Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief is the book that the movie Adaptation is sort of based on. "Sort of," because The Orchid Thief is essentially a documentary on orchid lovers and south Florida, while Adaptation, from what I have read (I have yet to see it) is more about the process of adapting the book as a screenplay, despite the fact that it isn't really the sort of book that would work as a screenplay. If a camera had followed Orlean around as she did her interviews and looked at all kinds of orchids, it could have played on PBS or the Discovery Channel and would have been very interesting, but it wouldn't be in mainstream movie theaters with big-name stars in it. The book isn't fiction; it doesn't have a single plot, just the individual lives of quite a lot of different people who are interested in raising orchids, hope to make money from selling orchids, or just happen to be connected with the south Florida orchid enthusiasts in some way or another.
As a resident of Florida, though a few hundred miles north of where most of the events of the book take place, I found a lot of familiar things in the book. Heat, swamps, gators, Seminole Indians, transplanted plants and people -- they're all to be found in Tampa as well as down in the Everglades. And I have read enough books on weird little specialty areas of interest that the orchid fanaticism displayed by the people interviewed didn't surprise me as much as it did Orlean. But her outsider viewpoint makes the stories of trudging through swamps in search of the elusive ghost orchid blossom a lot more amusing than they probably would be if told by someone who did this regularly.
So how the hell did anyone come up with the idea of making a movie about trying to make this book into a movie? I don't know, but I'm really curious to see the movie now since I've read the book, even though I don't really think any of the things Orlean talks about in the book will actually be in Adaptation. I just want a peek into the brain of the guy who came up with the screenplay that they actually made.