Geroge R.R. Martin Opens Up About His Opinion of Book To Screen Adaptations; Says 'They Make it Worse'

Martin, in his latest blog post, described how the film industry takes the liberty while adapting the subject matter onscreen, sometimes eager to take these stories and make them “their own.”

Published on May 30, 2024  |  05:01 PM IST |  81.7K
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George R. R. Martin (PC: Getty Images)

Film and TV adaptations from pre-existing novels are not a new phenomenon in the industry. In fact, what seems to be the biggest and the most successful films, like the Harry Potter film franchise, were once only restricted to book pages. Books are successful in their own right, whereas big/small screen adaptations propel the material to a big stage, open for visual consumption.

But what does George R.R. Martin, the famed writer who authored A Song of Ice and Fire later adapted as a mega-hit TV show called Game of Thrones, have to say on the topic? 

George R. R. Martin points out people's urge to make the story "their own" while making adaptations

Martin bears his reservations on this territory, as expressed in his latest blog post. The author recalled the times when he spoke to fellow author Neil Gaiman at the New York City’s Symphony Space on the issue, and says nothing has changed since then.“If anything, things have gotten worse,” Martin wrote in his blog post. 

Martin described how members of the film industry take the liberty while adapting the subject matter onscreen, sometimes eager to take these stories and make them “their own.” "It does not seem to matter whether the source material was written by Stan Lee, Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen, or … well, anyone.”

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Does not matter if the writer is popular, if the book is big enough in its own space, producers and directors are eager to hop on to the project, in attempts to “improve” the story. “They never make it better, though. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, they make it worse,” Martin argued in the blog. 

Are there any good adaptations then? 

Even though this author has his skepticism intact in the case, Martin did acknowledge one adaptation that he enjoyed, the FX series Shōgun which was adapted from a 1975 novel authored by James Clavell. Starring Richard Chamberlain as the Anjin, this 1980 mini-series was faithful to what Clavell had originally conceived. Martin also watched its modern-day adaptation, the 2024 TV series, calling it “superb” in the blog. He believes that Clavell would have liked both the adaptations as “both old and new screenwriters did honor to the source material, and gave us terrific adaptations, resisting the impulse to ‘make it their own.’”

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