09th Nov2020

Interview: Alistair Owen on his ‘5 Great Screen Adaptations’

by Stuart Wright

In his latest podcast/interview, host and screenwriter Stuart Wright talks to Alistair Owen, author of The Art of Screen Adaptation: Top Writers Reveal Their Craft, about his picks for 5 Great Screen Adaptations – dipping into 5 case studies from the book:

  • DRIVE – Hossein Amini – how to write a great opening
  • ATONEMENT – Christopher Hampton – fidelity to the novel
  • PRIDE & PREJUDICE – Deborah Moggach – importance of point of view / use of voiceover (compare and contrast with Andrew Davies’ TV version)
  • GREAT EXPECTATIONS – Sarah Phelps – how small changes can make a big difference (compare and contract with David Nicholls’ film version)
  • WILD – Nick Hornby – the challenges of nonfiction

Hollywood. Netflix. Amazon. BBC. Producers and audiences are hungrier than ever for stories, and a lot of those stories begin life as a book – but how exactly do you transfer a story from the page to the screen? Do adaptations use the same creative gears as original screenplays? Does a true story give a project more weight than a fictional one? Is it helpful to have the original author’s input on the script? And how much pressure is the screenwriter under, knowing they won’t be able to please everyone with the finished product?

Alistair Owen puts all these questions and many more to some of the top names in screenwriting, including Hossein Amini (Drive), Jeremy Brock (The Last King of Scotland), Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre), Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl), Andrew Davies (War & Peace), Christopher Hampton (Atonement), David Hare (The Hours), Olivia Hetreed (Girl with a Pearl Earring), Nick Hornby (An Education), Deborah Moggach (Pride & Prejudice), David Nicholls (Patrick Melrose) and Sarah Phelps (And Then There Were None).

Exploring fiction and nonfiction projects, contemporary and classic books, films and TV series, The Art of Screen Adaptation reveals the challenges and pleasures of reimagining stories for cinema and television, and provides a frank and fascinating masterclass with the writers who have done it – and have the awards and acclaim to show for it.

The Art of Screen Adaptation is out now from Creative Essentials


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