We have selected ten movies that in some way document the life of a writer throughout the ages from John Keats to David Foster Wallace. Watching these biopics may give you some background information on them and it’s cool to see how directors and actors take on the task of interpreting the personalities and body language of people we’ve only read. Whether they were authors, poets, or magazine editors, here are a few films to take your eyes away from turning the page for a sec…BUT JUST A SEC!
1. The End of the Tour (2015)
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This 2015 film is an adaptation of David Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End up Becoming Yourself…A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. Lipsky spent five days with the late iconic author in 1996 interviewing him for Rolling Stone and this is the first ever filmic representation of him. This intimate character drama starring Jason Segel and Jessie Eisenberg pays a fitting tribute to the act of writing and offers viewers a poignant observation on the human condition.
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
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Julian Schnabel won many awards for his emblematic re-telling of Jean-Dominic Bauby’s inspiring story as he struggled with locked-in syndrome after surviving a massive stroke at the age of forty-three. Once the editor of French fashion bible Elle, post-stroke, Bauby sustained full-body paralysis but remained entirely mentally equipt. Bauby, played by Mathieu Almaric, insists on writing a novel about his experience despite only being able to blink with his left eye. And that’s exactly what he did with the help of his dedicated nurse. This is the story of a man who defied all the odds against him and carried on writing despite drastic physical challenges.
3. Howl (2015)
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James Franco plays the role of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this film which recounts the writing of his most famous epic poem and the changing consciousness happening during his time. Written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, this indie 2010 film conscientiously recounts Ginsberg’s 1957 trial for obscenity and attempts to animate specific passages from ‘Howl’ itself.
4. Finding Neverland (2004)
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This 2004 historical fantasy drama is loosely about Scottish playwright J. M. Barrie and his relationship with a young widowed family who inspired him to write Peter Pan, The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. Directed by Marc Forster, Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet marry magic and imagination, which brings a charming performance to the big screen.
5. Angela’s Ashes (1999)
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Based on Frank McCourt’s best selling autobiography, Angela’s Ashes presents the dismal and at times heart-wrenching story of an Irish-Catholic family living in Limerick. The biopic is from five-year-old Frank’s perspective as he and his family move home from Brooklyn in the 30s in search of a better life, only to face a long and harder struggle against poverty in Ireland.
6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
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Terry Gilliam directed this 1998 cult classic in which Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro portray the quirky characters crafted by Hunter S. Thompson. They speed towards Sin City armed with a suitcase full of narcotics with the hope of covering a motorcycle show. The correlation between themselves and Thompson is that both are typical ‘gonzo journalism’ types, muddling fact and fiction. Fun fact: Thompson shaved Johnny Depp’s head in his kitchen for this role. What an honor.
8. Sylvia (2003)
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Though Gwyneth Paltrow gives us a wonderful performance in this film, it does little to acknowledge Sylvia Plath’s beautiful body of work. It’s main focus is instead on her relationship with husband Ted Hughes, played by Daniel Craig. The film follows their love affair, which began at the University of Cambridge in the 50s, and ended with her suicide after moving back to England years later with their children.
9. The Hours (2002)
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The Hours is a film about how Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway affects three generations of women. Nicole Kidman portrays Woolf in the 20s. Julianne Moore plays a troubled woman reading the novel in the 50s, and Meryl Streep is an early-2000s reflection of Mrs. Dalloway herself, a woman who struggles to balance her internal life with her external world.
10. Bright Star (2009)
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This British drama documents the last three years of Romantic poet John Keats’ life before he died of tuberculosis at twenty-five. His final years were spent falling in love with Fanny Brawne, who features in his poems and is the subject of many of his love letters. Bit of a bummer story, but definitely one for the fans to see.
So there we have it, ten movies to add to your list for your days off spent on the couch. Why write a book when you can watch someone else write theirs!?
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