Hollywood – the novel. It gets optioned. It becomes Hollywood – the movie, which is a major star vehicle for Matt Damon, which makes a billion dollars. A good percentage of the films made today do not come in the form of original stories, they come in the form of adaptations. Novels, Graphic Novels, even non-fiction accounts all seem to be fodder for the Tinseltown Movie Cannon.
There have been successes and there have been utter failures. One could argue that the Lord of the Ringsfilms set off the trend once and for all, and between adaptations and remakes, it seems rare now that Hollywood creates an original story. Technically anything one might consider a “remake” is also an adaptation of previous material, only in a different form.
Audiences in America voice their concerns quite a lot regarding growing weary of adaptations and remakes, and yet these films continue to make the big bucks when they garner wide releases, which is almost always. The days of the original Hollywood story have long since sounded their death toll, and whats interesting, if you look at the history of the film industry, is that all of this has happened before.
One example that comes to mind is just before the filmmaking boom of the 1970s, which brought us such classic films as Star Wars, The Godfather, Jawsand Love Story. Of those films, all but Star Warswas based on previous material, and according to Robert Evans, the producer of The Godfatherand Love Story, in those years much as now it was all about owning the property. The Kid Stays in the Pictureis an account of Evans’ career, a unique documentary based on his autobiographical novel of the same name, and in that film, Evans (as narrator) recounts how he realized he needed to own a property – i.e. an original piece of material on which to base a film.
So, before everybody sounds the true death toll of original Hollywood films, lets remember those days, and that in fact there may never have been a time when original material provided the majority of motion pictures. As Jim Jarmusch famously quipped, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”