Simon Beaufoy, screenwriter of The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours was in Los Angeles Monday talking about his adaptation of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. In a roundtable with journalists he talked about how freely he adapted Paul Torday novel, when a reporter asked how faithful he was being to Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games.
“Suzanne Collins used to be a TV writer so actually she’d done quite a lot of the work for me already,” Beaufoy said. “Because Suzanne has been a film writer and a TV writer, funny enough she’s already done a lot of adapting for me. They’ll cut my wage if you say that but that’s what I understood when I really got to grips with it, that she’d one a lot of my work for me already.”
With the first film completed and hitting theaters in weeks, Beaufoy has a draft of the sequel in to Collins herself. “Actually, she’s reading possibly right now the first draft. She’s involved a lot and there will be things. She just knows her audience brilliantly and she’ll say, ‘That bit you just can’t cut out because they’ll all go crazy.’ And other bits she’ll go, ‘This is fine. You can change this.’ But she really knows her readers and because she’s been in the film world, she understands about adapting, that things have to go and things have to change. She’s been fantastic to work with.”
Speaking earlier about his Yemen adaptation Beaufoy said, “I guess my approach to adapting books is to treat them with a deep respect on one level and at another level part them to one side and go, ‘I’m doing something completely different here.’”
By contrast, Catching Fire engaged Beaufoy to be faithful. “It’s the one time I’ve not read the book twice and then put it to one side, which I do with them all. I never go back to them once I’ve read them a couple of times. With this one I had to be a lot more faithful, also because there’s a fan base who are more than usually keen that you get it absolutely right. ‘The Hunger Games’ fan base are passionate beyond anything I’ve ever come across and I’d fear for my life if I get that adaptation [wrong]. If I do too free an adaptation than I shall get firebombed. So I’m being really careful about that.”
The themes of The Hunger Games speak to our modern culture of reality television. How far away are we really from watching kids kill each other? Beaufoy focuses on the literal story and lets the metaphor speak for itself.
“‘The Hunger Games’ is a brutal satire but you don’t even notice it’s a satire really, A) because it’s so brutal it’s not funny and B) because it’s such an extraordinarily strong story that you’re much more worried for the characters than you are examining it as a great political satire about the TV world and how people manipulate images to quell a population.”
We asked if, as part of his work, Beaufoy got to screen the film of the first Hunger Games, which was adapted by Billy Ray? Beaufoy confirmed but kept it brief. “Yeah, I had to [see it.] I’m not going to tell you what happens.”
The Hunger Games opens March 23. Check back with us for more on The Hunger Games in the coming weeks.