Lifetime currently has audiences hooked on V.C. Andrews’ Dollanganger series. The adaptation of the haunting 1979 novel “Flowers in the Attic” premiered in January to an audience of 6.1 million. Four months later, fans ate up the sequel, an adaptation of Andrews' 1980 novel, “Petals on the Wind,” when it debuted on May 26.
Following the Dollanganger children -- Cathy, Christopher and Carrie -- 10 years after their time locked up in the Foxworth Hall attic, the adaptation of “Petals” joined “Flowers” as one of the network’s most-watched original movies of the year, raking in 3.4 million viewers. And while the Lifetime movie has become an instant classic among fans, it's also set social media abuzz about the differences between V.C. Andrews’ novel and the film.
International Business Times spoke with director Karen Moncrieff and teleplay writer Kayla Alpert, who opened up about the decision to make some changes -- including the much-discussed exclusion of Dr. Paul Sheffield.
Fans of the series will remember that before the Lifetime versions of “Flowers in the Attic” and “Petals on the Wind,” the success of the novels spawned a 1987 “Flowers” film starring Louise Fletcher and Kristy Swanson. The movie was panned by fans for its drastic differences from the book, including the decision to kill off the Dollanganger matriarch, Corrine, at the end of the movie. That criticism guided Alpert when she was working on the scripts for the remake of “Flowers” and its sequel.
“With the first movie, ‘Flowers in the Attic,’ we tried to stick as closely to the book as possible. The original movie veered too far from it -- and it missed the most essential, compelling and fun part of the book -- the relationship between Cathy and Christopher,” Alpert explained of the infamous siblings. “However with ‘Petals,’ the story is so epic and the tone is so crazy, I had to take a lot of liberties with the adaptation.”
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According to Alpert, the goal of the second film was to “stay true to the spirit of the book.” And for the writer, that meant focusing on Cathy and Christopher’s relationship post-attic.
Fans fell head over heels for Rose McIver’s Cathy and Wyatt Nash’s Christopher, even rooting for them to be together despite the taboo of incest. And as director Moncrieff put it, that’s exactly what they wanted the audience to do.
“It’s one of the first things I said to the producers when I came on board,” Moncrieff dished on the forbidden love. “There was a lot of discussion about how in the book Cathy actually falls in love with Bart and is heartbroken when he dies in the fire. But I feel like where it came in our movie, it was hurting the real love story between Cathy and Christopher to play that. It also made Cathy seem fickle.”
The director continued to explain that the pair was essentially “made for each other,” despite society’s views on what’s immoral.
“I think that their love is beautiful and heartbreaking and understandable,” Moncrieff added. “As victims of shared trauma, they found solace, comfort and love in each other.”
And while a majority of viewers will agree, some were still frustrated by the exclusion (and addition) of love interests for the Dollanganger siblings.
Fans of V.C. Andrews’ 1980 novel will remember that a character named Dr. Paul Sheffield played a major role in the lives of the Dollanganger kids after Foxworth Hall. Becoming the guardian of the three kids, Paul developing a romantic relationship with Cathy and married her toward the end of the book. The Lifetime version of “Petals” wrote Paul out by having the movie open with his funeral 10 years after Cathy, Christopher and Carrie escaped the attic.
Both Moncrieff and Alpert explained that the decision to cut the character stemmed from the limited time they had.
“There was so much story to get through and Cathy already had three lovers,” the director explained, referring to Cathy’s relationships with Christopher, Julian and Bart. “Four in 90 minutes would really be pushing it.”
“It’s impossible to jump that far back and forwards in time, in terms of casting and plot,” Alpert added of the logistical standpoint of removing Paul.
But the pair also has personal views on the character of Paul as well.
“I my personal opinion, the relationship between the 40-something doctor and pubescent Cathy was not exactly the most palatable – nor even the most interesting,” Kayla Alpert admitted.
“It was easier for me to get behind the incestuous love story of Cathy and Christopher than it would have been to champion the Paul/Cathy romance,” Moncrieff echoed. “She was a child when she came to live with him for goodness sake! I liked that Kayla decided to make him a “good father” instead of a pedophile -- however sweetly it’s drawn, to me, that was the truth of it.”
As for Christopher’s love interest? Sarah Reeves, his fiancé in the movie, does not exist in V.C. Andrews’ book. However, Alpert felt it was necessary in order to show that he was “attempting to make something of himself” post-attic life and that he wanted to “tamp down his sexual feelings for his sister.”
“Ultimately, he can’t escape the damage [he had] done to him in the attic -- in terms of his feelings for Cathy -- and he winds up destroying an innocent girl, Sarah, as well as his medical career,” she explained of how Sarah impacted Christopher in the movie. “Straight-laced Christopher tries so desperately to appear normal -- almost willing himself to act like everything’s okay, get on with his life and ambitions -- but it’s clear he’s just as damaged as both his sisters.”
Some “Petals on the Wind” fans might not agree with the changes, and Moncrieff understands.
“When you love a book so deeply, it’s very hard to see it tampered with,” she said of those upset over the differences. “And unfortunately, to make this epic book into a 90 minute mainstream movie that could hold together fans and newbies alike, some pretty significant changes were necessary. But I wish the faithful could understand that nothing was done thoughtlessly or in a cavalier manner. I can attest to the fact that Kayla [and executive producers] Lisa [Hamilton Daly], Michele [Weiss] and Meredith [Finn] all took great pains to preserve the emotional intent and spirit of the books.”
Lifetime and LMN will be re-airing “Petals on the Wind” throughout June. Check HERE for dates and times.