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The late Gabriel García Márquez, who died on Thursday at the age of 87, was a generous and very enthusiastic member of the film-making community for many years. When it came to the Nobel Peace Prize winner's most widely revered novel, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," however, he drew a line in the sand. That book, he famously and very publicly decreed, simply would not — could not — be translated into a piece of film. But will his recent passing finally open the door for "One Hundred Years" to see the cinematic light of day?
Years ago, García Márquez reportedly spurned a million-dollar offer from actor Anthony Quinn to purchase the adaptive rights to the novel. The author insisted his readers create their own mental images of the characters rather than associate the stories with someone else's vision.
"My reticence to make movies out of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and, in general, all my published works is due to my desire for direct communication with my readers," he wrote. "By means of the letters I write they can imagine the characters to be as they wish, and not as the borrowed face of an actor."
At the end of the day, García Márquez (affectionately nicknamed "Gabo") was not diametrically opposed to having his other works adapted for the big screen. In fact, many of his books — including "Love in the Time of Cholera," "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," and "No One Writes to the Colonel" — eventually made their way to the movies with his full blessing. He even gave certain filmmakers very good deals.
In his "Gabriel García Márquez: A Life," professor Gerald Martin explained that García Márquez, when marketing the rights to his novels, showed a distinct preference for Latin-American filmmakers in sales. "Generally he would say that his policy was to sell his works ... very cheaply or for free to Latin Americans," Martin wrote.
The one lasting exception, of course, was "One Hundred Years."
So, why was this novel too sacrosanct?
García Márquez feared such a movie would not fully embrace the story's Latin American heritage. He was once quoted as saying, "They would cast someone like Robert Redford and most of us do not have relatives who look like Robert Redford."
There was also the matter of the book potentially hitting a bit too close to home, literally — Macondo, the fictional setting of the novel, was notoriously based upon his own Colombian hometown of Aracataca. (Although he's also claimed, "There's not a single line in [his] novels which is not based on reality.")
Whatever the reason, García Márquez kept "One Hundred Years of Solitude" off the deal-making table till the day he died.
But what of it now that the rights belong to his estate?
In "A Life," Martin noted that García Márquez's long-time wife, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, had grown frustrated with her husband's "relentless philanthropy" and wished to put away some money for their family of four, possibly leading to his decision to allow a non-Latino filmmaker to adapt "Love in the Time of Cholera" (Mike Newell with his panned 2007 version featuring Javier Bardem). "It was, after all, 'her' book," Martin wrote. Whether such financial considerations could now shift the cinematic course of the "One Hundred Years" property, however, remains to be seen.
Christine Cuddy, entertainment lawyer to prominent authors, offered insight into the rights to García Márquez's famed book. "[It] will be determined by Mr. Garcia Marquez's will, heirs, Mexican probate law, and international copyright law," the lawyer with Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo told Yahoo Movies.
Assuming the rights to the book free up, the current roster of star Latin American filmmakers working in Hollywood could help see a film version come to fruition. Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Juan Antonio Bayona, for example, have all recently enjoyed commercial and critical successes in and out of the mainstream. With one of them at the helm hewing to Gabo's vision, it would be unlikely a Robert Redford type would be cast as the beloved Col. Aureliano Buendía.
Then there's the matter of successfully conveying García Márquez's signature style of magical realism onscreen. Whereas earlier cinematic adaptations of his works have failed, the right auteur with a facility for visual effects and storytelling — say, del Toro, who created the wonderworld of "Pan's Labyrinth" (or Ang Li, who imbued the Oscar-winning "Life of Pi" with fantastic elements) — would make the task is less daunting.
Associate Professor Kathleen Vernon, Chair of Stony Brook University's Hispanic Languages and Literature Department, told Yahoo a "One Hundred Years" film may be an impossible task. "How could a two hour film do justice to such a densely populated story and alternative history of Latin America?"
Though she observed the right type of filmmaker could make a difference. "It is fascinating to try to imagine what Cuarón, who has done a number of very different literary adaptations, or Guillermo del Toro... would do," Vernon said. "My candidate, if he hadn't died first, would have been the Chilean director Raúl Ruiz, who moved in original ways between the fantastic absurd, political satire and a kind of literary realism."
With the right amont of say-so and oversight, and the ability to overlook his everlasting protestations of course, now may be the exact right time for an adaptation of García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude." The fact that he took his opposition to his grave, however, is obviously a formidable consideration for his loved ones, among others, to make.
While we aren't exactly holding our breath, we might be crossing our fingers.
If nothing else, in 70 years the author's copyright protection will expire and "One Hundred Years" will become public domain property for people two or three generations from now to adapt away — assuming movies, or books for that matter, are even still a thing by then.
—Meriah Doty contributed to this report.