

The first and last time Ms. Flynn and Ms. Strayed met was two years ago at a literary event in St. Paul, and they reconvened on a wintry Halloween here, greeting each other happily with hugs. Ms. Flynn, 43, has a newborn, her second child, and lives with her family in Chicago, and Ms. Strayed, 46, happened to be in town with her husband and two children.

Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Q. Tell me about when you first met, in St. Paul.

A. Cheryl Strayed It was freezing. We went on a hike, and I didn’t have a jacket. It was like “Wild” all over again, with the elements for which I was unprepared. And I remember I was talking about how our books are so different, readers have a different relationship to them. People who read “Wild,” they’re like, “You don’t realize it, but you’re my best friend.”

Gillian Flynn [Deadpan] They don’t feel that way about Amy?

Strayed Maybe it’s a little more like they’re fascinated to know who you are. Who’s the person behind that crazy story?

This question is from a Times reader: “Witherspoon wanted to create better roles for women, but has ‘Gone Girl’ shown women in a better role? Is it empowering or continuing stereotypes?”

Flynn I’ve been asked that a lot, and to me the answer is always: “Of course, it’s not misogynistic.” Women shouldn’t be expected to only play nurturing, kind caretakers.

That’s always been part of my goal — to show the dark side of women. Men write about bad men all the time, and they’re called antiheroes.

Were you surprised that that was the reaction you got?

Flynn I had about 24 hours where I hovered under my covers and was like: “I killed feminism. Why did I do that? Rats. I did not mean to do that.” And then I very quickly kind of felt comfortable with what I had written.

Cheryl, it’s your story, but did you get blowback from people, or was it just more relief at having told an honest story?

Strayed It never occurred to me, not once, that the book would be read as an inspirational tale. I really have no interest in likability when it comes to characters. It’s always about credibility, and to be credible you have to seem human. One of the most difficult things reading about the movie “Wild” was when people started writing about it and me in this shorthand way. I knew they hadn’t read the book, because the things they would say about me were just patently untrue.

What kind of stuff were you getting?

Strayed Often, they’ll say my problems were self-inflicted. And really the two biggest problems I began the trail with were the opposite of self-inflicted: the dead mother and the abusive father who wasn’t in my life. Those were my two most significant wounds, neither of which I inflicted upon myself, both of which I had to heal in myself.

It’s interesting what Gillian is saying. I think the lazy interpretation of Amy is she’s this evil psychopath and she’s all darkness. I think so much of the reason “Gone Girl” is so successful is that all of those very winning passages where Amy writes about her romantic life, falling in love with her husband, the way she constructs herself as a woman in the world. Those are very recognizable to us.

Flynn I think we wouldn’t have heard as much anger about it if she was more dismissible. She’s understandable, and that makes her a little harder to just write off. She’s not Norman Bates’s mom just sitting there in a rocking chair being evil.

Is there a double standard, where male characters don’t get that level of scrutiny?

Flynn The likability thing, especially in Hollywood, is a constant conversation, and they’re really underrating their audience when they have that conversation. What I read and what I go to the movies for is not to find a best friend, not to find inspirations, not necessarily for a hero’s journey. It’s to be involved with characters that are maybe incredibly different from me, that may be incredibly bad but that feel authentic.

When you were writing the books, did you think, “I’m breaking the mold and pushing the edges of these women characters?”

Flynn A theme that has always interested me is how women express anger, how women express violence. That is very much part of who women are, and it’s so unaddressed. A vast amount of literature deals with cycles of violence about men, antiheroes. Women lack that vocabulary.

Strayed The story I wrote has an ancient tradition in literature, man against nature, the hero’s journey. I was conscious of the narratives that I was both taking part in and also countering because the variation on the theme is: It was a woman, and it wasn’t “versus.” I say the wild felt like home to me. It wasn’t me trying to conquer it; it was me living in it. So much about “Wild” is about acceptance and surrender and vulnerability. To me that’s the greatest strength, not this conquering kind of narrative that we have embedded in our bones.

[To Ms. Flynn:] Is “Gone Girl” the movie being talked about as a feminist film or an anti-feminist film, or is the jury out on that?

