November 27, 2012

Action Movies Adapted from Books

We all know that Ian Fleming created the greatest secret agent of them all: James Bond, but what other action movie heroes sprang from the minds of novelists?

John McClane for one thing; in 1979 a book called Nothing Lasts Forever was written about a Detective called Joe Leland, who is visiting the Klaxon Oil Corporation’s headquarters in Los Angeles, where his daughter Steffie Leland Gennaro works. While he is visiting, a German terrorist gang led by a person named Anton “Tony” Gruber takes over the entire building. Leland remains undetected and fights off the terrorists one by one, aided outside the building by LAPD Sergeant Al Powell.

Sound familiar? Yep, in 1988 a few elements were changed (like the character’s name and the Klaxon Oil Company) and made into a little known film called Die Hard.

The book was actually a sequel to Thorp’s 1966 novel The Detective. The story to that one was Joe Leland, war hero, career cop, private detective, is a public tough guy whose private world is coming apart. When a wartime acquaintance is killed in a fall from a race-track roof, his young widow hires Leland to investigate. As the search progresses, Leland is drawn into the shadows of Colin MacIver’s life and into the black areas of his own past – the war, his troubled marriage, the brutal murder case that ended his police career. The film ended up starring Frank Sinatra which is now considered a classic.

Die Hard was also originally meant to be a sequel to Commando but Arnold wasn’t interested so it eventually became Die Hard.

Another action icon came from a novel called First Blood written by Dave Morrell, but everyone already knows that. Rambo first appeared in the novel and his character is very different from the film version. He’s quite unsympathetic in the book and is a bit of a psychopath who kills a lot of people. He also ends up being killed, just like in the original ending to the film. That would have put an abrupt end to any sequels though so it was changed in the movie. I definitely prefer the movie to the book.

The Thing was also an adaptation originally written by John W. Campbell in 1938, a lot of the stuff you remember from the movie is also in the very short book.

Patriot Games, the classic Harrison Ford actioner is also based on a book by Tom Clancy; I think we all know that Jack Ryan started off in novels, until he moved into action and we even have a new Ryan film imaginatively titled “Jack Ryan” coming out next year.

Minority Report is also based on a Philip K. Dick short story about a cop (Tom Cruise) in the future working in a division of the police department that arrests killers before they commit the crimes courtesy of some future viewing technology.

Underrated classic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is partially based on the Brett Halliday novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, which was equally as tongue in cheek as the Shane Black movie.

And the franchise I love to hate is also based on the novels by Robert Ludlum; The Bourne Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum are all created by Ludlum before becoming iconic by Matt Damon.

There are many more books that were turned into action movies but this is just a taster in case you didn’t already know.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel

I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it’s a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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