Books as films in 2014

Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture and Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn will both be released as films in 2015. We take a look at the books that inspired the 2014 batch.

The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belford

Released in Ireland in January, Leonardo DiCaprio’s insane antics as Jordan Belford in The Wolf of Wall Street got 2014 off to a bang. Based on the best-selling memoir from former New York stockbroker Belford, the film charts his stellar rise and fall in late 1980s Wall Street. Considered by some to be Scorsese-lite, the black comedy was nominated for five Academy Awards but failed to win in any category. Convicted of stock market manipulation, Belford spent nearly two years in prison and his memoirs on his white collar crimes and subsequent incarceration have been translated into eighteen languages.

A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is the Midas of this hybrid art form, with his novels High Fidelity, About a Boy and Fever Pitch all repackaged as successful movies. His 2005 novel A Long Way Down is the latest to make it to the big screen, the rights of which were bought by Johnny Depp before the book was even published. A dark comedy told in sections by four separate narrators who are all intent on suicide, Hornby has his characters meet on the roof of Toppers House in London on New Year’s Eve. Billed as a tale of second chances, the rights were reacquired by the author when they came up for renewal. Released in February, the film stars Toni Colette, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots and Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul. Hornby has also written the screenplay for Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn adaptation, which starts shooting in Wexford at the end of the month.

Under the Skin, Michel Faber

The recently released sci-fi film Under the Skin is based on the debut novel from Dutch writer Michel Faber. Published in 2000, the story follows a female alien protagonist as she hunts a bleak northern Scottish landscape in search of male prey. Isserley, portrayed by Scarlett Johannsen in the film, has been dispatched from her planet to Earth to drug unsuspecting victims and harvest their flesh, a delicacy known as ‘vodsel’ back in her extra-terrestrial homeland. Darkly satirical, the novel points the finger at factory farming, big business and the dehumanisation of society in the pursuit of profit. Under Jonathan Glazer’s direction, many of Isserley’s victims are played by non-actors in unscripted conversations filmed by hidden camera.

Divergent, Veronica Roth

The first book in Veronica Roth's hugely successful young adult trilogy, Divergent is set in dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions based on core values. Shailene Woodley plays the novel's heroine, Beatrice 'Tris' Prior, in the film version that was released last week. Tris struggles with her membership of Abnegation - a faction in charge of government policy and helping the poor - and longs instead to join Dauntless. Shunned as a divergent who will never fit in anywhere, Tris learns that sinister plans are brewing under the surface of her seemingly perfect post-apocalyptic world. American author Roth has said she was impressed by how closely the film script stuck to the plot line of the book, though certain critics, including the Irish Times' Donald Clarke, were less enthused by the faithful rendition.

Serena, Ron Rash

Newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton move from Boston to North Carolina in 1929 to start a timber business. Growing increasingly ruthless in their bid to build an empire, they dispose of anyone who dares to question them along the way. This ruthlessness turns inward into the marriage when Serena finds out that she can’t have children and sets out to kill George’s illegitimate son. A finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Ron Rash’s 2008 novel and its ambitious, cold-blooded duo will be reimagined on screen by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in a film version due for release later this month.

The Fault in our Stars, John Greene

Shailene Woodley is back again in June in another film based on a book, The Fault in our Stars by American writer John Green. Listed by Time Magazine as the number one fiction book of 2012, the story follows teenage heroine Hazel Lancaster, a cancer patient who is forced by her parents to attend a support group. In one of the meetings she catches the eye of fellow patient Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee that Hazel falls in love with. The Fault in our Stars in Green’s fourth novel and its title comes from a quote in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when nobleman Cassius tells his fellow statesman: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn’s 2012 thriller Gone Girl looks at a marriage in crisis, as Amy and Nick Dunne battle each other for control of their lives and to win the reader’s affection. Focused on the politics and dynamics of a long-term relationship, the novel’s suspense stems from using unreliable narrators to spin its tale. With more than a few plot twists, as befits any good thriller, the film version starring Ben Affleck and Rosemond Pike will deviate somewhat from the book both in the telling and storyline. Flynn also wrote the adapted screen play version and David Fincher’s direction makes this one to watch out for in 2014. It is the second of Flynn’s novels to get a film release this year, with her thriller about a murdered family, Dark Places, due in September.

Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel Far From the Madding Crowd draws a vivid picture of English rural life in the author’s fictional Wessex. Chronicling the trials and tribulations of the headstrong heroine Bathsheba Everdene and the three suitors that weave in and out of her life, Hardy’s first major literary success originally appeared as an anonymous serial in a popular Victorian magazine and literary journal. The book has spawned numerous adaptations, including an 1882 play version written by the author, John Schlesinger’s 1967 film starring Julie Christie and Peter Finch, and a TV film produced by Granada in the late nineties. The screenplay for the latest incarnation was written by One Day author David Nicholls. It stars Carey Mulligan as farmer Bathsheba and is set for release later this year.

Alan Turing: The Enigma, Andrew Hodges

Hodges’ acclaimed biography of the British mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing is the source material for a film version that will star Benedict Cumberbatch as the persecuted genius. A Cambridge mathematician who masterminded the cracking of Nazi Enigma ciphers in the Second World War, Turing’s work in the field of computers is considered a cornerstone of contemporary artificial intelligence. Subjected to humiliating treatment in 1950s Britain because of his homosexuality, Turing committed suicide at the age of 41. The forthcoming biopic The Imitation Game also stars Keira Knightly, Matthew Goode and Mark Strong.

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