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Tom Perrotta and Russell Banks at the IFOA




Some writers have this gift, this gift of writing stories so compelling, so easy to see in your mind, that the folks inHollywood can’t wait to turn their novels into movies. The 2011 International Festival of Authors had the great honour of hosting two such writers.

It seems that every time Tom Perrotta writes a book, or at least every other time, Hollywood comes a-knocking. His novels Election and Little Children were made into award winning films, the former’s screenplay having been adapted by the novelist himself. His latest book, The Leftovers, has already been optioned by HBO to be made into a series.

Russell Banks, meanwhile, who has enough novels under his hood to keep Hollywood chugging for another couple decades has had books like Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter made into award-winning films. Although his latest,Lost Memory of Skin, is being heralded as a later career masterpiece, it has yet to be optioned as a film. Banks did get the opportunity, though, to take a crack at putting On the Road on screen when he wrote a screenplay of Kerouac’s most famous novel for none other than,Francis Ford Coppola.


TP: I took [the job] because it paid so much better than being a part-time composition teacher.

RB: The “opportunity of working with Coppola was really seductive, I must admit.”

Perrotta’s screenplay for Election would not only go on to become a much beloved film, it would jump-start his writing career (the screenplay was in fact commissioned before he’d even sold the book). Banks was not as successful withHollywood. His On the Road screenplay was never to be. Musn’t it be crushing, moderator Richard Crouse asked, “to get pushed off a film?” Banks didn’t sound the slightest bit forlon, rather the veteran writer quipped, “There’s some relief. Good that the cheque clears.”

For the rest of this article see Russell Banks and Tom Perrotta at the IFOA