Diablo Cody Talks Sweet Valley High

Personally, I was always more of a Baby-sitters’ Club girl, but I’m still excited about Diablo Cody’s forthcoming Sweet Valley High movie. In an interview with ETonline, Cody confirms that the movie will indeed be set in the 1980s and that they’re still looking for the perfect Elizabeth and Jessica – or maybe one actress to play both twins. She also talks about what attracted her to the project:

It’s about the polarity of the good girl versus the bad girl, which is something I played with a bit in Jennifer’s Body. I’m just fascinated by the way women are put into boxes in our culture. The Sweet Valley High books are about Jessica and Elizabeth, these identical twins; one is the perfect straight-A, ambitious good-goody and the other is this really selfish bitch who tends to have a lot more fun. In the books, they frequently switch places and adopt the other’s identity. I thought that was a fun idea — especially, like, in a big, fun, pop-y movie with songs that people can enjoy as hilarious eye candy on a superficial level or on a deeper level exploring some more of those themes.

Apparently the movie will be at least partially based on Dear Sister, in which Elizabeth is in a coma after an accident and acts like Jessica when she wakes up. Honestly, two Jessicas sounds like a bit much to me, but we’ll see!

Is Lincoln Really Based on Team of Rivals?

It’s often a bit confusing when movies based on historical events are said to be adapted from a specific source. If the movie follows the narrative structure of a particular book, or if it’s a little-known event that only has a few real sources (as with Argo), that’s one thing. But Lincoln? Really? It’s supposedly based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, but the focus of the book is very different from the focus of the movie. As Timothy Noah points out at The New Republic, Steven Spielberg bought the rights to Team of Rivals before it was published, and Goodwin helped screenwriter Tony Kushner with his research.

But Noah suggests that Kushner probably learned more from Michael Vorenberg’s Final Freedom than any other one source. He has some examples from Vorenberg of details that almost certainly came from his book:

I’ll just give a few examples. With each one, by the way, the film makers took some understandable liberties with the facts. One episode involves the part of the film in which the Democrats try to bait Thaddeus Stevens into saying that the amendment grants “negro equality” in all respects, but Stevens sees through the gambit and responds that it grants only “equality before the law.” The film does a nice job dramatizing that part of my book, though it leaves out Samuel “Sunset” Cox as Stevens’s primary antagonist in that part of the debate. The omission of Cox is understandable (a film can do only so much) but too bad, as Cox was a pretty interesting character, and he played an important role throughout the amendment debate.

The film also uses my book for the specifics on how Alexander Coffroth’s vote for the amendment was most likely secured–the promise of a resolution in his favor in an election controversy. Again, the film takes some liberties–there’s no evidence that Lincoln or Stevens was involved in the discussions with Coffroth–but again, such liberties probably made for better film making.

Neither Noah nor Vorenberg are accusing Kushner of doing anything wrong here, but it’s interesting to see how this question of adaptation can be more complicated than it first appears. Kushner told Noah that he did read and use Vorenberg but that Team of Rivals was his main source; Noah remains skeptical. If nothing else, Kushner’s list of a few dozen books he used to varying extents should provide any Lincoln fans with plenty of reading material.

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Stephenie Meyer on Writing After Adaption

Author Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) recently spoke to THR about the forthcoming movie adaptation of her science fiction novel The Host, set for release in March. Meyer is currently working on the second book in the probable trilogy, and one thing she said about this writing process struck me as interesting:

“I really try hard not to do that. I kind of have to kick Jake [Abel] and Diane [Kruger] out of my head, and all the rest of them, and go back to the original look of the characters to help out. I’ll go back and re-read the first novel to get back into the world. I have to do that frequently because every time I get pulled away, I have to immerse myself again, and so it’s a slow process to get started writing. It goes a lot faster if you can just stick to it.”

This is a problem unique to books that are adapted before the author is finished writing about the characters or the world; Jane Austen isn’t worrying about whether Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen will influence her own vision of Darcy. Such influence is to some extent unavoidable, and it must be frustrating when authors don’t really like the screen versions of their characters but know those versions are affecting them anyway.

Read the whole interview with Meyer here.