It’s not that hard, gentlemen

The frequent foot-targeting in Hollywood never ceases to astound me:

Waugh fans have been dismayed to learn that the forthcoming film will not stay true to the book. Sir John Mortimer, who adapted the landmark television series in the 1980s which remained faithful to the original text, is among those who have criticised the new production.

In the novel, Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder, played in the film by Ben Whishaw and Matthew Goode, travel to Venice to visit Sebastian’s father, Lord Marchmain. But in the new adaptation, they are joined by Sebastian’s sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell), allowing scriptwriter Jeremy Brock to develop a love triangle between the three main characters and inserting scenes which demonstrate Julia’s “sexual awakening” when she visits the Venice Carnivale.

I’ve always been partial to Merchant-Ivory and the BBC adaptation of “Brideshead Revisited” is one of the few DVDs I’ve gone out of my way to acquire. The BBC series was a beautiful and near-flawless transition from text to screen; its massive popularity is the reason that there’s a market for the film in the first place.

But, as has happened with so many science fiction classics, Hollywood producers are too arrogant to believe that a classic and hugely popular story told by a proven storyteller can’t be improved by an impromptu explosion, dinosaur attack, or sudden lesbian syndrome. But I’m not going to complain about the way in which the forthcoming “Brideshead Revisited” movie will be terrible in precisely the same way I didn’t complain about the desecration of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” in the movie of the same name. Despite being a big fan of the latter, I never saw it and therefore have nothing to complain about.

That’s the best way to deal with these things. If it’s clear that Hollywood has messed with the basic story, don’t go to the movie. As movies based on “improved” stories fail while more faithful versions go on to massive success, the investors behind Hollywood will eventually get the message even if the idiot producers and directors don’t. What Hollywood can’t seem to grasp is that to score a big mainstream hit, you must first own your core niche. That’s the seed. If you elect to begin by blowing off your core fans in favor of chasing some ethereal mainstream appeal, you’ll achieve nothing more than sentencing your own project to failure.