Flynn The jury is still out. That’s what’s been interesting: Is it anti-woman? Is it anti-man?

Strayed What do you think it is?

Flynn To me, it’s neither. It’s about two specific people who are battling and who happen to be a man and a woman. I certainly enjoyed playing with those gender roles. Amy is certainly a character who understands every single female stereotype — and uses it. So when people say she’s embodying awful stereotypes about women, I say, “Yes, exactly, and that’s kind of the point.” She knows every trope there is. She’s a storyteller, she’s a studier, and she has absolutely no compunction about using the female victim role, using the femme fatale role, using the girl-next-door role.

Strayed I was so mindful that I had not written a book for women. I think the death of us would be if our films or our books were interpreted in this kind of “You go, girl” thing. And I think the last frontier for women is to say we are fully human, which means that our stories are as relevant to men as they are to women.

Flynn I would love it if I could do an event without a very well-meaning man telling me, “I don’t normally read books by women.” Do you get that?

Strayed All the time. One of the first experiences I had when “Wild” came out was this male radio host interviewed me, and right before we went live, he said, “I picked your book up and I couldn’t stop.” And then we’d go live and he’d go, “Cheryl Strayed has written a great book for women.”

Where does the twisted girl come from?

Strayed I remember, at our event we did together, you told some funny story about being a kid, it was about some early indicator.

Flynn I had a bunch of cousins, all girls, we’d play dress-up, and they’d always go for the princess costumes, and I was like, “I’ll be the witch” And we had this game called Mean Aunt Rosie, where I was basically their evil caretaker aunt.

Strayed I do think those things are like early indicators of what our obsessions are going to be as writers. When I was 6 and 7, when my mom’s friends were going to come over, she’d say “O.K., you’re only allowed to ask three questions.” Because otherwise I would get them in a corner and just grill them about things that were kind of shocking to them.

I wanted to hear from other people what they thought about their wounds, and I was trying to find out in ways that made adults very uncomfortable. I’ve always been the one to ask a question beyond the one that’s appropriate.

I want to talk about that move from book to screen. Cheryl, were you O.K. with Nick Hornby and was that difficult for you, turning it over?

Strayed He read “Wild” the first week it was out. I didn’t know him, and he wasn’t being considered as the screenwriter at that point. He just wrote me the world’s nicest fan email. So when Nick came on the project, I felt he understood the book on a deep level. It was always clear that I would read the screenplay, I would weigh in on it, I would be listened to, and I was.

Flynn Which is huge. You and I both talked about the stories you know about the author going to Hollywood are full of heartbreak. We both ended up with Reese, who is a woman of her word and does really care about writing, loves telling a story right.

You were working with David Fincher, who is known to be thorough.

Flynn I was on the set, but the script was locked by then. We just had a great back and forth, a lot of it by phone, since I’m in Chicago. When you hear David Fincher is going to direct your movie it’s, “Oh my God, I’ve got to step up my game.” But I wanted a David Fincher version of “Gone Girl,” so I was very much inclined to step back.

Strayed With Jean-Marc, I told him: “I give you my book. The only thing I ask is that you make a perfect film.” And he laughed. I gave him my opinions only when he asked for them.

And I told Reese the first time we talked, “You need to make this your story, not mine.”

Now, because I was so much a part of this, I would totally adapt my own book. I would do what Gillian did.

Via: https://nytimes.com/talking-with-the-authors-of-gone-girl-and-wild

Some of the Best Book to Movie Adaptations

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Truth time: the book is not always better than the movie. What’s more, trying to figure out which version of a story is “better” isn’t always helpful. Film and print are two entirely different mediums, and we ask different things of each form. That said, here are the Book Riot team’s favourite book-to-movie adaptations, that capture the spirit of the original stories, while at the same time enriching them in the way that only film (or TV) can.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

I fell in love with the film, then read the book, then watched the film again to make sure I still liked it. While there are some major differences, Milos Forman’s adaptation captures the juxtaposing moments of insouciance and sorrow that take place in Ken Kesey’s novel. The cinematography is fantastic and the original score is haunting. Furthermore, it was filmed at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, the same setting as Kesey’s work. In the year it was released, the film won all five major Academy Awards, a feat only accomplished three times in total. Also, Louise Fletcher’s performance as Nurse Ratched is incredible.

