Todd Field's adaptation of the novel Little Children by Tom Perrotta posed a lot of problems as he tried to cram the entire novel into a feature film ... so he rewrote it, literally. He hated the ending, and made some major changes, collaborating with Perrotta, who also shares a screenwriting credit on the film. They both worked together to make significant changes in order to adapt the book for into a film.

This isn't the first adaptation for either. Field wrote and directed Oscar-nominated In The Bedroom , which was based on an Andre Dubus short story. However, Dubus died two years before the film came out, which made it impossible for Field to colloborate with him. Perrotta's novel Election was adapted into a movie written by director Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. Perrotta didn't work on that script, however, since it was the first one of his novels to be optioned, and the movie development went into high gear and was in theaters only a few months after the book came out.
It is not unusual for books to get sliced and diced up as they make the transition to feature films, but directors rarely work directly with the author to make those changes, let alone have their blessing. By definition, the writer of the material signs away their rights to the original work by allowing a studio to adapt it. Some authors wash their hands of the experience, or even distance themselves in an effort to alienate the film, much like Alan Moore did with both V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

However, many authors choose to get involved in the process, and some even enjoy working with the director in an effort to bring their work to a new medium. Augusten Burroughs has worked closely director Ryan Murphy to adapt Running with Scissors. He enjoyed the experience enough to document it on his own website, and already has a new film adaptation in the works on a based book he hasn't even written yet. John Irving undertook the arduous task himself of adapting his book Cider House Rules into a screenplay, and won an Oscar in the process.

On the flip side of that issue, directors sometimes makes creative decisions to strengthen the story that deviate from the book, and that isn't always a bad thing. Jason Reitman made the role of the main character's son more prominent in Thank You For Smoking to make him seem more sympathetic as a father. Last year's Academy Award winner for best adapted screenplay went to Brokeback Mountain, which was adapted from a short story. If you've read the original you can see how Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana fleshed out a film that lived and breathed beyond the length of the original short story. When Stewart Stern wrote Sybil, he threw out the book completely and met with Sybil's psychiatrist who in turn gave him a trunk full of tapes from their sessions together. He used those as the basis for the script, and won an Emmy.

It's just the nature of the beast that you're going to have a hard time cramming a novel of 600-plus pages into a two-hour film. You're going to have to make changes to the book in order to make it work, and fans of the book are always going to miss the things that get discarded. From Wonder Boys to the Harry Potter films, scenes, subplots, and sometimes even entire characters get cut out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but the end result is always a different experience from reading the novel.

What do you think? What have been some of your favorite books-to-movies? Have you ever enjoyed the movie so much that you decided to read the book?