Owing to a combination of factors -- financing pressures, stylistic challenges, thematic nuances -- Amis's novels have not migrated smoothly to the screen. He has been contracted to write numerous screenplays, however, and the rights to many of his books have been optioned.
Amis the Actor | Amis the Screenwriter | Amis Novels on Film or TV
Amis the Actor
Amis participated in the filming of the movie A High Wind in Jamaica when he was thirteen years old. His voice broke during filming, and his words were eventually dubbed -- by an actress. As he explains to Charles Michener: "On the screen you see me but hear her." The film was shot in the West Indies.
Overview at the High Wind in Jamaica website: "Richard Hughes' 1929 novel was made into a movie in 1965. Starring Anthony Quinn, James Coburn, Martin Amis and Deborah Baxter, it has rarely been aired on television in the past decade and is not available on video. [...] The novel presents the viewpoint of Emily, a 10-year-old British girl leaving the heathen Jamaica she'd grown up on for some proper British schooling with her siblings and another family of children. The movie takes a more omniscient viewpoint. The children are sent by ship, which is overtaken by pirates who find that the adventuresome kids have been locked aboard their ship while they were plundering the other one. Chavez, the capain, takes a shine to Emily and won't let the others put the children off on an island to get rid of them. After one of the boys accidentally dies and Emily is injured, the pirates mutinee. The children are eventually rescued, but on the bench, a frightened Emily implicates Chavez in a deed she committed by accident but doesn't realize she is innocent of, and Chavez and his crew are hung."
From "And do you remember... ? 100 Film Moments" by Philip French (Guardian Unlimited, 22 August 1999). LINK
"There are all kinds of memorable moments, some widely shared, some personal to a group of friends or a single person. For instance, everyone who's seen David Lean's Great Expectations will remember Pip's graveyard encounter with the convict Magwitch until the day they die. Whereas a similarly shocking childhood incident in Alexander Mackendrick's A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) - the sudden death of the heroine's little brother - will be a magical moment only for the relatives and admirers of Martin Amis, who played this, his only movie role, at the age of 13."
Fun Trivia: The name Trader Faulkner (in Amis's novel Night Train) alludes to a real-life actor Amis worked with on High Wind. According to the following interview, the actor -- who taught Amis to dance for the film -- was "furious" at Amis for the reference. From The Observer Review, 4 April 1999. WORD
Click here for general information and screenshots about High Wind in Jamaica from the DVD Beaver website. Click here for a PDF copy if the link is broken.
Amis the Screenwriter
"Amis to Adapt Jane Austen for Hollywood Romantic Comedy." LINK | PDF
Catherine Milner reports on Amis's screenplay contract (The Telegraph, 5 May 2002):
"MARTIN AMIS is to launch himself on Hollywood by adapting a Jane Austen novel into a romantic comedy film for teenagers. Amis, the author of dark satires such as London Fields and Money, is writing the screenplay for Northanger Abbey, the only Austen novel not to have been made into a feature film."
"Amis's new commission is the fruit of a million-dollar deal he struck three years ago with Tina Brown [...], who took Amis on as a writer for the now-defunct Talk magazine, owned by Miramax. In addition to writing articles for the magazine, Amis agreed to publish three of his books with Talk Miramax, and to write screenplays for the company. Five of his books - The Information, London Fields, Money, Night Train and Rachel Papers - have been optioned by Miramax, with Time's Arrow currently in production.
Northanger Abbey Adaptation Nixed:
According to Nigel Reynolds, writing in the 16 August 2003 Telegraph: "Amis began to adapt Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY into a romantic teen comedy for Miramax a couple of years ago but the project seems to have fizzled out."
Amis's comment on Tim Burton's film Mars Attacks, whose script he worked on
(from Amis' remarks during his appearance at Barbara's Bookstore, February 3, 1998): "I rather liked it, though it contained not a word I wrote."
"Martian Amis" William Cash on Amis and the film industry; in
The Times, 1 August 1992 WORD
Two images of Hector the Robot from Saturn 3; interspersed by one of Keith the dwarf from Mood Swingers/Dead Babies
"This isn't a man, I kept thinking, it's a mad old robot, all zinc and chrome and circuitry coolant" (Money 185) -- John Self on Lorne Guyland.
Trivia: The cinematic material in Amis's Money -- especially the characters Lorne Guyland, Butch Beausoleil, and Spunk Davis -- are based on Amis's experiences on the Saturn 3 set. Saturn 3 featured Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, and Harvey Keitel.
Amis Novels on Film or Television
Writing in The Times (23 August 1998), Arts Correspondent John Harlow reported that four of Amis's novels were "set to be filmed over the next 12 months." These included London Fields, Dead Babies, Money, and The Information. To date -- and quite remarkably, given the competiting titles -- only Dead Babies has made it to the screen, joining The Rachel Papers as the sole films of Amis's novels.
Appearing at Barbara's Bookstore in Chicago on 3 February 1998, Amis noted that Gary Oldman might play John Self in Money. He recounted a tale of visiting Oldman on a film set, where the actor mimicked Self's persona and boasted, "I have a great new cough."