Anne of Green Gables

I loved this adaptation because it was simply a pitch-perfect re-imagining of the classic books. There were no weird new characters added (and, let’s be honest – this was filmed in the ‘80s, there very well could’ve been an alien), no modern interpretations of plotlines or relationships, just the book’s own narrative, which is why we all fell in love in the first place. And they could not have cast better actors to play the lovely Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Gilbert, and Diana. Filming on location in picturesque Canada, and especially Prince Edward Island, did not hurt: I usually like to keep the images from the book in my own head, but seeing the White Way of Delight, Lake of Shining Waters, and Green Gables itself, so true to the book’s descriptions, was blissful. And it’s made PEI a bucket-list bookish destination for me, and many, many other readers.

Witches of Eastwick

For me, this is actually a case of the movie being better than the book. Way better. I’m not saying John Updike isn’t a great writer, but his portrayal of woman wasn’t exactly the greatest in The Witches of Eastwick. But the movie is amazing and it’s mostly due to the cast. Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson, and…Cher. Let me repeat that. Cher. Admittedly, the movie is a little campy, but it’s the ’80s. I’m also a sucker for movies when women band together (a la 9 to 5) and for me, the movie is what the book should have been.

Jaws

This is my go-to example when people say “name a movie that is better than the book.” (This, and Die Hard. Yes, Die Hard was a book first! It’s also the best Christmas movie, but that’s an argument for another day.) It is easy to pick Jaws, because I’m sorry but Jaws is a horrible novel. I’m sure it was a great trashy beach read when it came out, but it’s quite ridiculous. But from its ridiculousness, Steven Spielberg managed to make one of the most perfect movies ever. Every shot in Jaws is magnificent. Quint is one of the best characters. The whole thing is eminently quotable. And Spielberg cut out all the nonsense from the book, like – spoiler alert – Ellen Brody and Hooper’s affair, and the death of Hooper. How awesome is it when Richard Dreyfuss pops up at the end?

The 25th Hour

The perfect book to turn into a movie is one with a simple and lean plot that still hits heavy themes, and this debut novel by David Benioff is a great pick. The film is a faithful adaptation (by Benioff) with great casting (one of my favourite PSH roles and that’s saying something) and a talented director in Spike Lee. The 25th Hour is about a small-time drug dealer enjoying his last day of freedom before a long prison term, which sounds like a perfect Spike Lee joint, but this is a story where much is unsaid. No one can talk about the reality the next day will bring, the awkwardness and the emotion underneath are all captured here, and Lee lets the movie breathe without pushing too hard. The movie somehow feels both vibrantly alive and slowly paced. Oh, and it does a few more crucial things: it adds a strong sense of place, beautiful cinematography, and a great soundtrack. Books can do a lot of things, but these elements of sound and beauty are where movies really shine and it’s where the best adaptations make their mark. Warning: while this sounds like a total guy movie (dude bonds with his dad and other dudes) it is a huge weep-fest at the end.

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring premiered on December 19, 2001. Since then we’ve seen the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy brought to screen and three movies based on The Hobbit. But I’ll never forget the excitement and the wonder I experienced in that movie theater when Middle Earth for the first time came to life in a movie that was both beautiful and respectful of the source material. When the movie was over, I remember exclaiming, “Yes!” with great emphasis. I was overwhelmed, in awe, exhilarated. And I couldn’t stop smiling.

The Princess Bride

Like many children of the ’80s, I became intimately acquainted with this movie well before I knew it was based on a book. When I did finally pick up William Goldman’s classic, I was delighted to discover how faithful the film is, not just to the details of the story but the spirit of it. This is a silly, and often ridiculous, story, and the movie, with its crazy-looking ROUSes and intentionally unbelievable sound-stages-dressed-up-as-mountain-cliffs, is just perfect. I’m afraid that if it were made today, we’d see WETA Workshop-style creatures and too much CGI, so The Princess Bride gets my vote for being practically perfect, and perfectly timed.

