Search Results for: movies

25 Movies and the Magazine Stories That Inspired Them

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez on the set of 'Hustlers' in New York City. (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

As more publications pursue blockbuster stories with film and television potential, producers in Hollywood and the magazine industry are taking their inspiration from successful article-to-film adaptations of the past that have achieved box office success.

Here are 25 gold-standard film adaptations of magazine articles, published over the course of half a century as cover stories, features, or breaking news, as well as direct links to read all 25 stories online.

Legacy magazines with well-known print editions dominate this list, as do the nonfiction writers that legacy magazines accept and champion. Many of these writers’ names will be familiar to readers, as will the majority of the magazines and films themselves, in many cases because celebrated journalists inspired these major motion pictures at the peak of their careers as writers and reporters. Name recognition in one industry reinforces name recognition in another, and — despite the incredible diversity of feature-length nonfiction being published today by new voices most mainstream audiences have yet to discover — institutional support still tends to elevate known veterans.

While the talents of all of the writers on this list are undeniable, there are also well-documented structural biases that account for why so many of the writers represented here are overwhelmingly male, white, or Susan Orlean. These stories belong on any narrative nonfiction syllabus on their own merit, but I hope these samples are still just the beginning, and that new filmmakers and magazine writers can start to work together far more often on a greater breadth of material, with sufficient editorial guidance and studio backing to support them.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve limited this roundup to favor adaptations (loosely defined) based primarily on magazine-style features, including only a couple of films based on award-winning newspaper investigations. The list of new film and television adaptations based on popular books or podcasts, let alone reporting that has helped support the explosion in streaming documentary formats, would run even longer.

It takes time, access, imagination, and resources to be able to realize ambitious true stories like these in their original form as narrative magazine features. It would be a welcome change to see greater diversity in the production pipeline in the coming years: in the subjects of narrative stories, in the publications considered for exclusive source material, in the creative teams that are given studio support, in the agencies brokering deals, in the awards and recognition that elevate new work, and in the storytellers who are given the resources to write long.

Writers are the lifeblood of all of these industries, and will always play a pivotal role in any production that is based on a true story.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Based on Can You Say…Hero? by Tom Junod (Esquire, 1998)

Once upon a time, a man named Fred Rogers decided that he wanted to live in heaven. Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, but this man, Fred Rogers, didn’t want to go to heaven; he wanted to live in heaven, here, now, in this world, and so one day, when he was talking about all the people he had loved in this life, he looked at me and said, “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.”

Hustlers (2019)

Based on The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler (The Cut, 2015)

While evolutionary theory and The Bachelor would suggest that a room full of women hoping to attract the attention of a few men would be cutthroat-competitive, it’s actually better for strippers to work together, because while most men might be able keep their wits, and their wallets, around one scantily clad, sweet-smelling sylph, they tend to lose their grip around three or four. Which is why at Hustler, as elsewhere, the dancers worked in groups.

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Based on My Addicted Son by David Sheff (The New York Times Magazine, 2005)

Nick now claims that he was searching for methamphetamine for his entire life, and when he tried it for the first time, as he says, “That was that.” It would have been no easier to see him strung out on heroin or cocaine, but as every parent of a methamphetamine addict comes to learn, this drug has a unique, horrific quality. In an interview, Stephan Jenkins, the singer in the band Third Eye Blind, said that methamphetamine makes you feel “bright and shiny.” It also makes you paranoid, incoherent and both destructive and pathetically and relentlessly self-destructive. Then you will do unconscionable things in order to feel bright and shiny again. Nick had always been a sensitive, sagacious, joyful and exceptionally bright child, but on meth he became unrecognizable.

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The Joy of Watching (and Rewatching) Movies So Bad They’re Good

Longreads Pick
Source: Longreads
Published: May 7, 2019
Length: 8 minutes (2,090 words)

The Joy of Watching (and Rewatching) Movies So Bad They’re Good

Wiseau-Films, Warner Bros, American International Pictures, Quintet Productions, Four Leaf Productions, Mid-America Pictures

Michael Musto | Longreads | Month 2019 | 8 minutes (2,090 words)


I’ve known about the power of good/bad movies since I was a kid, but I was reminded of it just a few days after 9/11, when I went to a press screening of Mariah Carey’s unwitting classic Glitter.

