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7 Greatest film adaptations


8th Jul 2018 Film & TV

7 Greatest film adaptations
Filmmaker Deborah Haywood takes us through her favourite film adaptations, including Trainspotting and Carrie  

Morvern Callar

Morvern Callar is a 1997 novel by Alan Warner, about a girl who wakes up to find her boyfriend dead, steals his newly finished novel as her own, then takes off with it. I loved the book and when I heard Lynne Ramsay was adapting it into a film I actually squealed. If it was going to be as good as her shorts or her debut feature Ratcatcher I was going to be in for a treat. We all were.
I wasn’t disappointed, and the fact that Samantha Morton was going to play Morvern made me want to hurl myself at the screen and glide around among Lynne’s beautiful imagery. I love everything about this film. That scene where Morton walks through the club with no sound except for The Mamas & Papas song! It made me whisper a little prayer for you (Lynne) my baby… This is dedicated to the one (adaptation) I love. Wow.

The Virgin Suicides

I love this 1999 film by Sofia Coppola, based on the Jeffrey Eugenides novel about five sisters who gradually each commit suicide. I love that it’s littered by girls. And I love that it’s unashamedly feminine. I love the characters’ strength and defiance, the colours, the patterns, the clothes, the fabrics and the grammar!
I’m also glad it was made by a woman because… it kind of had to be. We re-watched this film during the preproduction of Pin Cushion but I can’t actually think of anything we borrowed from it. It was probably just a good excuse to watch it again and to feel inspired by something that’s so pretty and yet so dark. I only saw pastels for a long time after watching it. Yum.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too

“It looks like a frozen sausage!” I love everything about this 1978 film that was set in Yorkshire and adapted by Andrea Dunbar from her play for Alan Clarke to direct. The hairstyles, the fashion, the landscape and the humour. The acting! THE DIALOGUE. Everyone I knew at the time loved it. And when I grew up, suddenly everyone was (singing) having a gangbang, and having a ball...
It makes me feel less ashamed that I (unintentionally) make films about the working class. My favourite bit of the film is where they have the big slanging match outside Sue’s flat where everyone is watching, and there’s that old bloke on the balcony, jumping up and down and joining in, (“Up the IRA!”). So gutted the playwright Andrea Dunbar and the director Alan Clarke are now both dead and I expect cinema and theatre are as well.


It was the early Eighties and there was a “mod revival” on. The book, written by Alan Fletcher, about Mods and Rockers set in Brighton, got passed around school because one page had a sex scene in it. Around the same time someone got hold of a Betamax copy of the 1979 film, directed by Frank Roddam.
I got to watch it and I felt delicious and crazy seeing the characters and story and setting come to life while listening to The Who, who wrote the soundtrack. Afterwards we all went round speaking with a cockney accent, saying, “Ere got any blues” and asking, “What’s normal then?” I wanted to be Steph. I wanted to go out with Jimmy. I wanted to move to Brighton and be friends with Toyah and Sting. But most of all, I wanted a LAMBRETTA. I still do!


trainspotting.jpg probably one of my favourite films as well as adaptations. Like everyone in the mid-Nineties I had the book about a bunch of heroin addicts in Scotland, written of course by Irvin Welsh and published in 1993. I pretended I had read it when I hadn’t. I did try but I found it too hard.
Like Quadrophenia, when the film came out in 1996, written by John Hodge and directed by Danny Boyle, it made me feel so alive I needed to watch it again and again and again, as addicted to that soundtrack, those characters, those images and that world, as Renton et al were addicted to heroin. When I saw that baby crawling across the ceiling I nearly had one myself, and watching Renton going down the toilet made me feel high. Choose Trainspotting as a favourite adaptation.

Cement Garden

"Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots. 'Cause it's OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. 'Cause you think that being a girl is degrading. But secretly you'd love to know what it's like... Wouldn't you?" When I heard Charlotte Gainsbourg whisper these words on the Madonna song “Like a Girl” I felt I was in Madonna’s secret book club.
The book, Ian McEwan’s first novel, was published in 1978, an incestuous story about siblings who keep their mother’s dead corpse in the basement, is storytelling at its purest. And Andrew Birkin’s film (1993), is so cool that both gave me permission to take risks in my writing and filmmaking. They taught me that you can write about or make films about taboo subjects and if you do it in an intelligent way that puts us in the same position as the characters and enables us access parts of ourselves that have perhaps remained hidden even to ourselves. Swoon.


I still haven’t read the book, written by Stephen King and published in 1974 (although I own it) and until very recently I had only seen Brian De Palma’s 1976 film once, long ago, probably when I was in my teens. But once was enough for it to creep into my own storytelling DNA because subconsciously Carrie leaked out into my debut feature film, Pin Cushion.
Me and my DOP re-watched it during pre-production and we felt so inspired that Nicola (Daley) used the same kind of lenses as they used for the 1976 film, and we showed it to our production designer. I haven’t seen the remake. It would make me feel unfaithful. I actually believe our main actress Lily Newmark looks a bit like Carrie from certain angles. Lucky her!
Pin Cushion, directed by Deborah Haywood, will be released in select cinemas across the UK from Friday July 13

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