In The Times (17 June 1999), Geoffrey MacNab reported that Nicolas Roeg had signed on to direct a $10 million adaptation of Night Train. That project never got off the ground.
The most promising recent project has been London Fields, which David Cronenberg was set to direct. (See below for more.)
Mood Swingers (Dead Babies)
"Martin's bad night at the movies" Cosmo Landesman's scathing review of Mood Swingers in the Sunday Times, 28 January 2001. WORD
"You Lying Hippies" Amis speaks with Andrew Pulver about novels, movie-making, and the 1970s. The Guardian, 23 January 2001. WORD
From The Sunday Times, 23 May 1999: "A novel by Martin Amis is to be adapted by one of Britain's most promising film-makers, even though its subject matter is considered so extreme that it has twice been refused funding from the Arts Council. "Richard Holmes..has chosen to adapt Dead Babies...
The book features a group of sex-and-drug-starved Americans and its main character is Keith, a grotesque dwarf with a drug problem. " Amis will recieve a payment of £250,000 for the rights to Dead Babies and Night Train, a crime novella whose £10m adaptation also got the go-ahead at Cannes, and a slice of any profits. "The transfer of Dead Babies to the big screen has been fraught. Amis worked on a film treatment of the novel in the early 1980s. He drew on his experience for his novel Money, whose main character is a repoulsive fast-food commercial maker trying to set up a Hollywood movie deal. "Amis has hinted at affinities with some of his most unpleasent characters. It seems he is troubled by the comparison: he has ceded full control over the script to the film-makers."
Money (TV Adaptation)
On 23 and 31 May 2010, BBC2 TV produced a two-part adaptation of Money as part of its "Eighties Season."
Jerry Hall and Nick Frost starred in the production, which was generally criticized. Coverage of it remains unique because of Amis's own article in the Guardian, however (see below).
Click here for the BBC2 Money website which features numerous clips and interviews.
"The BBC is brave or mad to film Martin Amis's Money"
Early coverage by Michael Deacon, Telegraph, 11 November 2009. LINK | PDF
"Filming the Unfilmable: Martin Amis's Money"
Sathnam Sanghera in the Sunday Times, 1 May 2010. LINK | PDF
"The BBC's Money adaptation plots a course to Saturn 3"
Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian Film Blog, 5 May 2010. LINK | PDF
"Money, and Martin Amis"
Thomas Jones in the Guardian, 15 May 2010. LINK | PDF
"How Martin Amis's Money went down the drain"
Michael Deacon on the BBC production, Telegraph, 20 May 2010. LINK | PDF
"BBC2's version of Money ... even worse than I expected"
Michael Deacon reminisces, Telegraph, 21 May 2010. LINK | PDF
"Martin Amis: for my Money, the BBC got it right"
Amis himself on the BBC production, Guardian, 25 May 2010. LINK | PDF
London Fields (a perennial problem)
Roberta Hanley completed the script for this film with Amis's assistance. David Cronenberg had signed on to direct it, then Michael Winterbottom. As the links below attest, the project ran into funding and production issues. The project died, then came back to life, and so on.
Shekhar Kappur is the new director, c. 2011
Andrew Pulver, Guardian, 29 November 2011. LINK | PDF
Amis ventures back to London Fields
From the Guardian, 7 May 2008. The new director will be David Mackensie; the screenplay will still be a collaboration between Amis and Roberta Hanley of Muse Productions (see below). LINK | PDF
David Cronenberg in The Star, 20 March 2006: "It's still a possibility. There's a script that Martin Amis wrote with Roberta Hanley of his novel, and it's a project I'm interested in. It's sort of on a back-burner, I would say. It's about third in line."
David Cronenberg to SCI FI WIRE, 15 September 2005: "It's a possibility. I actually don't know. The deal has not been made yet. It would be an independently financed film, which means it will take some time to put the financing together.
"It's brilliant writing. Amis is a fantastic writer, and [London Fields] is a very interesting meditation on suicide and murder and [a] whole bunch of other things. It's pretty good. ... I wouldn't say it's supernatural, but there are a bunch of fantasies involved. It's all interesting, complex, difficult stuff to play with, and it's a real challenge for a filmmaker, as any complex, brilliant novel would be." LINK
David Cronenberg to film London Fields (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2004). LINK
From The Guardian, 15 June 2001, Friday Pages, p. 6
(by Charles Shaar Murray): "Metro Tartan . . . [has] acquired the movie rights to Martin Amis's 'unfilmable' London Fields. Filming removes an author's prose style from the equation, reducing 'story' to 'plot'; hence the truism that second-rate novels (The Godfather, Carrie) often make first-rate movies, and first-rate books (The Magus, Catch 22) generally end up as flawed flicks. So what price London Fields: The Movie? (They said it couldn't be ...) Expect it to be a horror. In every sense of the term."
More on the Script: Amis and Hanley's script is available online and has generated some controversy of its own.
Read an overview from Filmmakermagazine.com LINK | PDF
Read the London Fields script yourself (9 webpages; 300 Word pages) LINK | WORD
Read the review of the script and the correspondence it provoked: on The Muse Films website (under "Vitals", then "Muse Correspondence") LINK | WORD