The Blagger's Guide To...The books behind The Oscars

Half of this year's 'Best Films' are based on books
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The Independent Culture

*David Seidler's film The King's Speech was already in pre-production when Mark Logue, the grandson of George VI's speech therapist Lionel Logue, uncovered the latter's diaries, written in pencil on Basildon Bond paper, and copies of the King's speeches annotated by Logue himself.

The film was quickly amended, but the diaries, speeches and handwritten letters from the King were used by Mark Logue and the journalist Peter Conradi in compiling their far more comprehensive book, The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy (Quercus, £12.99). Among other things that never made it to film are a Christmas cracker joke enjoyed by the King, and the contents of a letter from the Queen Mother to Logue: "[The King] was such a splendid person, and I don't believe that he ever thought of himself at all," she wrote. "I did so hope that he might have been allowed a few years of comparative peace after the many anguished years he had to battle through so bravely. But it was not to be."

*127 Hours, directed by Danny Boyle, is based on the 2004 autobiography of the climber Aron Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Pocket Books, £7.99). It was reviewed by the mountaineer and writer Robert Macfarlane. "Fear-seekers will be gripped," he wrote.

*Winter's Bone, written and directed by Debra Granik, is an adaptation of the 2006 novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell (Sceptre, £7.99). Most of his eight novels are set in the Missouri Ozarks. He has coined the term "country noir" to define his work.

*Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network is based on the 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, by the Harvard-educated author Ben Mezrich. He has written four other non-fiction books and seven novels. One of these, Reaper, has become a TBS network movie starring Robert Wagner. Mezrich's Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cow-boys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions (Arrow, £8.99) has been optioned as a movie with a screenplay by Robert Schenkkan, who adapted Graham Greene's The Quiet American for the big screen. (Michael Caine was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his part in it.)

*The Coen brothers' True Grit is the second film adaptation of Charles Portis's novel of the same name, which was first published as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968. Nora Ephron's book, I Remember Nothing, reveals that she dated Portis after they met at Newsweek in 1962. Portis, she writes, "was a wonderful writer with a spectacular and entirely eccentric style ... [who] was no good at all at writing the formulaic, voiceless, unbylined stories ... that Newsweek printed".

*Black Swan is a 2007 book by Nicholas Nassim Taleb (Penguin, £9.99) about "our blindness with respect to randomness". The film Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, has nothing to do with random events but is based on Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake, which was inspired partly by the Russian fairy tale "The White Duck". The story was included in the 1894 Yellow Fairy Book (Dover Publications, £12.99) – part of the series which, along with The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare, contain all of the best stories ever told. (Disney's version of the Blue Fairy Book's "Beauty and the Beast", for example, was the first of only three animated films ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The third is Toy Story 3, nominated this year.)

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