“I cried when I saw it. I said, ‘oh, God, what have they done?”

“I was deeply disappointed.”

It’s “crummy.”

Ouch. Hardly the responses movie directors want after a screening. Worse, these comments didn’t come from random viewers, but from the authors of the books on which each film was based. (Which author said which is noted at the end of this post.)

Although authors dream of sharing their stories on the big screen, it’s also a scary proposition. Most authors retain very little control over the film version of their work. This isn’t for lack of trying: E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey) sought approval of actors, production staff, and production decisions, yet still walked away with only script approval and very little creative control; P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins) had script approval, but her edits were mostly ignored; Ayn Rand hated the final version of The Fountainhead even though she herself had written the screenplay. All the legal wrangling in the world can’t change the fact that for an author, giving up any amount of control over a book is an emotional event. It’s no wonder that so much can–and does–disappoint.

That disappointment can start with the casting of characters who are almost like family to the authors who created them. Here are a few instances where authors longed to save their characters from the Hollywood treatment:

Despite their friendship, P.L. Travers felt that Julie Andrews’s Mary Poppins was a “betrayal” of the character. As written, “Poppins” is plain, odd, and a little frightening. At least Travers didn’t fault Andrews for the more saccharine finished product: “[Andrews] was quite prepared to put on a black wig, with a knob of hair at the back … But to her surprise, as well as mine, Disney turned [Poppins] into a very pretty girl, which really loses the point.”

Stephen King would have preferred Jon Voight, Christopher Reeve, or Michael Moriarty in the role of The Shining‘s Jack Torrance. He feared that casting Jack Nicholson made the character psychopathic from the start instead of allowing a descent into madness. King also objected to Shelley Duvall as Wendy, feeling that she projected too much emotional vulnerability to play a character he’d always considered a blonde cheerleader type.

Poor Jack Nicholson. Ken Kesey hated on him, too, and would have cast Gene Hackman over him as McMurphy in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Anne Rice (Interview with The Vampire) had plenty to say when Tom Cruise was cast in the role of Lestat. She thought the choice “bizarre”: “[He is] … no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler.” First choices for the role were Daniel Day Lewis (who didn’t want to play a vampire) and Jeremy Irons (who was deemed too old).

Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) lobbied hard for comedian/writer Spike Milligan to play Willy Wonka, and found Gene Wilder’s interpretation “pretentious” and “bouncy.”

Ian Fleming was horrified when 31-year-old Scotsman Sean Connery was cast as James Bond, considering the rough-edged actor the antithesis of his smooth, refined protagonist. Fleming preferred either Cary Grant or David Niven in the role.

Truman Capote condemned Breakfast at Tiffany’s as “the most miscast” film he’d ever seen. The Holly Golightly of his book was a tough character, nowhere near an Audrey Hepburn type. He’d wanted the role to go to his friend, Marilyn Monroe, and later said that Jodie Foster would have been perfect to play Holly as he’d written her.

So, how did these casting choices work out?

Julie Andrews and Jack Nicholson (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) won Academy Awards for best actress/actor. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for an Academy Award. Gene Wilder earned a Golden Globe nomination for best actor. In addition, a few authors had a change of heart: Anne Rice ultimately praised Tom Cruise’s performance as Lestat, and Sean Connery’s James Bond became so iconic that Ian Fleming started incorporating aspects of the actor’s movie portrayal into his books.

Print and film are very different media. Should authors simply accept the fact that what they create on paper may not translate so smoothly to the screen? Should they trust the visions of those who may be more knowledgeable about what works in film?

Casting is one thing … what happens when changes are made to plot and story tone?

To be continued next week…

Quote Attributions: 1. P.L. Travers; 2. Stephen King; 3. Roald Dahl

(This post was originally published on Late Last Night Books blogsite in December 2013 — think of it as a summer rerun.)