Naturally, New York City was traumatized, many of us going through the motions in a daze as we tried to make sense of the horror. But we had to make a living, so, along with a handful of other arts journalists, I dragged myself to the screening, not sure of what we were getting into. It turned out to be the hackneyed story of a DJ who tries to lift a backup singer (Mariah) up from her humble roots through song and romance. And it was evident quickly into the film that Mariah just didn’t have the acting chops; the new Meryl Streep this wasn’t. We uncomfortably sat there watching the pop diva try to act, but eventually we couldn’t hold back, and a few of her line readings were greeted with titters — the first time I’d heard laughter (including my own) since 9/11. It sounded both shocking and very welcome, and the unintended reaction mounted during a ludicrous scene where Mariah and the DJ were magically thinking of the same melody. By the end, when Mariah spills out of a limo in a glittery gown to visit her dirt-poor mother, we were all screaming in hilarity. This was just the catharsis we needed, and it generously helped us bond and move on.

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Writing for the Movies: A Letter from Hollywood, 1962

AP Photo

Daniel Fuchs | The Golden West | Black Sparrow Books | May 2005 | 42 minutes (8,396 words)


Dear Editors:

Thank you for your kind letter and compliments. Yes, your hunch was right, I would like very much to tell about the problems and values I’ve encountered, writing for the movies all these years. I’m so slow in replying to you because I thought it would be a pleasant gesture—in return for your warm letter—to send you the completed essay. But it’s taken me longer than I thought it would. I’ve always been impressed by the sure, brimming conviction of people who attack Hollywood, and this even though they may never have been inside the business and so haven’t had the chance of knowing how really onerous and exacerbat­ing the conditions are. But for me the subject is more disturbing, or else it is that I like to let my mind wander and that I start from a different bias, or maybe I’ve just been here too long.

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After World War I, Horror Movies Were Invaded By an Army of Reanimated Corpses

"J'accuse!" 1919.

W. Scott Poole | an excerpt adapted from Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror | Counterpoint | October 2018 | 23 minutes (6,219 words)

The murderous folly of the Great War chilled western Europe to the bone, and the new, gruesome entertainment of the horror film became neither escape nor catharsis but rather a repetition of trauma. Telling these stories sometimes had the effect of ripping the scab from the wound so that it never became healthy, or grieving until grief became an end in itself. At times, the stories included social criticism. In all cases, the horror film included a long, angry procession of unquiet corpses.

Not everyone would agree, or at least believe, that horror films carry so much weight. “You are reading too much into the movies” is a fairly common response to such claims. “They’re just entertainment.” This idea of course has its own history and, paradoxically, it begins with a writer who thought that the films made after the Great War did contain coded messages about the era. He saw in them a dangerous message that explained the path from Germany’s defeat in 1918 to its resurgence as a threatening power twenty years later.

Siegfried Kracauer left Germany in 1933, emigrating to Paris the same year that Adolf Hitler became the German chancellor. After the beginning of World War II and the invasion of France, he fled for the Spanish border with the renegade essayist Walter Benjamin in the summer of 1940. Unlike Benjamin, however, Kracauer found a way to make it to the United States, where a Rockefeller Fellowship awaited him in the spring of 1941, thanks to his fellow exile the philosopher Max Horkheimer. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art offered Kracauer a position that involved studying the German films made between 1918 and 1933, a task he hoped might yield some clue as to what had become of his homeland. Read more…

‘Do you like scary movies?’

Image by Nicki Dugan Pogue via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In an essay in Electric Lit, Megan Pillow Davis explores horror movies — why we love them, how we experience them in our bodies, and how they can help us deal with our own real-world traumas — like Davis’ own near-rape at the hands of a former coworker.

I watched the taillights of Daniel’s truck recede into the darkness. I thought of how Paul was the only thing that had kept me from becoming Mari Collingwood or Phyllis Stone, the girls who are raped and killed in The Last House on the Left. Daniel did neither of those things. But I could still feel a scorching anger welling up inside me. In a matter of seconds, I became not Mari or Phyllis, but Jennifer Hills from I Spit on Your Grave, the rape and revenge film that had called up old memories and given me nightmares for a month the first time I watched it. I had tried to forget about that film. But now it felt like my territory, my home. I could feel Jennifer unzipping my skin like a dress and climbing inside me. I imagined cutting Daniel’s dick off, clean as Chuck cut off the head of the coral snake. I imagined spitting and pissing and shitting on Daniel’s grave. And then, just before his truck disappeared behind a dark curtain of trees, I became Charlie. I willed Daniel’s truck to explode. I wanted his body to sear in the white-hot flame of my fear and shame and rage until there was nothing left.

