Thursday, July 23, 2009

MONEY CAN'T BUY IT



Today I'm thinking about adaptations, movies or stories that have been or that I would like to see made into movies. Yes, of course, I'm well aware that the movie is rarely as good as the book, a theory perhaps best backed up by The Talented Mr. Ripley (my second all-time favorite novel, between No. 1, Atlas Shrugged, and No. 3, The Brothers Karamazov), which was unimpressively -- for me -- remade as both Purple Noon (1960) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).

From the moment some 10 years ago that I finished reading "The Husband I Bought," a short story written by Ayn Rand (my second favorite writer -- after Oscar Wilde -- and the author of my No. 1 novel) and published in 1926, I began thinking about the screenplay I'd someday write. In the story, a rich woman, Irene Wilmer, saves Henry Stafford, her businessman boyfriend, from financial ruin. They eventually marry, and for four years, live happily ever after. Then another woman, divorcee Claire Van Dahlen, enters the picture, and Henry falls for her. Hard. This is a fact that isn't lost on his wife.

Knowing that Henry would never leave her because he feels obligated to stick with her for saving his ass all those years ago, Irene concocts an elaborate scheme to get him to dump her: She makes it seem as if she is having an affair with another man (a plot point recently adopted by the daytime soap One Life To Live and no doubt several others). After Henry catches her in flagrante delicto, true to form, he ditches her, and Irene ends up being completely ostracized by society for her alleged misdeeds. Henry, of course, ends up with Claire. In Irene's mind, she has done the right thing because she would rather live in exile, despised by everyone, than settle for anything less than an ideal love.

Being a hopeless idealist in a very similar vein, I was haunted by the story for years after reading it, and for fun, I would cast the movie version that I'd someday make. Ashley Judd (above, right), then-hot, would be Irene (finally, perhaps, garnering the Oscar nod that has eluded her for her entire career), and Charlize Theron (above, left), then-Oscarless, would be Claire. I was never quite able to pinpoint who should play the un-ideal husband as it was ultimately a second-string reactionary role, a part ripe for a dashing, handsome actor but a non-A-list star. At the moment, Gerard Butler pops into mind, but only because he's recently been costarring with actresses who are more famous than he is: Hillary Swank, Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston.

Until about 30 minutes ago, I hadn't thought of the story or my movie in a while, but I decided to look it up online to see what has been written about it. Apparently, someone has beaten me to the development punch. According to Hollywood.com, a movie version is in the works -- or was in the works at some point. The male lead: Vincent Perez, an actor I haven't really seen much of since Indochine about 15 years ago. The female leads? You guessed it: Ashley Judd and Charlize Theron! I don't know if this movie is for real, but even if it's not, this much is true: There are no new ideas under the sun.

And money can't buy me love.
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