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Hollywood delves into books for inspiration

Illustration by Bethany Bickley for The Boston Globe

I liked the book better. That’s not how I pictured it. They shouldn’t have changed the ending.

Readers like to complain when their favorite books become films.

But if you ask Cambridge author Alysia Abbott, she’ll tell you that changes from page to screen can be good.

“I’m a believer that the best adaptations aren’t the ones that are the most faithful to the book,” said Abbott, whose 2014 release, “Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father,” is slated for film. “The priority for me is that it’s a well-made movie.”

Abbott — whose memoir is about growing up with her gay father in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis — said she’s confident about the film adaptation of “Fairyland,” because “Lost In Translation” Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola is the one bringing the story to screen.


Abbott just received a copy of a draft of the script. “It’s kind of like going into your house and someone has moved around all the furniture,” she said, of reading the cinematic take on her childhood.

Readers should know that the journey from book to film is a best-case scenario.

Often, film rights of popular books are picked up by studios and producers only to fizzle before they ever reach the screen. Adaptations such as “Gone Girl” and “The Help” — which became big movies just two years after the books were released — are exceptions to the rule.

More common is what happened to Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which was optioned by Miramax, but never filmed. Even the biggest books can stall before production; it took Lois Lowry’s classic “The Giver” almost 20 years to become a movie.

The next few years of cinema should be big ones for book lovers if upcoming adaptations get from start to finish. Here is a collection of recent reads set for screen, with some updates about where the projects stand. Will they cut the best parts? Will they live up to expectations? Let the debates begin.


The Family Fang

Kevin Wilson, 2011

What: An eccentric family story that’s been compared to “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Who: Jason Bateman directed and stars in the adaptation, which also features Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken.

Release date: Unclear.

Bodes well: Wilson co-wrote the screenplay with David Lindsay-Abaire, Pulitzer-winner for “Rabbit Hole.”

H Is for Hawk

Helen Macdonald, 2014

Who: Lena Headey, a.k.a. Cersei on “Game of Thrones,” snagged the rights to this multi-genre bestseller in April. She’s a longtime fan of the memoir; in September she tweeted a pic of the book with the caption, “Go read this. Don’t steal it. Buy it and read it.”

Mutual admiration: Macdonald tweeted, of Headey, “She is AMAZING.”

Timeline: The film is not even listed on the Internet Movie Database yet. No word on who Headey is working with on the project, so fans will have to be patient.

Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father

Alysia Abbott, 2013

Who: Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola picked up the rights to this story, which is about Abbott growing up with her gay father in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis.

Dream casting: Abbott says she hasn’t obsessed about the cast. Again, she trusts Coppola.

Status: Script in progress.

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt, 2013

What: Pulitzer-winner and book club favorite about a young man who moves in with his rich friend’s family after his mother dies.

Film rights: Purchased by Warner Bros. in 2014.

Status: Who knows, but Tartt’s 1992 novel “The Secret History,” which was, at one point, going to be produced by Gwyneth Paltrow, never made it to screen.


Casting: Too early to know, but Entertainment Weekly published its dream cast for the adaptation, which included Anna Kendrick as Kitsy Barbour, Amy Adams as Xandra, and Daniel Radcliffe as Theo.

The Grief of Others

Leah Hager Cohen, 2011

What: A couple attempts to return to their lives after their baby dies shortly after birth.

Where: Patrick Wang’s indie adaptation has already played at SXSW and has its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this month.

Meet-cute trivia: Cohen’s nonfiction book about a community theater in Arlington, “The Stuff of Dreams,” followed a production of “M. Butterfly,” in which Wang starred.

In the Heart of the Sea

Nathaniel Philbrick, 2000

What: Ron Howard helmed the adaptation of the story of the Nantucket whaleship Essex.

Release date: Dec. 11.

Prepare for a blockbuster: People’s 2014 Sexiest Man Alive and “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth plays Nantucket Captain Owen Chase, who wrote a book about the shipwreck.

More casting: English actor Ben Whishaw, of “Skyfall,” plays Herman Melville in the movie. Captain Chase’s tale inspired Melville to write “Moby Dick.”

The Engagements

J. Courtney Sullivan, 2013

What: A novel about complicated couples and the history of engagement rings.

Film rights: Picked up by Reese Witherspoon in 2013. Witherspoon also produced “Gone Girl” and “Wild,” so she knows what she’s doing.

Status: Script in development.

Local connection: Sullivan grew up around Boston and went to Smith.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War

Lynsey Addario, 2015

What: Memoir by Pulitzer-winning war photojournalist Addario.

