Always yearning for success in the theater, James converted The American to a play in the early 1890s. This dramatic version altered the original novel severely, and even ended happily to please theater-goers. The play was produced in London and other English cities, and enjoyed moderate success.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) produced a television version of The American in 1998, directed by Paul Unwin and starring Matthew Modine as Christopher Newman and Diana Rigg as Madame de Bellegarde. Michael Hastings wrote the script, which deviates significantly from James's text, including explicitly sexual scenes between Newman and Noémie, and Valentin and Noémie, for example.