Five plays that should be adapted into movies
With the critical success of Fences, Denzel Washington has proven that there is still a strong creative market for stage productions to be adapted into films. Based on a 1983 play, the film is nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Adapted Screenplay for the late original playwright August Wilson. If plays are done right like Fences was, they can provide gripping material for films. Below, we break down five plays we want to see adapted into films:
1. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda: With Hamilton’s current Broadway domination and the increasingly political climate of Hollywood, it’s almost surprising no film deal has been announced yet. Tickets for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical, history-making musical have been snatched from the box office faster than they can print them, and the show currently only has a limited number of seats open until November.
Previous musical adaptions like Les Miserables and Into the Woods are good case studies to determine how successful musical adaptions could be. They received over $140,000 and $120,000 respectively at the domestic box office, off of middling reviews. Those are pretty good numbers, and the shows they were based on weren’t even cultural phenomenons. A Hamilton movie would turn a pretty penny, and possibly even educate its vast audience, too (because, unlike the musical, people would actually be able to see Hamilton the movie).
2. The Front Page, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur: Not to keep bringing politics into the equation, but with today’s criticism and/or distrust of the media, a comedy about racism in the media could prove to be important and timely. After 2015’s Spotlight placed investigative journalism at the center of the cultural conversation, hit stage comedy The Front Page could serve as a more comical – but still poignant – counterpart. The show has been adapted to cinema multiple times, but the most recent straight adaptation was in 1974, leaving the story ripe for a remake.
The show takes place in a bustling newsroom, where reporters are about to witness the hanging of a white man who was accused of shooting a black police officer. On his final day of work, one journalist discovers he was framed for murder in an elaborate political scheme. The story would have to be handled carefully in light of current political events – maybe by using a more serious tone than the show’s light pace (it was written in 1928). But if it’s pulled off correctly, the film could resonate with modern audiences.
3. An Inspector Calls, by J.B. Priestly: More production than story-driven, An Inspector Calls deserves a modern day update into the visual effects movies are capable of today. The classic drama, first performed in 1945, centers around an upper class family who are accused of being involved in the death of a young, working class woman. As the inspector interrogates the family members one by one, secrets come to light in classical Agatha Christie style.
Everything about the show resonates a creepy, suspenseful atmosphere, from the lighting to the set design. It would be the perfect for a director such as Tim Burton to get his hands on (despite Burton’s current creative rut – we can’t have a repeat of Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass). It’s an atmospheric piece of theater than can only benefit from movie making magic.
4. Wrecks, by Neil LaBute: There’s an inherent problem with making one-man show films: they would be boring to watch. Films are all about action, seeing things happen on the screen. But there are definitely exceptions – Tom Hardy does a wonderful job in his underappreciated gem Locke, which spends the entirety of its 85-minute run with the camera glued on Hardy as he drives to the hospital for initially unknown reasons. Thanks to Hardy’s performance, and a methodical screenplay which slowly peels back the layers to his character, the film is a successful one-man show.
Wreck is another one-man show, a play that centers around a middle aged man reliving his happy marriage with his recently departed wife. Ed Harris lead the show, revealing the shocking secrets his character holds in flashbacks a la Gone Girl. The show could definitely benefit from a close up camera to highlight the character’s more subtle movements. To make it work, it would almost have to dramatize the flashback scenes – even Locke relied on other characters calling him on his phone to forward the plot. A film version would be worth it for the show’s final shocking reveal alone.
5. Shuffle Along by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles: Or, should I say, Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. My reasoning is simple: everyone is more or less obsessed with La La Land right now, and this is a musical in a similar vein. La La Land pays homage to classic musicals and films, and even gives a brief history of jazz music. Shuffle Along, or the 2016 remake with the longer title, do the exact same. It dives into the creation and sensation of the original musical, which caused traffic jams surrounding the theater is was playing at (so, basically 1921’s Hamilton).
At one point, Shuffle Along owed $18,000 and could only play at a small, remote theater on West 63rd Street. When the production made it huge, though, it ran for 504 shows, which was unusually long for the time period. Written by four African-American writers with no Broadway experience, Shuffle Along is about a rowdy, politically corrupt race for mayor. The 2016 version is about the making of the show that crowded West 63rd Street for so long. That’s a movie waiting to happen.