Read the essay

What should we do this weekend, go to the movies or sail a handmade raft to Polynesia?

The Joshua, one of the boats that competed in the original Golden Globe Race. (Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0).

Three week ago 17 skippers left the French port of Les Sables d’Olonne, all trying to circumnavigate the globe solo and with no technological assistance. The first (and only other) Golden Globe Race was in 1968. The race director for the 2018 edition, Don McIntyre, is not a man who shies away from a challenge — an understatement if there ever was one. The appropriately named Maggie Shipstead has all the detail in Outside.

McIntyre, an Australian, has made a colorful career for himself seeking out and facilitating adventure. In the 1980s, he started marine equipment importing and yacht-building businesses to fund his own participation in the BOC Challenge, a solo circumnavigation race with stops. McIntyre was second in his class in 1990. After that, he started running and guiding tourist trips to Antarctica; currently, he and his partner have a long-term lease on an island in Tonga, where they run whale swimming trips. McIntyre’s initial concept for the Golden Globe reboot, which first occurred to him in 1995, had been simpler: He would sail around himself for the 30th anniversary. At the time, he was spending a year in an 8×12-foot hut on Antarctica with his then wife. “I was sitting there in the box in the middle of winter thinking, what’s next, what’s next?” McIntyre said. He made plans and designed a boat, but life got in the way. He missed the 40th anniversary as well when he chose instead to recreate Captain Bligh’s 3,600-mile Pacific journey in a 24-foot open boat. These things happen.

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Great Reviews Of Movies I Have Never Seen: A Reading List

In a movie theater, rows of red velvet chairs sitting empty in front of a blank screen.
Image by hashi photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Sara Benincasa is a quadruple threat: she writes, she acts, she’s funny, and she has truly exceptional hair. She also reads, a lot, and joins us to share some of her favorite stories (and some of her friends’ favorites, too). 

I will admit upfront that I haven’t seen as many films as I feel I should. I’ve written one, an adaptation of my third book, DC Trip. It was scary to contemplate: I thought, “I haven’t seen enough films to write a film.” And then someone pointed out that the average male aspiring screenwriter would never let that stop him, and I figured this was correct.

I realized — and this is applicable for any job, really — I shouldn’t negotiate from a place of “I’m so lucky anyone would consider me for such a gig.” I should negotiate from a place of “Hell yeah, I can knock this out of the park and I deserve this gig! I will learn what I need to learn, ask questions, do the work, and figure it out as I go along. And I will do a very good job.” And I started watching more films, because while you learn a lot by doing, you also learn a lot by watching. Plus, if you want to do something for a living, it’s only respectful to your art form of choice to, you know, actually study it.

Conveniently enough, I also recently got sober, which means I’ve got more time on my hands now that I don’t spend one to two days a week functioning at the intellectual level of a toaster oven. Did you know that if you replace alcohol with water, you’ll sleep better at night and have a superior command of syntax in the morning? True facts, my friends. You’ll also have to deal with a bunch of stuff you were ignoring, like credit card debt and emotional scars, but you can escape that temporarily at your local movieplex!

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When the Movies Went West

A man looking into a Kinetoscope. (Photo: Getty)

Gary Krist | Excerpt adapted from The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles | Crown | May 2018 | 14 minutes (3,681 words)

Toward the end of 1907, two men showed up in Los Angeles with some strange luggage in tow. Their names were Francis Boggs and Thomas Persons, and together they constituted an entire traveling film crew from the Selig Polyscope Company of Chicago, one of the first motion picture studios in the country. Boggs, the director, and Persons, the cameraman, had come to finish work on a movie — an adaptation of the Dumas classic The Count of Monte Cristo — and were looking for outdoor locations to shoot a few key scenes. As it happened, the harsh midwestern winter had set in too early that year for them to complete the film’s exteriors in Illinois, so they had got permission to take their camera and other equipment west to southern California, where the winters were mild and pleasant. Since money was tight in the barely nascent business of moviemaking, the film’s cast could not come along. So Boggs intended to hire local talent to play the characters originated by actors in Chicago. Motion pictures were still such a new and makeshift medium that audiences, he figured, would never notice the difference.

