Mass Cultural Council is celebrating 40 Years of Fellowships by delving into the Commonwealth’s history of support for Massachusetts individual artists.
We have awarded many superb literary artists since 1975, and one fun sidenote to this history is the number of past Artist Fellowships awardees who’ve gone on to have novels adapted into films.
Here are the page-to-screen adaptations we know of:
Andre Dubus (Fellow ’76) wrote Finding a Girl in America (1980). One of the stories, “Killings,” is the source material for the 2001 movie In the Bedroom.
Tim O’Brien (’76) wrote the short story “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” included in his seminal book The Things They Carried (1980). “Sweetheart” was later adapted into the movie A Soldier’s Sweetheart (1998), which starred Kiefer Sutherland.
Rita Mae Brown (’77) is the author of the Mrs. Murphy “cat” mysteries, and she adapted her novel Murder, She Meowed (1996) into the 1998 TV movie Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery. (Fun fact: Brown has written a number of other screenplays and teleplays, including the script to the 1982 film Slumber Party Massacre. According to IMDB, she wrote the script as a parody, but the producers decided to film it straight-faced!)
Denis Johnson’s (’83) Jesus’ Son (1992) became a movie of the same name in 1999. Johnson himself has a cameo as a man who arrives at an emergency room with a knife in his eye.
Sue Miller’s (’84) novel The Good Mother (1986) was made into a movie in 1988; same goes for Inventing the Abbotts (1987) in 1997.
Stephen Dobyns (’85) wrote the novel Cold Dog Soup (1985), which was adapted to an American film of the same name in 1990 and a 1999 French film called Doggy Bag. Also, his novel Two Deaths of Senora Puccini (1988) spawned the film Two Deaths in 1995.
Tom Perrotta (’98) published Election (1998) while the movie version was being made (it was released in 1999). Little Children (2004) became a movie, too, in 2006.
Michael Downing (Finalist ’08) wrote the book Breakfast with Scot (2000), which was adapted into a 2007 film starring Tom Cavanaugh. Read about this process.
Other Literary Adventures in Film
Mary-Louise Parker is connected to a proposed TV series adaptation of the life and writing of Mary Karr (’87). Rumor has it that Parker, the former Weeds star, would not only executive produce, but actually portray the past Massachusetts Poetry Fellow!
Sabina Murray (’02) wrote the lauded short story collection The Caprices. While her books have yet to be adapted to the screen, film director Terrence Malick commissioned her to write the screenplay for the film Beautiful Country.
Regie Gibson (’10) and his poetry appear in the 1997 movie Love Jones. According to a Taunton Daily Gazette interview, the film was actually loosely based on events from Regie’s life.
Steve Barkhimer (’11), along with being an award-winning playwright, is an accomplished actor who has appeared in feature films such as The Fighter.
Are there other Fellows-to-film stories we’ve missed? Tell us.
Images: Cover art from the original edition of BREAKFAST WITH SCOT (Counterpoint, 2000); cover art from the movie tie-in edition (Counterpoint, 2008).