It will be made because: Steven Spielberg is directing, and Jennifer Lawrence plans to star in the adaptation, which is being produced by Warner Bros.


Hot property: There was a bidding war for the project. Deadline.com reports that Witherspoon wanted this one, too.

The Mortal Instruments series

Cassandra Clare, 2007-2014

What: Clare’s YA fantasy books follow teenager Clary, who learns of a secret world of shadowhunters.

Made for TV: The first “Mortal Instruments” made it to screen in 2013, but the movie didn’t make enough money to warrant a sequel. But the wildly popular series is being revived for TV by ABC Family.

Casting:Dominic Sherwood has been cast as heartthrob shadowhunter Jace. Katherine McNamara will play the heroine, Clary Fray.

Me Before You

JoJo Moyes, 2012

What: A woman works for (and develops a relationship with) a man who’s wheelchair-bound after an accident.

Casting: “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin of “The Hunger Games” series.

Release date:Set to be released in 2016

Another one: Moyes has written a sequel to the novel, “After You,” which will be released in September.

Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel, 2014

What: Takes place after a pandemic. Has been compared to “Cloud Atlas.”

Concern: The “Cloud Atlas” movie was considered a big flop.

Where it stands: Film rights were acquired this year by Scott Steindorff, whose credits include the 2007 adaptation “Love in the Time of Cholera” and the 2011 adaptation “The Lincoln Lawyer.”


Chuck Palahniuk, 2002

What: A reporter discovers a poem/spell that kills children.

Who: Director Andy Mingo already adapted Palahniuk’s story “Romance.” Mingo and producer Josh Leake acquired film rights in March.

Other options: It was announced in 2012 that Palahniuk’s book “Snuff,” about a porn star, would also be made into a movie, but no word on where it stands.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Maria Semple, 2012

What: Bernadette goes missing just before she’s supposed to take her daughter on a trip to Antarctica.

Who: Production companies Annapurna Pictures and Color Force acquired film rights. There’s been talk of Richard Linklateras director.

Track record: Color Force is good with adaptations. The company’s resume includes “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “The Hunger Games.”

The Good House

Ann Leary, 2013

What: A Massachusetts realtor, in recovery for alcoholism, makes a new friend.

Who: Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro signed on to star in 2013.

Be patient: It’s now 2015 and production hasn’t started. According to the Internet Movie Database, Streep is in pre-production for a film about socialite and would-be opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins.

The Wright Brothers

David McCullough, 2015

Hot property: Film rights were picked up before the book was released Tuesday.

Who/What: Tom Hanks’s Playtone is working with HBO to turn the book into a miniseries.

More history: Two of local writer McCullough’s previous books were made into HBO’s “Truman” and “John Adams.”

Ready Player One

Ernest Cline, 2011

What: Sci-fi hit about a virtual world.

Fans are freaking out because: In March, Steven Spielberg signed on to direct.

Cast: Way too early to know, but MTV.com wants Nicholas Hoult to play the hero.

All We Had

Annie Weatherwax, 2014

What: A mother-daughter drama.

Who:Katie Holmes acquired the rights and signed on to direct. Roslindale’s Weatherwax says Holmes will also play the mother, Rita. “I think she’s perfect for the part,” she said.

When: Weatherwax isn’t sure about timing, but because Josh Boone (director of “The Fault in Our Stars”) signed up to pen the script, this one should get made.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman, 2013

What: A fantasy (with some adult realities) by Porter Square Books regular Gaiman about a man who returns to his childhood home.

Who: Focus Features and Tom Hanks’s Playtone are on board for this adaptation with Joe Wright, of “Atonement,” set to direct.

Will it happen: HBO tried to bring Gaiman’s “American Gods” to the screen, but it didn’t happen. But “Ocean” might be an easier tale to tell.

Eleanor & Park

Rainbow Rowell, 2013

What: The story about Eleanor and Park, two Nebraska teens, who fall for each other in the ’80s.

Status: Rowell told Time in February: “I have finished a first draft, and DreamWorks is talking to a possible director.”

Who: Producer Carla Hacken has worked on a bunch of adaptations including “The Devil Wears Prada.”

The Martian

Andy Weir, 2014

What: Originally self-published in 2011, it’s the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars.

Status: Ridley Scott already filmed the movie with Matt Damon in the starring role.

A-List: Supporting roles played by Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Release Date: Nov. 25

E-mail Meredith Goldstein at mgoldstein@globe.com. You can follow her on twitter at @MeredithGoldste.