Book To Film Titles: How They Changed And Why

How come some novels get retitled for the big screen?

Edge Of Tomorrow

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You know how it goes: producers buys the film rights to a popular book, puts it on the screen and name-recognition does the rest. But while the Harry Potters and the Twilights reached the screen smoothly with their names unaltered, other films go through spasms and lose their very titles on the way to the screen. As Edge Of Tomorrow (adapted from All You Need Is Kill) hits cinemas, we’ve assembled a few films that adopted noms de screen drastically different from their original paper title, and looked for the reason for the change.

EDGE OF TOMORROW Based on: All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka"We never actually called it All You Need Is Kill," says director Doug Liman. "We called it AYNIK on set. Right from the beginning I knew we were obviously not going to call the movie that. Titles changes are always tough and it's always better if you have the title before you start. But in this case we were finding the tone of the film as we went along." While he didn't offer a reason for the changed title, it roughly fits the Groundhog-Day-Goes-To-War plotline. Bit generic though, isn't it?

SCHINDLER'S LIST _Based on: Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally_Steven Spielberg's brutally moving account of one man who saved thousands in the midst of the Holocaust underwent a small but significant title change. The film replaced the novel's 'Ark' with a less poetic and slightly more practical 'List'. This may be for the purposes of making its central concept easier to understand, but we suspect it had something to do with the fact that the director made a previous film about an Ark, and no one wanted any confusion between the two.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES _Based on: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien_All of Peter Jackson's three Hobbit films have titles close to but not precisely from the text. The first, An Unexpected Journey, echoed the book's opening chapter title, An Unexpected Party. The second, The Desolation Of Smaug, comes from a description of the area around Erebor as "the Desolation of the Dragon" (in fairness, the exact words are used on Tolkien's map). And now the finale, The Battle Of The Five Armies, is inspired by what the book calls the Battle Of Five Armies (no extra 'the'). That last one replaces the book's subtitle, There And Back Again. So some points for respect, but perhaps not full marks.

TANGLED _Based on: Rapunzel by The Brothers Grimm_Since The Princess & The Frog underperformed, relative to Disney's standards, at the box office, the House of Mouse has shied away from films featuring female names and gone for adjectival titles instead. Tangled was the first change, with the studio explaining that the new title reflected the fact that it's a two-hander between Rapunzel and the roguish Flynn Rider. If we were being picky, we might note that Wreck-It Ralph is also a two-hander, but that might be mean-spirited.

FROZEN _Based on: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen_Explained director Chris Buck of this one: "It became very different from The Snow Queen. We took elements and we took themes, but the new title works on many different levels. It works with the environment of Frozen and on Elsa's relationship with Anna, frozen when they were kids and they can't get past that. Some of our characters are frozen, like Kristoff is frozen in his own little world. It works on so many different levels, and it just has a really great sound."

JOHN CARTER _Based on: A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs_This is a title that shifted quite a bit. It's based on the first of Burroughs' books, A Princess Of Mars, but was announced as John Carter Of Mars, which was considered a bit less girly. But somewhere along the way, with the studio concerned that previous Mars films had flopped (most recently Mars Needs Moms), it lost that suffix. Director Andrew Stanton came to terms with the decision on the basis that this origin story was about his hero becoming 'John Carter Of Mars'. Alas, the sequels that might have restored the geographical moniker were never made.

JACK REACHER _Based on: One Shot by Lee Child_Given that the first Reacher film to reach the screen was based on the eighth book in Lee Child's ongoing series, perhaps it makes sense not to go with the title but name the entire movie for a character who will be the sole constant in any sequels that follow. The shame of it is that One Shot is such a good title for this story, given that it focuses so much on a sniper's single missed shot.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS _Based on: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman_In fairness, this is not a changed title as far as US is concerned; there, the first book was always called The Golden Compass. And arguably, this title is more in keeping with its sequels – The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass – what with those both being The [Adjective] [Noun], but by George we'll still argue for the superiority of the original British title anyway!

DIE HARD _Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp_It’s impossible to imagine Die Hard being called anything else now, but take a trip with us down back to 1979 when Thorp wrote a skyscraper-set sequel to his hardboiled novel, The Detective, inspired by a dream he had after seeing The Towering Inferno. Onscreen his Joseph Leland became John McClane; an imperilled daughter became an estranged wife, and the title changed along with the character name to reflect the fact that the film had no real connection to The Detective (which itself had been filmed, starring Frank Sinatra).

