Margaret Atwood didn’t get the profits from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale?

OTTAWA (The Guardian) – Author says she ‘did not have a negotiating position’, after selling the rights of her novel to MGM for a 1990 film, which the studio retained. Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, has revealed that profits from the hugely successful 2017 TV series of her novel did not go to her, after having sold on the rights for a film adaptation almost three decades ago. Hulu’s recent TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale was a critical success, winning four Emmys and prompting a new mainstream appreciation for Atwood’s work, particularly her 1985 novel, a dystopian tale about a woman used as a breeding vessel in a puritan and misogynist America.

In an interview with Wealthsimple, Atwood revealed that the TV series was “not my deal”, having sold the rights to media company MGM to make a film adaptation. The film, starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, came out in 1990, but the rights were subsequently sold on to MGM Television, who made the 10-part series in partnership with Hulu, a streaming service. “I sold the rights to MGM in 1990 to make a movie – so when the TV rights were sold to Hulu, the money went to MGM,” said Atwood. “We did not have a negotiating position. I did get brought on as an executive consultant, but that wasn’t a lot of money. People think it’s been all Hollywood glamour since the TV show happened, but that’s not happening to me. But book sales have been brisk, so there’s that.”

Atwood, who also made a cameo appearance in the TV show as a disciplinarian “aunt”, appeared on bestseller charts worldwide last year after the show was released, as well as a Netflix adaptation of her 1996 novel Alias Grace. The Canadian author, who was recently named the bestselling literary author of 2017 in the UK after selling more than £2.8m in books, also revealed in the Wealthsimple interview that she sees a surge in sales of The Handmaid’s Tale around elections.


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Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters