Edictive Film Production and filmmaking

Book-to-film adaptations are all the rage in Hollywood right now: The Help, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Great Gatsby, to name just a few. But they can be risky films to make. No one likes to have their favorite characters tinkered with, so you absolutely must have the right writer on your film.

One top screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, recently found success with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the first novel by British scribe Paul Torday. Of course, Beaufoy had already made a name for himself by winning the 2009 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on Slumdog Millionaire.

Written in emails, diary entries and newspaper stories, Salmon Fishing is about Fred Jones, a scientist who gets tangled in a British government-fueled plan to bring salmon fishing as a sport to a Yemeni desert. Beaufoy spent three years adapting the book, given full control by Torday. He ended up taking quite a few liberties to revamp the satirical novel into a movie that is part drama and part romantic comedy. He added humor, intensified the love story between Jones (played by Ewan McGregor) and sheikh employee Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), and merged some other characters.

Beaufoy also switched the gender of one character, the director of communications for the prime minister, because he seemed too similar to controversial British politician Peter Mandelson. Making the character female (and casting Kristin Scott Thomas in the role) became the solution.

Beaufoy said many of the other changes were necessary because not everything in a novel translates well into a film, especially a book with an unusual narrative structure. “It’s the challenge of it, but I love the challenge of it,” he said in a recent Australian Financial Review article by Hannah Tattersall.

An Oxford graduate, Beaufoy studied documentary filmmaking at the Arts Institute in Bournemouth, England. He later wrote the original screenplay for the 1997 film The Full Monty. After Slumdog Millionaire, Beaufoy won a second Oscar nomination in 2010 for 127 Hours.

More recently, he adapted the Toby Barlow epic poem “Sharp Teeth” into a script, which has yet to lead to a film. He’s also working on adapting the Steven Hall novel The Raw Shark Texts. Texts is a tricky tale that calls on readers to launch a search for several “lost” chapters, both online and out in the world. He says he welcomes the creative challenge.

Beaufoy will certainly be challenged by another project he has on tap: adapting the second book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. He’ll have to please the huge, devoted fan base for the three books, balancing respect for the original story with making an effective movie. Interestingly, the series’ first film has been criticized for being too much like the book.