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11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

Julianna Haubner joined the editorial team at Simon & Schuster in September 2014. A lifelong reader, she is most drawn to literary fiction, biography, cultural history, and narrative non-fiction; it’s her firm belief that every human should own a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, and EMPIRE FALLS is the book that changed her life. When Julianna’s not reading and reviewing, she’s downloading podcast episodes as if there are more than 24 hours in a day, watching Bravo, baking, and running the Off the Shelf Instagram. You can follow her on Twitter @jhaubner2.

Since the beginnings of film, literature has played a significant role in developing the medium. Adaptations are everywhere, but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s stunning portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote gave rise to a new genre, the literary biopic, which focuses on an author’s life instead of adapting their work. Allen Ginsberg, David Foster Wallace, and even legendary editor Max Perkins have gotten the green light—here are some literary tales that we hope inspire more stories on the silver screen.


At Random
by Bennett Cerf

If Max Perkins, editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, is getting his moment of fame, so should Bennett Cerf, the founder and publisher of Random House and the man responsible for literary classics by James Joyce, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty. His behind-the-scenes story would be a fascinating look at the New York publishing industry.

At Random
Bennett Cerf

If Max Perkins, editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, is getting his moment of fame, so should Bennett Cerf, the founder and publisher of Random House and the man responsible for literary classics by James Joyce, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty. His behind-the-scenes story would be a fascinating look at the New York publishing industry.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

By Julianna Haubner | September 8, 2015

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Zelda
by Nancy Milford

Though she’s known best for her famous husband and infamous partying spirit, Zelda Fitzgerald’s story has much more to offer. A gifted writer and creative talent in her own right, she struggled constantly with the public persona she felt she had to maintain. A closer look at the woman who epitomized the Jazz Age would be a blockbuster for sure.

Zelda
Nancy Milford

Though she’s known best for her famous husband and infamous partying spirit, Zelda Fitzgerald’s story has much more to offer. A gifted writer and creative talent in her own right, she struggled constantly with the public persona she felt she had to maintain. A closer look at the woman who epitomized the Jazz Age would be a blockbuster for sure.

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11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

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Joseph Anton
by Salman Rushdie

In 1989, Salman Rushdie was informed by a journalist that he had been sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini. His crime? Writing the novel The Satanic Verses. His memoir, which is named after the pseudonym Rushdie used while living in hiding (and is an homage to the literary giants Conrad and Chekhov), is a profound and riveting tale of censorship, politics, and the power of writing.

Joseph Anton
Salman Rushdie

In 1989, Salman Rushdie was informed by a journalist that he had been sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini. His crime? Writing the novel The Satanic Verses. His memoir, which is named after the pseudonym Rushdie used while living in hiding (and is an homage to the literary giants Conrad and Chekhov), is a profound and riveting tale of censorship, politics, and the power of writing.

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11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

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Tennessee Williams
by John Lahr

The author of the classic plays A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams shaped the landscape of American theater and culture in the latter half of the twentieth century. With a personal life as dramatic as the plays he wrote, and appearances by the likes of Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, and Bette Davis, this book is the perfect American epic.

Tennessee Williams
John Lahr

The author of the classic plays A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams shaped the landscape of American theater and culture in the latter half of the twentieth century. With a personal life as dramatic as the plays he wrote, and appearances by the likes of Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, and Bette Davis, this book is the perfect American epic.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

By Julianna Haubner | September 8, 2015

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Just Kids
by Patti Smith

Set against the color and creativity of downtown New York in the 1960s and 1970s, Smith’s story is made for the movies. Covering her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, the determination and resilience that led to her fame, and the tragedy and struggles that went along with it, her cinematic memoir is an enjoyable read and would make an equally enjoyable viewing experience. Happily, Showtime has it in development.

Just Kids
Patti Smith

Set against the color and creativity of downtown New York in the 1960s and 1970s, Smith’s story is made for the movies. Covering her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, the determination and resilience that led to her fame, and the tragedy and struggles that went along with it, her cinematic memoir is an enjoyable read and would make an equally enjoyable viewing experience. Happily, Showtime has it in development.

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11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

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Dust Tracks on a Road
by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston captured readers for years with her compelling and perspective-changing novels of the South. Originally published in 1942, this autobiography chronicles her childhood and rise to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance alongside some of the most influential African-American figures of the time. Her story and voice are a much-needed addition to the American film canon.

Dust Tracks on a Road
Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston captured readers for years with her compelling and perspective-changing novels of the South. Originally published in 1942, this autobiography chronicles her childhood and rise to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance alongside some of the most influential African-American figures of the time. Her story and voice are a much-needed addition to the American film canon.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

By Julianna Haubner | September 8, 2015

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JFK Jr., George, & Me
by Matt Berman

His mother was a book editor and his father was a president, so it isn’t very surprising that John F. Kennedy Jr. found his passion combining politics and words when he created George magazine. This memoir from his creative director is a personal and poignant look at a man who everyone in America claimed as their own, seen in a completely different context: recruiting writers, collaborating on ideas for the next issue, and sitting in his messy office trying to create something new.

JFK Jr., George, & Me
Matt Berman

His mother was a book editor and his father was a president, so it isn’t very surprising that John F. Kennedy Jr. found his passion combining politics and words when he created George magazine. This memoir from his creative director is a personal and poignant look at a man who everyone in America claimed as their own, seen in a completely different context: recruiting writers, collaborating on ideas for the next issue, and sitting in his messy office trying to create something new.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

By Julianna Haubner | September 8, 2015

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The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion

“Life changes fast.”

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The Sisters
by Mary S. Lovell

A saga, indeed. The Mitford sisters, one of whom was a bestselling novelist, were a close and loving family, until conflicting ideologies between the two World Wars divided them. Touring around the great cities of Europe and interacting with some of the most influential people of the day, the story of these talented and headstrong sisters would make the perfect period drama.

The Sisters
Mary S. Lovell

A saga, indeed. The Mitford sisters, one of whom was a bestselling novelist, were a close and loving family, until conflicting ideologies between the two World Wars divided them. Touring around the great cities of Europe and interacting with some of the most influential people of the day, the story of these talented and headstrong sisters would make the perfect period drama.

MENTIONED IN:

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11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

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The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou

This collection is a must read not only for fans of Maya Angelou’s work, but fans of American literature at large. The stories chronicled here are powerful and rich, from Angelou’s childhood in Arkansas to the birth of her son to her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Her life is one that should be celebrated in all mediums, but especially film.

The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

This collection is a must read not only for fans of Maya Angelou’s work, but fans of American literature at large. The stories chronicled here are powerful and rich, from Angelou’s childhood in Arkansas to the birth of her son to her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Her life is one that should be celebrated in all mediums, but especially film.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

By Julianna Haubner | September 8, 2015

Close

Walt Disney
by Neal Gabler

He may not have been a writer, but Walt Disney adapted some of the most beloved and well-known stories of all time, making them even more iconic. The first writer to be given access to the Disney archives, Neal Gabler’s fascinating tale goes deep into both the personal and professional life of this culture-changing visionary. Any fan of “the man behind the mouse” and his films would love this in-depth look at the legend, both on the page or on-screen.

Walt Disney
Neal Gabler

He may not have been a writer, but Walt Disney adapted some of the most beloved and well-known stories of all time, making them even more iconic. The first writer to be given access to the Disney archives, Neal Gabler’s fascinating tale goes deep into both the personal and professional life of this culture-changing visionary. Any fan of “the man behind the mouse” and his films would love this in-depth look at the legend, both on the page or on-screen.

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11 Literary Biopics We Need Right Now

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