High Fidelity

When people ask me what my favourite movie is, I tell them it’s Rear Window or The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s probably High Fidelity. For one, it’s a perfect adaptation. Even though it messes with the book’s setting and even its main character’s name, it captures the spirit of Nick Hornby’s book in a way that so few page-to-screen adaptations have managed. High Fidelity is quotable, its soundtrack (and the way it’s used in the film) is exceptional, it features a career-best performance from John Cusack, Jack Black and Todd Louiso as the most endearing set of goofball employees I can imagine, and a Tim Robbins cameo even better than the one he has in Anchorman. The whole thing orbits around Hornby’s music nerd obsessiveness, and we watch Cusack’s Rob Gordon rank and list every meaningful experience (musical and otherwise) he’s ever had, including his most painful breakups. I love this movie, and I might as well face it: it’s number one, with a bullet.

Coraline

Coraline is one of my favourite all-ages books out there, and I was so thrilled when it was adapted to film. This is a case where the story went through changes (of course it did), but not to the point where one wonders what the production team was thinking. The book is one creepy experience, and the film another, with fantastic atmosphere and stop animation. If ever there were a book and film adaptation pair that could coexist, it’s this one.

Romeo + Juliet

Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet made me think that Shakespeare was “cool.”  The delivery of the lines, most notably John Leguizamo’s Tybalt, is forever ingrained in my mind so that when I read the play now I hear them. I see the over-the-top versions that Luhrmann chose for the movie and the play will always be better for it. I say “better” not because it improves on Shakespeare (blasphemy!) but because it makes the play clearer to me as a reader, and helps me understand what is going on in the scenes. And that should always be the point of movie adaptations.

True Grit

True Grit is one of my favourite all-time books, and a classic work that you put down and go “I see why this is a classic.” A small, seemingly straightforward novel that has all of its cleverness buried just below the surface, waiting for you to notice it. It was adapted once back in Olden Days, as a John Wayne movie, about which I have no particular opinion. More interestingly, it was recently adapted by the Coen Brothers (who are godly filmmakers) starring Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin, among others. It’s a film that perfectly manages the sparse simplistic style of the novel (and understands why everyone in the story talks in the weird way they do). What I realised by the end of it, though, was it had got nearly all the book’s dialog in, word for word. I’ve suggested to some people that if you’ve seen the film, you don’t need to read the book. You’ve gotten the entire book, combined with excellent performances and a haunting soundtrack. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen a book translated 100% onto screen without the results being boring and forgettable. Masterful film.

Gone Girl

I go into movie theaters prepared to make excuses, register the differences, and generally side-eye any movie made from a film. That doesn’t mean I don’t often enjoy them, just that I take ‘em with a grain of salt. But Gone Girl was a pleasure to watch from start to finish. I’d read the book twice by the time I saw it, so the plot was firmly fixed in my brain – and the movie fulfilled its promise and then some. Every shot, every actor, every segue felt true to the spirit of the book and letter be damned! No one could have made better use of Ben Affleck’s chin; Rosamund Pike brought a smoky darkness to Amy; I’m now a huge fan of Carrie Coon; and I will never be able to forget Neil Patrick Harris’s, ahem, scene. Add to that the breadcrumbs that they strewed throughout the film, leading toward the inevitably shocking conclusion – and you have one of the most faithful film adaptations I’ve had the joy to watch.

10 Things I Hate About You

Heath Ledger serenading Julia Stiles with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and precious nerd-pants-baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt trying to woo Alex Mack? How can this NOT be the best book-to-movie adaptation? I guess technically it’s a Shakespeare-play-to-movie adaptation, but would you rather see The Taming of the Shrew or 10 Things I Hate About You? Thought so. This is the movie that made us look at the smelly, borderline greasy dude in the leather jacket and think, “If I dance on this table to Biggie Smalls ‘Hypnotize’ and hit my head on a chandelier, maybe he will catch me before I fall, sing to me, royally piss me off by taking money from the guy who was on Party of Five and I think started his own religion in real life, then break into my car and leave me a Fender!” Maybe that was just me, I was 16 and apparently undateable when it came out. I highly recommend rewatching it as an adult. You’ll probably cry when Kat reads the poem to Patrick because… it’s really sad now.

