Recently reading both the books and watching the movies for "A Murder on the Orient Express" and "Ender's Game", I am curious as to why some of the details change when going from the book to producing the movie.

Just to clarify, I am not talking about big obvious changes. For example, in the "A Murder on the Orient Express" (1974), Hercule Poirot leads an inquisition only once while in the book he does it twice. This makes sense maybe it is because there isn't enough time in the movie. Filming at Paris station instead of Istanbul of course also doesn't matter. I'd expect them to use whatever is the easiest/cheaper/faster to use.

My question is more about the minor details which seem completely inconsequential to me and I really can't imagine why they would change. Such as

  1. Masterman was renamed Beddoes
  2. The dead maid Susanne was renamed Paulette
  3. Arbuthnot became Arbuthnott
  4. M. Bouc became M. Bianchi

Or, how the setting of the movie might be in a different place than in the book or when a romantic interest is added which wasn't there originally in the book. Why do producers/directors do this? Can anyone perhaps explain this?

  • Because production gets in the way. Often the screen writers are different than the authors, so pertinent details get lost in translation. You talk about differences in Ender's Game ... go take a look at what they did to Eragon ... Holy crud. Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 23:55
  • There can really be millions of reasons to do so, therefore I don't think you will get much of a definite answer on this. Maybe if you concentrate on A Murder on the Orient Express explicitly. But for the general question, this is way too broad to get answers apart from the obvious and general ones.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 0:01
  • 1
    @ChristianRau Well since this phenomenon seems so common and it consistently appears, I hypothesize that there are only a few common reasons instead of millions of different reasons. I am interested in only a few of them even if they are common. I certainly don't see any obvious reasons. Please list them even if they are obvious to you. :-) Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 0:04
  • @FixedPoint Well yeah, the obvious ones maybe, different time-frame, different target audience, differing views by book-author and screenplay-author, marketing aspects, and last but not least (well, not even last either) a completely different medium with a totally different way of story-telling. But tell me you didn't know about those reasons before. But I agree that some changes really seem totally arbitrary and strange (don't know about your two examples, though).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 0:07
  • 2
    @ChristianRau Not to start a discussion here in the comments but I do understand the difference in mediums. But I still don't see why would you change a name of a character from Bouc to Bianchi going from a book to a movie. If you have more detail, please explain in an answer. I will be happy to accept it if it answers my question satisfactorily even if it appears obvious or common to you. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


The 'Fidelity Issue' has been a long term fixture on many (if not most) film/production and screenwriting qualifications.

During my Degree we had an entire module named 'Adaptation', and for three weeks we discussed/researched this very question without verifiable success.

It's unlikely you'll find a satisfactory answer to something so broad on here, but there will always be multiple factors that will force script doctoring and rewrites, drops and pickups to screenplays:


Books are able to describe events in a non-linear fashion, without having to use such cumbersome pro-filmic techniques like flashback and voice over. Sometimes these can be implied through cinematic effects, but often it is simply impossible to include everything (including back-story and context) within 90 minutes or so.

There is a popular adage within the film industry and mentioned in Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which is a rather gossipy but thoroughly entertaining insiders view to the New Hollywood era of film making...Basically, 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered the high water mark stretching narrative time. It's jokingly said that because the movie packed so much in (the birth of humanity through to its psychotropic implosion[?!]), that afterwards people would say; "If you can't tell your story in 90 minutes, don't bother".


Some Novels are better left as novels, and as such fail entirely when turned into movies. Often it can be accredited to lack of fidelity to the original source material, but increasingly often failure is accredited to too much fidelity, that the film wasn't allowed to exist as a film because it was too closely tied to the original text.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it, Watchmen was both reviled and celebrated for this very aspect of its production.

Scott Pilgrim was an attempt at remediation that actively relished the opportunity to engage with its source material, frequently using animated sequences and importing game-style graphics into the effect sequences to signify it's source text and inspirations.

