The 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons, is another excellent example of novel to stage to screen transformation. In the erotic thriller, Glenn Close, John Malkovitch and Michelle Pfeiffer star in what has been called a “gorgeous, seductive treatment” of Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses – itself based on the classic novel by Pierre Choderlos de Lacios. Stephen Frears directed this decadent and devious film of sexual treachery and scandal, making for one of the more memorable adaptations of a literary work. From a more classic standpoint, 1960’s Inherit the Wind starring Spencer Tracy and Frederic March provided electrifying courtroom scenes based on the play co-written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. A fictionalized telling of the “Scopes Monkey Trial,” Inherit the Wind was in part a response to national anxieties surrounding “McCarthyism” and government censorship.
A more popular, albeit somewhat surprising, example of the “adaptation” genre is the 2004 film Closer directed by contemporary director Mike Nichols. A character study of two London couples, the film brought together four huge Hollywood names; Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. Watching their egos disintegrate on film is perhaps more satisfying than it would be in the nosebleed seats of theater, and it’s worth checking out the film on demand if you haven’t had a chance (more information here). The Ides of March, a political drama based on Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North, which had a run at the Geffen Playhouse in 2009, is another contemporary example of the stage-to-screen process. Directed by George Clooney, the film version of The Ides of March represents a screenplay collaboration between Willimon and Grant Heslov, with Ryan Gosling taking on the role of “Pine” the “boy-genius press secretary.”
Most novel-to-stage-to-screen, or stage-to-screen, adaptations must confront the challenge of avoiding being labeled as “stagy” – that is, they must successfully attempt to “open up” stage plays and novels to show elements that could not be revealed on a page or in a theater. But with the full Technicolor capabilities of modern filmmaking, it is a near guarantee that such works as Into the Woods thrills audiences just as much or more than it did during it’s humble playhouse beginnings.
Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger and writer based in Chicago, IL. A lifelong musical theater fan, she holds a degree in Communications and Media from DePaul University. In her free time she loves gardening, film photography, and volunteering with rescue animals. Follow her on Twitter @ bkelly_88
Thank you, Beth!