The Shawshank Redemption

I spent a good portion of the ’90s rewatching The Shawshank Redemption over and over, and when I discovered that it was an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (from Different Seasons, if you’re interested), it recast the Guy Who Writes The Scaries into The Guy Who Has An Unbelievable Fictional Range in my mind. Tim Robbins is perfect as Andy Dufresne, the urbane and seemingly soft-but-actually-hard-as-fucking-nails banker sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife. Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman (his speech to the parole board is one of the best moments in movie history). This is a hope-filled heart-breaker and classic film.

If you haven’t yet read these books or seen the movies, I highly recommend them all.

Via: http://bookriot.com/2014/12/22/riot-round-favorite-book-movie-adaptations

23 Movies You Probably Didn’t Know Were Based On Books

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The book isn’t always better than the movie, but most of the time (for me anyway) it is. I enjoy watching movies based on books to see how the story has been brought to life, and to find out whether the moving pictures match the ones built up in my imagination.

But some movies are so good you probably didn’t know they were a book first. Here are a few examples:

1. Die Hard (1988)

Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp

Not only is the Bruce Willis Christmas classic based on a book, but Nothing Lasts Forever is actually a sequel to The Detective, which was made into a 1966 movie starring Frank Sinatra. They made a few changes to the story so it wouldn’t clash with the original movie – for example, in the book the main character’s name is Joe Leland, not John McClane.

2. Forrest Gump (1994)

Based on: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

Forrest Gump the novel was not at all well-known before it became the massively successful, Oscar-winning movie. It was also pretty different – in the book, Forrest uses profound language, and the author originally wanted him to be played by John Goodman.

“No one believes me when I tell them Forrest Gump was a book that was way out there with him going to space with a monkey and crash landing back on an island with cannibals that he has to beat at chess to escape being eaten.”

3. Mean Girls (2004)

Based on: Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman

Tina Fey read Queen Bees & Wannabes – a self-help book for parents whose daughters are going through high school – and thought it had the potential to be turned into a movie. Obviously, though, the book is nonfiction, so Fey came up with the story and characters herself.

4. Jurassic Park (1993)

Based on: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The book version of Jurassic Park actually originated as a screenplay, which author Michael Crichton wrote about a student who recreated a dinosaur. He decided to change the story after he decided that recreating dinosaurs would be an unrealistic academic venture, and would only make sense if it came from “a desire to entertain”.

5. Shrek (2001)

Based on: Shrek! by William Steig

You’d be forgiven for thinking Shrek – and its many, many sequels and spinoffs – was an original DreamWorks creation, but nope. It’s based on a picture book in which a terrifying ogre kind-of-accidentally saves a princess. The movie won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which is amazing.

6. Pitch Perfect (2012)

Based on: Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin

Similar to Mean Girls, Pitch Perfect was based on a nonfiction book. It was written by a senior editor at GQ, who spent a season following collegiate a cappella groups around the country on their quests for success. The Bellas were loosely inspired by the Divisi, an all-female a cappella group from the University of Oregon.

7. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Based on: Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine

The film adaptation of Madame Doubtfire follows Anne Fine’s young adult novel pretty closely – with one important exception: In the book, the two eldest children immediately recognise their new nanny as their father in disguise. Only their younger sister and mother are convinced it’s actually Madame Doubtfire.

8. Goodfellas (1990)

Based on: Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi

The gangster classic Goodfellas is actually based on a nonfiction book written by journalist Nicholas Pileggi. It tells the story of Henry Hill, an informant who was once a member of the Mafia. Director Martin Scorsese believed the book to be the most honest portrayal of real-life gangsters he’d ever read.

9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Based on: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

The mega-acclaimed movie was actually based on a short story by Stephen King – you can find it in Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas. Oh, and one of the other stories in the collection was adapted into the classic coming of age movie Stand By Me.

10. Clueless (1995)

Based on: Emma by Jane Austen

Yup, teen classic Clueless is actually based on a Jane Austen novel. Obviously, it’s a modern retelling of Emma set in ’90s Beverly Hills rather than 19th-century England, but it’s cool to read the book and see what connections you can make with the movie that defined so many of our childhoods.

For the remaining 13, and some of them are corkers, you can visit the full list here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/movies-you-probably-didnt-know-were-books