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With titles, wordplay's the thing

When a film is adapted from a play, often a new title comes with it.

November 17, 2011|By Randee Dawn, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in this scene from DreamWorks Pictures' "War Horse."
Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in this scene from… (DreamWorks )

"War Horse" the book is "War Horse" on stage is "War Horse" on screen. But not every play's stage title makes the jump to the big screen.

"Farragut North," says film producer Grant Heslov, would be too obscure for most people (it's a district and Metro station in Washington, D.C., where politicos live and work). The primary election in the film takes place on March 15, and, Heslov says, "we started thinking about the backstabbing [within the story] and how it was a nice parallel" to the date when Brutus is said to have killed Julius Caesar. Thus, "The Ides of March."

Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton had a little harder time letting go of "The Talking Cure" in favor of the film title "A Dangerous Method," which better reflects the title of the book ("A Most Dangerous Method" by John Kerr) from which Hampton got his original ideas. "I wasn't happy with the title change, but it was the only thing that bothered me," says Hampton of the adaptation. Also because it sounds so similar to one of his biggest successes to date, "Dangerous Liaisons." "I tried to argue that," he says, "but that didn't seem to cut any ice."

"A Dangerous Method" director David Cronenberg felt practical decisions had to be made. "I'm very sensitive to titles, but 'talking' is boring and 'cure' suggests disease. You can't get too possessive about your titles."

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