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10 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based On Books

Was the book better after all?

Image: Shutterstock / Book Cover: Jaws by Peter Benchley

Ever wondered what it would be like to read your favorite blockbuster movie? Well, here’s something the film fanatics rarely tell you – a surprising number of them were novels before they became big-screen sensations! The question is, however, were the books better?

1. Jurassic Park

Credit: Steven Spielberg / Jurassic Park / 1993

Jurassic Park was written in 1990 by Michael Chricton, just a few years before Spielberg made the T-Rex into the formidable movie star it is today. Chricton’s novels typically deal with the dangers of research and technology. Like many of his characters, the author was also educated in science, having attended Harvard Medical School.

Ultimately, Chricton received around $1.5 million for the rights to the Jurassic Park movie and made a comfortable nine million dollars just in the years between the release of the novel and the film.

2. I Am Legend

Credit: Youtube / Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers

The 2007 post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend, better known as the movie starring Will Smith and his four-legged friend ‘Sam’, was actually written more than half a century earlier. The American author Richard Matheson penned the book in 1954, influencing an entire chain of disease-related horror media.

An established sci-fi specialist, Matheson also wrote several episodes of the TV series The Twilight Zone and in 2010 he was officially added to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

‘Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me.’

Stephen King

3. The Social Network

Credit: David Fincher / The Social Network / 2010

Fincher’s drama about the rise of tech-giant Facebook and its creator Mark Zuckerburg was actually inspired by a book released in 2009, titled The Accidental Billionaires. Written by Ben Mezrich, the non-fiction book immediately took the number 4 spot on the New York Times bestseller list and was promptly adapted into an award-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.

Although the book has a distinct narrative style, Mezrich has refused to label it as ‘fiction,’ stating his main source as Eduardo Saverin himself, who was played by Andrew Garfield (far left) in the movie.

4. The Devil Wears Prada

Credit: Youtube / Movieclips

The novel that inspired one of Meryl Streep’s most iconic film roles, The Devil Wears Prada, was written in 2003 by Lauren Weisberger. The book’s fierce magazine editor Miranda Priestley is rumored to have been based on the real-life editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour, whose personal assistant was once, you guessed it, Weisberger herself.

When asked about the book and its author, Wintour reportedly said:

‘I cannot remember who that girl is.’

Anna Wintour

5. Die Hard

Credit: John McTiernan / Die Hard / 1988

Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever was the main inspiration behind one of the most action-packed Christmas movies of all time, Die Hard.

Thorp apparently got the idea from a dream he had about gunmen chasing a man inside of a skyscraper. The author said he fell asleep while watching a disaster movie called The Towering Inferno, in which an office building catches on fire. Thorp took the dream and ran with it, writing it as a sequel to his novel The Detective.

6. The Godfather

Credit: Youtube / Paramount Pictures

The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, was published in 1969, a mere 3 years before Francis Ford Coppola made the author an offer he couldn’t refuse. Puzo supposedly took a lot of inspiration from real people and events, such as the famous ‘Five Families’ who made headlines in New York during the 1930s.

Both the book and the movie were hugely successful, with the book selling around nine million copies in just two years and the film grossing nearly $270 million worldwide.

7. The Exorcist

Credit: William Friedkin / The Exorcist / 1973

The American author William Peter Blatty wrote both the novel (1971) and the screenplay for The Exorcist. Supposedly, a real-life exorcism of a young boy in 1949, which Blatty heard about when he was in college, inspired the book.

Despite the controversy surrounding the film’s release, such as in the UK where some groups had it banned, the writer ultimately earned an academy award for The Exorcist screenplay. It was also the first-ever horror film to be considered for the best picture Oscar.

8. Jaws

Credit: Steven Spielberg / Jaws / 1975

Jaws (the novel), was written by Peter Benchley in 1974. The author’s lifelong interest in fishing, combined with stories he heard of shark attacks and shark-hunters in the 1960s, is what initially drew him to writing the iconic horror story.

Following the novel and film’s success, Benchley reportedly grew concerned about the consequences of his violent depiction of the animal. In later years, he stressed that his novel was purely fictional and that sharks do not, as he had once believed, attack humans deliberately.

After Benchley’s death, his wife responded to the issue stating:

‘…he took no more responsibility for the fear of sharks than Mario Puzo took responsibility for the Mafia.’

Wendy Benchley

9. Shrek

Credit: Youtube / Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers

Before Shrek was Dreamworks’ most popular franchise, it was a children’s picture book written and illustrated in 1990 by William Steig. A cartoonist at The New Yorker for most of his life, Steig only began writing children’s books when he reached his sixties, and actually wrote Shrek! when he was 83!

Although some critics complained about the changes made in the Dreamworks adaptation, Steig himself said he enjoyed it, partly because it helped sell more copies of his book. The author’s review of the movie was as follows:

‘It’s vulgar, it’s disgusting – and I love it!’

William Steig

10. Legally Blonde

Credit: Robert Luketic / Legally Blonde / 2001

Before the release of the Reese Witherspoon classic, author Amanda Brown penned the novel Legally Blonde in 2001. Like her heroine, Brown also studied law. The author apparently chose Stanford Law School because of the gorgeous nearby shopping mall.

Much like her character Elle Woods would do, Brown wrote the novel entirely on pink paper. And according to the writer, the bright color drew the attention of the agent who published it. It was destiny!

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