In downtown Los Angeles, they found a handsome if somewhat disheveled young man — a sometime actor who supplemented his income by selling fake jewelry on Main Street — and took him to a beach outside the city. Here they filmed the famous scene of Edmond Dantès emerging from the waves after his escape from the island prison of the Château d’If. Boggs had a few technical problems to deal with during the shoot. For one, the jewelry hawker’s false beard had a tendency to wash off in the Pacific surf, requiring expensive retakes. But eventually the director and Persons got what they needed. After finishing a few more scenes at various locations up and down the coast, they wrapped up work, shipped the film back to Chicago to be developed and edited, and then left town. Read more…

Longreads Goes to the Movies: A Reading List

It’s 10:45 p.m., and I’m about to indulge in one of my strangest habits: watching a horror movie, alone, late at night. My cat is nearby, but he sleeps through this particular ritual. There are rules; the lights stay on. I don’t watch movies about home invasions or slasher flicks. Minimal gore, please. I love demon possessions, haunted houses, and paranormal investigations. Tonight, for instance, I’m watching the American version of The Ring for the first time. I perch my laptop on the edge, reach for the soft pretzel I picked up on the way home and press play. The scenes so far are tinged green; it is always raining. There’s an ill-fated Amber Tamblyn, gone in five minutes. There’s Adam Brody, harbinger of death and teen angst. My cat stretches, body bisecting the coffee table. The ceiling fan burns bright, blades in orbit.

What are your movie habits? What films do you return to, over and over? Here are five stories about A League of Their Own, High Fidelity, the films of John Hughes, Ghost in the Shell and, the criticism of Roger Ebert.

1. “‘A League of Their Own’ Stands the Test of Time.” (ESPNW Staff, ESPN, June 2017)

An oral history celebrating the 25th anniversary of the greatest baseball movie ever made, A League of Their Own, a film based on the real-life adventures of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

2. “I Grew Up in a John Hughes Movie.” (Jason Diamond, BuzzFeed, August 2014)

Jason Diamond wrote this beautiful essay two years before his memoir Searching for John Hughes debuted, and it made me want to watch and re-watch all of his films. Diamond’s childhood in the Chicago suburb of Skokie mirrored the neighborhood in Hughes’ iconic teen-centric films, Shermer, Illinois.

3. “Roger Ebert’s Zero-Star Movies.” (Will Sloan, Hazlitt, February 2017)

I finally accepted the fact I wanted to (maybe, possibly) be a Serious Writer the same summer I read Chris Jones’ iconic profile of Roger Ebert in Esquire. Ebert has held a small but significant piece of my heart ever since. At Hazlitt, Will Sloan explores the movies Ebert hated most, where he wonders, “What does it mean when the most famous and widely read American film critic regards a movie as ‘artistically inept and morally repugnant’?”

4. “All Shell, No Ghost.” (Eric Chang, Vogue, April 2017)

On hacking as “a method of seeing,” the parallel histories of Eastern and Western cyberpunk storytelling, and the laziness inherent in whitewashed films.

5. “‘High Fidelity’ Captured the Snob’s–and the Soundtrack’s–Waning Powers.” (Sean O’Neal, The A.V. Club, March 2017)

My first movie soundtrack was PhenomenonI’ve still never seen the movie, but I know every word to Eric Clapton’s lead single, “Change the World.” I can still hear Clapton crooning “and our love would ruuuuuuuule…” I thought Bryan Ferry’s “Dance With Life (The Brilliant Life)” was unspeakably beautiful (still do, honestly). My family listened to the CD on repeat. According to MovieTunes, this soundtrack was “the cutting edge of a collaborative art-form whose time has come.” The exuberance of 1996 stands in stark contrast to 2000—what a difference four years makes!—as you can see in Sean O’Neal’s take on the jaded and vaguely anachronistic High Fidelity and its accompanying soundtrack.