George R.R. Martin Doubles Down on Issues With Screenwriters Making Adaptations Their Own: ‘999 Times Out of 1,000 They Make It Worse’

George R.R. Martin recently took to his personal blog to double down on his issue with Hollywood adaptations and screenwriters’ attempts to make source material their own. Martin previously spoke out on this issue in 2022 during a discussion with fellow author Neil Gaiman in which he lamented over the majority of writers in Hollywood thinking they do not need to be faithful to written works they’re adapting for film or television.

“Very little has changed since then,” Martin now wrote on his blog. “If anything, things have gotten worse. Everywhere you look, there are more screenwriters and producers eager to take great stories and ‘make them their own.’ It does not seem to matter whether the source material was written by Stan Lee, Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen, or… well, anyone.”

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“No matter how major a writer it is, no matter how great the book, there always seems to be someone on hand who thinks he can do better, eager to take the story and ‘improve’ on it,” Martin added. “‘The book is the book, the film is the film,’ they will tell you, as if they were saying something profound.  Then they make the story their own. They never make it better, though. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, they make it worse.”

Martin, however, said that “once in a while we do get a really good adaptation of a really good book, and when that happens, it deserves applause.” Such is the case with FX’s recent adaptation of “Shogun,” which is currently viewed as the frontrunner for the Emmy for drama series.

“I was dubious when I first heard they were making another version of the Clavell novel,” Martin wrote. “It has been a long time, a long long LONG time, but I read the book when it first came out in the late 70s and was mightily impressed.  And the 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain as the Anjin was a landmark of long form television, right up with with ‘Roots’; why do it over again, when that version was so good?”

“I am glad they did, though,” he continued. “The new ‘Shogun’ is superb… I think the author would have been pleased.  Both old and new screenwriters did honor to the source material, and gave us terrific adaptations, resisting the impulse to ‘make it their own.'”

During his 2022 chat with Gaiman, Martin asked: “How faithful do you have to be? Some people don’t feel that they have to be faithful at all. There’s this phrase that goes around: ‘I’m going to make it my own.’ I hate that phrase. And I think Neil probably hates that phrase, too.”

“I do,” Gaiman responded. “I spent 30 years watching people make ‘Sandman’ their own. And some of those people hadn’t even read ‘Sandman’ to make it their own, they’d just flipped through a few comics or something.”

FX is currently developing a second season of “Shogun.” Read Martin’s full blog post here.

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