Book Reviews

Booker prize winners from page to screen

Still from the film Life of Pi

Many Man Booker Prize winners over  the decades have made the transition from page to our TV and film screens – Hotel du Lac, Disgrace, Last Orders to name just a few. For Downton Abbey fans, Dan Evans was in the starring role of one of these adaptations in 2006  when Line of Beauty (written by Alan Hollinghurst) was adapted by Andrew Davies for a UK tv series. Hollinghurst wrote an article for The  Guardian about his experience of seeing his novel adapted for screen.

This winter, two films based on previous winners of hit the silver screen within a short space of each other.

Just a few days ago an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children which won the prize in 1981, was released. Although the book’s setting is India, the filming was actually done on location in Sri Lanka because the director was afraid of reprisals from religious fundamentalist groups if they had chosen India or Pakistan for the location. And the large ensemble cast had to sign secrecy agreements to prevent news of their location being disclosed, which couldn’t have been easy given that more than 800 extras were roped in for the crowd scenes. The website for the film is here .

Due for release on December is an adaptation of Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, which won the prize in 2001. Directed by Ang Lee (whose previous credits include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain fame), it stars an unknown 17 year old Indian actor called Suraj Sharma. The book  relates the story of a 16-year-old boy who is the only person from his family to survive when their boat sinks as they journey to a new life in Canada. the sinking of a freighter. He finds himself on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a wounded zebra and a Bengal tiger. It’s not the easiest subject to convert to film. Lee shot the early scenes in a small town  in Southern India and then made extensive use of  a giant water tank and 3D technology for the ocean scenes. Life of Pi  gained positive reviews when it was shown at the New York film festival in September.

See reviews in The Guardian and the New York Times

Some of the other prize winners from the last few years are also in various stages of production:

  • Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel) are being adapted for BBC 2 – due for broadcast in late 2013
  • A dispute  broke out earlier this year between script writers and financiers involved in an adaptation of The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga). There’s been no news since on whether this has been resolved so casting can begin.
  • Last month director Werner Herzog announced that his next project would be an adaptation of DBC Pierre’s award-winning 2003 novel Vernon God Little


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

One thought on “Booker prize winners from page to screen

  • I would love to see The White Tiger on screen. It was one of my favorite Booker winners. The Hilary Mantel mini-series should be great too, but we’d never get to watch it here


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