The other day, Burnsy’s alter-ego C-Tates brought you the news that Channing Tatum was set to star in and produce an adaptation of Craig Clevenger’s book (haha, reading is fundamental, you dumb beeyotch), The Contortionist’s Handbook. Last night, FilmDrunkard Cassie directed me to a forum where Clevenger had discussed the adaptation process, and from what he says, it sounds like getting mumbly wiggerized could be the least of the project’s problems. Here’s his breakdown (emphasis mine):
- The script I read was 115 pages long, and a full 81 pages were scenes purely of the invention of the screenwriter, with no bearing whatsoever on the source material.
- All of John’s romantic history has been wiped out. There’s only Keara. Okay, so they wanted to keep the love story focused. But… Keara is a stripper instead of a waitress. She’s also bipolar. We first meet her in the script when she’s having a manic-depressive crash during her act at the club. In other words, we first meet Keara when she’s crying and taking her clothes off on stage.
- Along with Vincent’s romantic history, his mother, sister are gone as well. In lieu of the above, there are nine other characters with little to no basis in the novel. This includes a posse of cartoon mobsters with names like Hugo and Popeye.
- Hugo is the mob boss who replaces the Executive. The screenwriter saw fit to make Hugo a midget, with a bunch of hilarious short jokes, to boot.
- John seduces Keara by doing a magic trick for her at the club where she works. Ladies, ever had a guy put the moves on you doing magic tricks? It’s okay, go ahead and laugh. That’s what’s going to happen in the theater.
- The dialogue is atrocious, with gems such as:
- “I don’t really exist. I’m a magician with an unknowing audience, an invisible anti-hero. I’m a changer– a deceiver– a shape- shifter…”
- And my personal favorite:
- “I need some math… There’s no way to calculate this…”
Man, it sounds like they stomped all over it like that scene in Step Up 2 tha $treetz. Clevenger goes on to sum up his view of the process in a section of what he says were the notes he turned into the studio:
Roughly half the original storyline from the novel is missing from the script, and 70% of the script itself is composed of scenes which have no basis in the novel. This includes three fistfights, four episodes of gunplay, a car accident and three on-screen deaths, all from a novel with no explicit violence. All told, the script reflects not so much infidelity to the source material but more a sheer ignorance of it; I’m hard pressed to believe that the writer had any familiarity with the novel beyond the dust jacket synopsis and perhaps an intern’s coverage. The result reads less like a screen adaptation and more like fan fiction.
I would love to hear what [director Miguel — not clear if he’s still attached] Sapochnick has planned, and I truly hope he can rescue the film from what I’ve read so far. Otherwise, the film version of the Handbook is very likely going to be a textbook example of a Hollywood goatf*ck.
I can’t get enough of these stories about what happens when a studio options a book they think is interesting and unique, and then hand it off to a “professional screenwriter” to “punch it up.” You’d think the screenwriter’s job would be fairly important, but it’s usually just the guy who gets dumped on and has to try to incorporate everyone’s idiotic suggestions. “I need a car chase on page 47! Can the dolphin have tourette’s? At least three of these Klansmen have to be black! The hero fights a giant spider in the third act! WAITER! MORE COCAINE!”