BLADE RUNNER _Based on: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick_It was probably too much to hope that this title ever adorn a cinema marquee, but what's interesting about the change of name here is that it was taken from an entirely different book. Ridley Scott, while working on the film, saw the cover page of a script treatment that William S. Burroughs did for Alan E. Nourse's novel The Bladerunner, titled Blade Runner (a movie). He liked it, so the producers bought the rights to that title and Deckard's your replicant (or is he? Etc).

TOTAL RECALL _Based on: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick_Perhaps the greatest story title ever, this was, like Blade Runner, never going to happen. At least the substitute verges on clever, since it has a nice action movie sound but does reflect the fact that Our Hero doesn't have total recall of his own life when we meet him. It also links to the 'Rekall' facility that does memory implantation ('REKAL' in the book).

FIELD OF DREAMS _Based on: Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella_Here's a serendipitous story: director Phil Alden Robinson loved the book's title and fought when executives tried to change it to Field Of Dreams. He was overruled, and called the author to break the bad news himself. To Robinson's surprise, Kinsella was pleased: his original title was The Dream Field, and Shoeless Joe had been imposed on him by the publisher. So it's a happy ending for everyone!

BABE _Based on: The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith_We can only assume that someone, somewhere, thought that the original title of Dick King-Smith's charming tale might be confusing or off-putting to someone, somewhere. Perhaps, in a time of genetic engineering and panic about cloned sheep, a sheep-pig seemed like a dangerous beast that might contaminate our bacon stocks with a certain wooliness or something. Happily, the title Babe isn't going to put anyone off this adorable fable, and the new name is at least one that features in the novel as well.

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT _Based on: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf_First of all, let's be crystal clear: for the sake of our sanity and the English language, they should have kept the question mark. Aside from that, the new title is spot-on, since the novel saw Roger murdered in order to "censor" him and the film sees him, well, framed for someone else's murder. But why oh why did they drop that question mark and make the title into an instrument of torture for grammar nerds?

EYES WIDE SHUT _Based on: Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler_Also known as Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, or Dream Story, in English, Arthur Schnitzler's title risks sounding a little sweet and hippy-ish to the modern ear. Stanley Kubrick sensibly went for something a little tougher for his psychological drama, with a title that alludes to its hero's wilful blindness to what's going on around him and perhaps to the eye-opening night that he experiences.

PLEIN SOLEIL _Based on: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith_René Clément's 1960 film has a title that makes a certain sense – the story takes place under a blazing Mediterranean sun, and, in a change from the novel, sees certain crimes being brought into full daylight at the end – but it's a change from the novel and even the French translation thereof, which modestly goes by plain 'Monsieur Ripley'. But both original and French title are considerably better than the English translation of 'Plein Soleil', which – bafflingly – was released as 'Purple Noon'. Is that even an expression?

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA _Based on: The Hoods by Harry Grey_Sergio Leone first came across The Hoods by Harry Grey (a pseudonym for a former mobster called Harry Goldberg) when making Once Upon A Time In The West, which might go some way to explaining that title change. He had to wait to get the rights, which were held by another producer for nearly a decade, but ended up expanding the story outwards so that the more grandiose title seems to fit the film – and its four-hour run time.

WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY _Based on: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl_This has the most depressing name for a title change ever: it was altered from the pleasantly alliterative original, the better to tie in with a planned candy bar launch which was to use the enticing Wonka name. Frankly, we might have respected them more had it been down to Gene Wilder having a rampant ego or an official complaint from Prince Charles. Then again, given that this film's Charlie is just as bad as all the other horrible children thanks to drinking the fizzy drink that makes you fly without permission, he didn't deserve a title either.

GOODFELLAS _Based on: Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi_The non-fiction book about the lives of Brooklyn mobsters is one that Martin Scorsese instantly connected to, but the title presented a couple of problems. Notably, there had been a Brian De Palma 1986 comedy film of the same name, starring Danny DeVito, and a TV series also called Wise Guys ran from 1987 to 1990. GoodFellas it was, and good it proved.

FULL METAL JACKET _Based on: The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford_Stanley Kubrick considered Gus Hasford's memoir of his time in the Marine Corps, both in training and in Vietnam, a 'masterpiece', but worried that keeping the title might confuse people and make them think it was a film about slackers. Since it wasn't the 1990s, that would be bad. Kubrick came across the phrase "full metal jacket" in a gun catalogue, and thought that would sell the premise rather better.

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