10 Popular Movies Inspired by Magazine Articles
Magazine articles have inspired many well-known and critically acclaimed movies over the years. From classics like Saturday Night Fever and Top Gun to Oscar-nominated flicks like Dallas Buyers Club, plenty of stories have successfully made the jump from print to the big screen – and the practice is only set to continue.
Some upcoming examples? Two pieces penned by Rolling Stone writer Guy Lawson are currently in the process of getting adapted to screen. Dukes of Oxy, a drama based on this year’s eponymous piece about a pair of high school drug smugglers, has recently been put into development, with The Fault in Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort set to star. Also heading to screen is the Jonah Hill and Miles Teller dark comedy, Arms and The Dudes, based on Lawson’s 2011 report “The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders.”
With several editorial-inspired projects now in the works, here’s a look back at 10 popular films based on magazine articles.
1. The Fast and The Furious
The original 2001 movie in the now seven-part action series was inspired by a 1998 Vibe magazine article. The piece, titled “Racer X” and written by Kenneth LiRafael, discussed the illegal street racing culture in the late ‘90s in New York City. The movie became a commercial hit, earning $207.3 million at the box office. It also went on to spur one of the most popular and highest-grossing franchises of all time – one that grossed a total of $3.5 billion worldwide and inspired two short films, as well as a video game series. As the franchise’s star Vin Diesel recently confirmed, the next installment, Fast and Furious 8, is already in development and is expected to hit theaters in April 2017.
2. Dallas Buyers Club
The 2013 biographical drama, starring Matthew McConaughey, was based on a lengthy 1992 article in The Dallas Morning News, written by journalist and author Bill Minutaglio. The article, called “Buying Time,” profiled the life of Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient diagnosed in the mid 1980s. When screenwriter Craig Borten caught wind of the story, he conducted hours of interviews with Woodroof, which were eventually used to make the film. The movie grossed $55.2 million worldwide and garnered widespread critical acclaim. McConaughey and co-star Jared Leto both won Academy Awards for their performances.
The 2012 political thriller, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, used Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 Wired article The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran as one of its source materials for adaptations. The piece discusses the event known as the “Canadian Caper,” in which CIA operative Tony Mendez led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis. Argo earned $232.3 million at the box office. It also received widespread acclaim and won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
4. The Bling Ring
Vanity Fair’s 2010 article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” served as the basis for this 2013 indie satirical film, which was directed by Sofia Coppola and featured Emma Watson. The piece, written by Nancy Jo Sales, detailed the story of the group of teenagers who made headlines after breaking into the homes of celebrities all over the Hollywood Hills and stealing jewelry, clothing, and other possessions. The movie grossed $20 million against a budget of $8 million. Sales also later wrote a book on the subject entitled The Bling Ring: How A Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World.
5. American Gangster
Development on this 2007 biographical crime film initially began in 2000, when Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment bought the rights to a New York Magazine article by Mark Jacobson. Entitled “The Return of Superfly,” it chronicled the rise and fall of Frank Lucas, a gangster from La Grange, N.C., who smuggled heroin into U.S. on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War. The film, starring Denzel Washington, earned a widely positive response from critics and went on to gross $266.5 million at the worldwide box office.
The 2002 comedy drama metafilm, directed by Spike Jonze, was based on Susan Orlean’s writing of The New Yorker piece titled “The Orchid Thief,” which chronicled the 1994 arrest of John Laroche and a group of Seminoles in south Florida for poaching rare orchids. The movie centers around a screenwriter who tries and fails to adapt Orlean’s subsequent book of the same name into a film. Stars Nicolas Cage each earned an Academy Award nomination for their lead performances in the critically acclaimed flick while co-star Chris Cooper won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
7. The Perfect Storm
Writer Sebastian Junger first chronicled the story of Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel that was lost at sea after being caught in a nor’easter, in 1994 for an Outside Magazine article titled, “The Storm.” The article was later turned into a book titled, The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. Both served as the basis for this biographical disaster drama, starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and John C. Reilly. The movie was released in 2000 and earned over $328 million at the box office.
8. Boogie Nights
Director Paul Thomas Anderson cited the 1989 Rolling Stone article, “The Devil and John Holmes,” written by Mike Sager, as a huge influence for his 1997 movie, Boogie Nights. The original article follows the story of porn star John Holmes as he spirals into a world of drug abuse and possible involvement in the 1981 Wonderland murders. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg as a young nightclub dishwasher who becomes a popular star of pornographic films, chronicling his rise in the Golden Age of Porn of the 1970s and his eventual fall in the ’80s.
9. Top Gun
The 1986 action drama film was inspired by the May 1983 article, “Top Guns,” written by Ehud Yonay for California magazine. The piece detailed the fighter pilots at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, self-nicknamed as “Fightertown USA.” The movie, directed by Tony Scott and written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., stars Tom Cruise as a hotshot young fighter pilot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The film went on to gross more than $353 million at the worldwide box office and remains one of the most well-known films of Cruise’s career.
10. Saturday Night Fever
British journalist Nik Cohn’s “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” served as the basis for this 1977 dance film, directed by John Badham and starring John Travolta. Published in New York Magazine in June 1976, the article chronicled the 1970s disco scene in New York from the perspective of a man named Vincent. The movie earned $237.1 million at the box office and is widely regarded one of the best films of that particular year. In the 1990s, around the time of the 20th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever, Cohn revealed that the article had been fabricated. The film continues to have a huge impact in pop culture and has been preserved in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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