John Grisham back on the big screen: An adaption of The Testament in the works

Posted on 23 June 2009 by HansKlopek

Hello folks. Hans here with some good news for anyone wondering…when was the last time we saw an adaptation of a John Grisham novel? If fortune smiles, we won’t have to wait too much longer.

john_grisham_01Variety reported that 821 Entertainment Group is currently an adaptation of Grisham’s 1999 novel The Testament. Mark Johnson and Hunt Lowry, who braved the Grisham water successfully with A Time to Kill, are set to produce. The novel focuses on a millionaire’s decision to leave his $11 million estate to an illegitimate daughter doing research work in the Brazillian wetlands. This pleases his greedy relatives none-too-much, and a legal battle ensues as the daughter and a down-and-out lawyer team to gain the fortune.

Anyone who was alive in the mid-90s knows that if you threw a rock you hit a Grisham book that was being adapted. I mean, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Pelican Brief, The Firm, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, all put out within about five years of one another. Since 2003′s Runaway Jury though, we haven’t seen a single adaptation. It has been rumored that Grisham was unhappy with some of the changes made from novel to film in some earlier adaptations (A Time to Kill-the book was pretty much unfilmable, and I can understand them making changes), but it looks like the dude has relented. His novel The Associate is being developed at Paramount and there are a number of other non-legal books he has penned that are on the market for adaptation.

Personally, I’m happy to see this guy’s work getting some attention again. If he was unhappy with the changes made from book to film, the changes obviously didn’t injure the final product very often. Of the films I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I would distinguish any of them, except for maybe The Chamber, as particularly bad. I’ve perused or fully read most of the books on which the films are based (excluding Runaway Jury), and based on what I’ve read, I can’t say that things have changed that much in making their way to the screen.

That being said, Grisham is one of those writers who clearly writes with adaptation in mind. His technique excludes any writerly flights of fancy; plots and dialogue are all straightforward, descriptive language is minimal but effective, characters are distinctive if not infinitely complex. In short, his books get the job done. Sometimes, in the case of something like A Time to Kill, they are insanely interesting.

What happened with Grisham is that studios flooded the market with him. You couldn’t turn around without seeing a new movie out there based on one of his books. Not only did this hurt the films, I think it hurt his name value as a writer. Fans started to think in terms of “I’ll just wait for the movie to come out” rather than “I’d really like to read the next book from this guy.” It was a good idea for studios to take a break from adapting his stuff for a while.

It will be interesting to see who they choose to direct this one, especially considering that the Grisham directors have included plenty of the good, bad and ugly. Should be interesting.                           

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