Cookies notification

This website uses cookies to provide you with a better experience

You can adjust your cookie settings at any time at the bottom of each page. If you do not adjust your settings, you are consenting to us issuing all cookies to you

The greatest Roald Dahl stories that need to be adapted


Steven Spielberg’s eagerly awaited take on the Roald Dahl’s classic novel The BFG arrives next year and promises to be a perfect marriage of filmmaker and story. But what about those amazing Dahl stories that inexplicably haven’t been seen on the big screen? Here are five of our favourites that we want Hollywood to pick up...

The Gremlins

Originally penned for Walt Disney for a movie project that was eventually shelved, Dahl’s first ever kids’ book (published in 1943) tells the story of a Second World War pilot, Gus, whose plane is destroyed by a gremlin – little creatures that are targeting British aircraft as revenge of the destruction of their forest home. Gus then retrains the gremlins to attack the Nazis instead. Take that, Adolf!

The Pitch:
“Okay, we’re thinking Gremlins meets Zero Dark Thirty! We’re gonna update the story to modern times, relocate the action to America and have the gremlins taught to target Middle-Eastern terrorists instead!”

The cast:
Who else but Jake Gyllenhaal as Gus, the patriotic US Air Force pilot?

Relocating the story to America may smart a bit, so give the directing job to a Brit as compensation – what about Danny Boyle?

The Magic Finger

In this 1966 book, a little girl has a magic power that can turn people into anything she wishes. When her pro-hunting neighbours laugh at her anti-hunting beliefs, she turns them into ducks and changes a family of ducks human-sized.

The Pitch:
Carrie-for-kids. And the anti-hunting message gives this potential film political bite! What about Ken Loach directing? Or maybe Mike Leigh? Maybe we could have the lead character go on a rampage against her teachers and everyone she doesn’t like? This could be like Falling Down, but with a little girl!”

The cast:
In the book, the little girl – who’s never named – is eight-years-old. They could easily amp up her age by five years and use the magnificent Oona Laurence, who made a strong impression in Southpaw earlier this year.

Hmm, maybe not Ken or Mike. But what about giving Danny DeVito (who directed the splendidly acidic Matilda) another stab at Dahl.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

The sequel, obviously, to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1972, and begins the moment the previous book left off. It’s a strikingly different story, taking place mostly in space, with a platoon of shape-changing extra-terrestrials intent on invading the Earth.

The pitch:
“Imagine Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Independence Day. This could be a madcap sci-fi comedy in the vein of Men in Black! Everyone loves Willy Wonka, but this is Willy Wonka IN SPACE!”

The cast:
Sorry Johnny, but you're weirdly off-putting, Michael Jackson-influenced take on Willy Wonka just didn’t cut it – so what about Tom Hiddleston as the quirky choco-maker? For some reason, a top hat seems so incredibly right on him…

We’d love to see Terry Gilliam gets his creative mitts on a Roald Dahl story.

The Twits

The Twits was first published in 1980 and tells the tale of a pair of hairy, dirty, smelly and generally unpleasant twits and the tricks they like to play on each other.

The pitch:
“Okay, so we know icky, gross-out comedies are huge, but what about one for children? This could be the movie that every kid wants to see simply because his or her parents doesn’t want them to!”

Okay, so these two are horrible, but it’s important that they cast actors that people actually like. We’re suggesting Jack Black as Mr Twit and Melissa McCarthy as Mrs Twit.

There’s been a movie version stuck in development hell for the past five years, which was to have been directed by Shrek 2’s Conrad Vernon. But we think someone like Seth MacFarlane, if he could water down the potty language, would be a snug fit.

George's Marvellous Medicine

Most famous for Rik Mayall’s spirited reading on BBC1’s Jackanory, Dahl’s 1981 book focuses on a gifted kid named George who invents a special potion out of shaving foam, shampoo, lipstick and chilli powder that makes his hated grandma grow to the size of a house…

The pitch: “Remember that scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry gets angry at his Auntie Marge and accidentally causes her to inflate and float away? Everyone loves that bit – so imagine a whole film based around it?! Seriously, this can’t fail! Dammit, where’s my paper bag? I’m hyperventilating here!”

We’d put a casting call out for George (“we don’t just hire stars, we make stars!”), but Imelda Staunton is a shoe-in for Granny.

It’s one of Dahl’s lighter books, but Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón would be able to bring some much-needed darkness to it.

Spielberg’s The BFG opens on 22nd July 2016.

Related film