With the release of August: Osage Country this weekend, we look at the best stage to screen adaptations.
Recently, I wrote about stage musicals that had made the successful transition to the big screen. Those included Sweeney Todd, Chicago and The Sound of Music. However, this article will focus more on plays that have received the Hollywood treatment and have made the jump to the big screen. There are numerous plays that have done so, including such shows as War Horse, Closer, and Frost/Nixon. Here are three shows that have made the leap and done so well.
The film succeeded, mostly, for two reasons. The first was that Marber wrote the screenplay. When a film has the author/playwright so directly involved, that usually means it’s got a strong point, and Closer does in this instance. Another reason why Closer worked was because of the cast. Clive Owen, who had starred in the play when it first started, starred in the film (and was also nominated for an Oscar for his role), which maintained continuity and balance between the play and the film. The rest of the cast (Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and Jude Law) suited their roles and allowed the audience to believe in their characters. In a rare move, viewers forgot about the actors and focused more on the characters and the story that they were involved in. Closer is one of those rare plays that succeeded in entrancing the audience and kept their attention, with a strong story and cast.
Frost/Nixon, once again, cast consistency. Langella and Sheen reprised their roles, once again. Many of the actors not only had film experience, but stage experience as well, so they really had the best of both worlds. Frost/Nixon had a large ensemble cast, as well as a good crew and screenplay. It succeeded not only because of the previously mentioned, but it had word of mouth. Due to this, the film garnered even more recognition and eventually reached a wider audience. Langella was nominated for an Oscar for his role and Sheen was highly praised. Sometimes, word of mouth is all a film really needs in order to work.
Why did the film succeed? Mainly because it was so very, very faithful to the book. In this day and age, finding a film based on a book, and technically a play, that is so faithful to its source material is extremely rare. The film also proved to be a successful transition from book and stage to film, due to the fact of a brilliant cast, crew and script. The effort put into the film was astounding. If there was ever a book to stage to film production that worked, it’s War Horse. It played with our emotions, and more importantly, it told the story of an animal without being too silly.
The plays mentioned above succeeded for many reasons, one of the strongest reasons being their casts and screenplays. The difference between plays and musicals is that with musicals, the viewer has more to go by - if the acting is weak, there is the singing and story to go along with, and vice versa. With plays, there is only the actors on the stage and the story to go with. If the story and acting is weak, it may just fall apart. There is also a common saying that you can only do so much on the stage and film allows you to do more. Other successful plays that made the jump to the big screen include August: Osage County, Amadeus, and Dangerous Liasons. Who knows what will come next?