Production Issues (Internal)

Some films struggle to find sufficient funding or credible effects to complete the 'total vision' of a story that is described in a book, and as such entire sequences will be omitted because they are considered 'too costly' or unfeasible. If anyone knows any specific, interesting examples of this feel free to edit in...

Production Issues (External)

Sometimes real world events can make the subject of a movie seem inappropriate, and as such they are edited out of final cut to avoid controversy. Whilst not an adaptation, promotional material for the 2002 Spider-Man movie famously had a sequence where Spider-Man used his webbing to suspend a helicopter between the two World Trade Center towers. After they were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this sequence was cut from promotional material and the film. The inclusion of comic book adaptation, whilst not explicitly part of your question, are obviously some of the more prolific discussions at the moment.

The Hunger Games reportedly had a sequences removed because they were considered too graphic for the rating the film was trying to achieve, despite the events being specifically mentioned in the books they were simply not marketable to put in a film with a 12 certificate. Although The film is should be commended for side stepping these as creatively as possible with camera angles.

Creative Licence

Many people believe that the difference between cinema and book should be celebrated, and they should be respected as different works of art occupying different mediums. Just like Impressionist painters, who would take what was in front of them and interpret the material into something entirely different. Both the beauty of what is in front of them and the beauty of what they have created are equally valid.

There is something called 'The categorical approach' greatly discussed by narrative theorist Kamilla Elliot, which;

'Emphasizes the unbreakable link (some would say the identity) between form and content, placing visual and verbal arts into emphatically distinct categories and calling on artists to recognize the limitations of their media and to strive to work within these boundaries.'

There are so many more aspects to this, its a big argument with plenty of avenues of discussion: hopefully people will contribute more...

In the meantime, Spike Jonze's movie Adapation does sterling job of exploring the very question you've asked here, albeit incredibly humorously...

  • Handled deftly, John Smith Optional. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 2:59
  • 8
    The Hunger Games exposes another issue - the books are aimed at young adults and include some very adult themes: war, murder, state oppression, massacres of children and the like (especially the 3rd book). When they made the film they want the same audience and so need a 12 rating, but as films are so much more graphic they have to nerf the source to do so. Clockwork Orange suffered from a similar problem even with an 18 certificate. Books rely on imagination, and so are less of a 'risk' for people who can't visualise the violence. With films you can always visualise the violence.
    – Keith
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 8:35
  • 1
    the "fidelity issue" reference seems to have gone link rot
    – nilon
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 18:36
  • "Books are able to describe events in a non-linear fashion, without having to use such cumbersome pro-filmic techniques like flashback and voice over." - don't films do the same? When it's the intended effect to let the audience figure out what timeframe they're looking at based upon implicit hints, none of those "pro-filmic techniques" are employed. Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 21:43
  • An example of "Production Issues (Internal)". In The Game of Thrones, Season 1 Ep 9, Tyrion gets knocked unconscious when they were all getting ready to battle. When he comes to, the battle is over. In the books, he actually fights. This was a way to avoid filming the expensive battle, during Season 1, when the budget wasn't enough to cover all the big battles.
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 9:25

Studios, most sources of financing, use a Clearance company to read the script and anticipate legal issues: use of a protected name, possible defamation, possible offense from sexual or religious issues/use/naming, etc. So your four name changes could be that and nothing more.

A director once used my last name as the name of a disreputable drug-dealing, gun-weilding criminal. Film comes out. Atty. calls up studio and yells she's been defamed because her last name is same as mine/drug dealer character. Lots of yelling; no final issue, just forgotten about. So during production, names are a Big Deal. Similarly, the writer(s) may have a place or thing in mind that's just not feasible for the production, so it gets changed. If a book goes into something for a few chapters, the movie may be forced to ignore that 'something' to stay within the desired running time.

Lots of forces to make the book change as it becomes a movie. It is evident in movies, in ending credits, more than in any other art form: they're many many people that need to intervene in the making of the movie, and many resources (scenarios, props) and limitations (legal) must be taken into accont.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .