Friday, March 11, 2011

Dream Casting and Sacred Cows

Now that At the Mountains of Madness is reportedly dead, it won’t be too long before the Hollywood McNugget machine starts looking for their next franchise with a built-in fan base to exploit. I’m honestly glad that Mountains met its demise. While del Toro is a fan of Lovecraft and has the chops to pull off a Mythos film, I remain skeptical that At the Mountains of Madness needs to see a big screen treatment—especially one featuring Tom Cruise. If I want Antarctic horror, I’ll watch The Thing.

Although it’s been popular to say that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt, recent trends do more to support this statement than dismiss it. In tough economic times, the movie industry is looking for sure bets, which often means doing sequels, reboots, or developing properties that have an audience already attached, such as comic books and popular fiction. This is, for fans, often more curse than blessing.

Back during my own time in the Hollywood salt mines, I was involved with a project to develop Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga for a TV miniseries. In retrospect, I’m relieved that that project never saw the light of day. And although Elric, like other properties, is one which constantly drifts through Hollywood in various stages of production, I think the world can grind along without the need to see the White Wolf battling CGI monsters. I’d actually prefer an Elric rock opera before a big screen blockbuster. Nevertheless, the possibility of an Elric movie remains a constant threat.

This speculation led to some intriguing ruminations on my part, mostly because I’m currently revisiting Moorcock’s creation. Taking a page from Grognardia’s Open Friday and Cyclopeatron’s recent revelation that blog readers prefer posts they can say “Me too!” to, I present these two conundrums to my loyal readers: “What genre series/stories would you like to NEVER see adapted into film?” and “If you had to see a movie based on a story or character you didn’t want adapted, who would you accept in that role?”

For the last question, I’ll break the laws of time and space and allow you to choose any actor, person, or personality, living or dead. For example, if I had to see an Elric film, I would love it to star Iggy Pop circa 1975 as the White Wolf.

As for adapted stories, my own answers are both Elric and the Fahfrd and Mouser tales. I can’t even speculate on who I would like to see take on the latter roles in a worst case scenario as I’ve already created the perfect version of the Twain in my own head and no living actor could compete with my own creation.

How about you?


Chris said...

Ooh, fantasy casting! One of my all-time favourite nerd games.

"Don't You Dare Hollywood!" adaptation: KEW's Kane stories. They'd either turn Kane into a preening one-lining muscle-boy, or try and force the character into the 'seeks redemption' Bed of Procrustes they keep for anti-heroic characters.

"If You Must Hollywood" adaptation: Brian Cox as Druss in David Gemmell's Legend with James Purefoy as Regnak.

Johnathan Bingham said...

Wow, Iggy circa '75 as Elric. I totally can see it. As far as things that I think shouldn't be adapted, well, I don't know. I think would have liked to see a Mountains of Madness movie, but you're right, it probably is for the best that it gets canceled as a big Hollywood production.

ckutalik said...

Memo to all the gods: please, please never do a film or TV version of the Lankhmar books. Just think of how the "buddy movie" tropes would invariably play in any adaption. Shiver.

Matt said...

I too have hit that point where I'd rather not see adaptations of the books I love. I just finished Lud-in -the-Mist, and couldn't help but think how badly Tim Burton could screw it up as a movie.

Taketoshi said...

I'm going to come way out of left field and suggest a relatively-contemporary book that probably no one on this site has read, but which is maybe one of the coolest fantasy books to show up in decades: The City of Dreaming Books, written by Walter Moers (originally in German, but it's been translated into English), is a totally sweet dungeon-crawl novel based in centuries-old library-catacombs below a city known for its "book recovery" business. Seedy adventurers plumb the depths, hoping to come back alive with a precious first edition of some rare tome in tow.

Outstanding book, steps outside lots of the tropes of fantasy while nodding to a lot of them, decidedly NOT gaming fiction, staggeringly literate, and light-hearted (also suitable for kids if they don't mind being scared sometimes).

If they adapted it into a movie I'd die.

Of course, the casting would be rough as the three main characters are a dinosaur, a giant silkworm larva, and a dude made entirely out of scraps of paper...but I think if I had to cast any of the three, I'd do the main character as Tim Curry from the late 1980s. He was a great voice actor.

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

Let's try that again:

That sucks about Mountains of Madness. But it's not surprising, given how
Hollywood hates originality.

ChicagoWiz said...

I hope that Hollywood never does any of the Thomas Covenant trilogies - the books by Stephen R. Donaldson. I would much prefer that the Land stays in my head. If they had to do Covenant, I'd want Nick Nolte. He can do old tortured guy like no other, as far as I'm concerned.

What were you doing on the Elric project, if I'm allowed to ask?

crowking said...

I was very much looking forward to this film. del Toro has been working on it for many years. Say what you want about Cruse but when the man wants to act, he can, such as he has in films like "Collateral" and "Magnolia" and with James Cameron acting as producer and Lucasarts creating what people who've seen the test footage as the most state of the art CGI imagery in the last decade, what not to dislike or get excited about. del Toro is the first to admit that he hasn't made true, no-hold-barred horror film yet and ATMOM was going to be that film. I don't know all you guys, but I'm more then a little sick of teen horror and emo vampires. At least wit ATMOM we were getting something not only different, but based on one of HPL's greatist works.

Taketoshi said...


Cruise acting? When I saw him jumping up and down on Oprah's couch, and then in his "motivational" scientology video, I thought immediately of his demeanor in Magnolia--same character, nearly the same person.

FrDave said...

Unfortunately, the books I never wanted to see on film already have made it there: Frankenstein, Dune, Starship Troopers and Conan. Only by pretending that these are actually called by different names, dealing with characters that are only inspired by these books can I begin to pretend to enjoy them. Though I will second ChicagoWiz on Thomas Covenant.

Badmike said...

"Man Who Fell to Earth" era-David Bowie as Elric would be interesting. Physically he would fit the bill; I don't know if he would have the acting chops to pull it off.

I have to agree with Chris; Hollywood wouldn't have a clue of how to deal with Kane, either softening him to make him sympathetic, or gooning him up to be an over-the-top villain. I'm going to disagree with the other Chris, though: if you got the right duo of actors and a script that hit the funny and serious stuff in the right spots, I think a Fafhred and Mouse flick could be a surprise hit.

Carter Soles said...

This is not exactly in line with what you've asked for, but what I want most is:

(1) A "do-over" of the second two Peter Jackson LOTR films (Fellowship is just fine IMO) with better screenplays and no elves surfing down stairwells at Helm's Deep, and/or

(2) A second installment of Ralph Bakshi's vastly superior animated version of LOTR. With his same cast, John Huston voicing Gandalf and John Hurt voicing Aragorn. (Or, since Huiston's dead, I would happily accept Ian McKellen as the new voice of Gandalf.)

crowking said...


His antics on Opra and Scientology rhetoric" are obnoxious, but are you going to discredit his acting achievement? And if his couch surfing performance simply mirrored how he acted in Magnolia, well, guess what: ALL actors basically play themselves both on screen at off. As an example here's Robert DeNiro getting mad at a director for a Tv spot he did a while back. From the way he's gettign pissed off, you would think he's doing a reading for Goodfellas II:

All I know is this: We had as fans the first true HPL tent pole feature
with some key personnel who could of pulled it off. Now us weird tale fans are not getting anything-except for MORE teenage horror.

Ragnorakk said...

I'd hate to see Cugel done. Think of the requisite butchering and dumbing-down of the dialogue... the necessary good guy/bad guy dialectic grafted on to where it does not belong... etc.

Otherwise, I'd like to see Terry Gilliam or the Cohen Bros. give anything by Stanislaw Lem a good treatment (esp. Futurological Congress or Cyberiad)

Michael Curtis said...

What were you doing on the Elric project, if I'm allowed to ask?

I was essentially breaking down the entire Elric saga so that it could be blocked out. My task was to evaluate the stories to best determine what HAD to be covered in a TV adaption and where. I was doing the dirty work that sreenwriters get lambasted for--destroying art for the sake of commerce.

Appropriately, it was about this time I felt like I was losing my soul in L.A. and decided I had to get the hell out of Cali post haste.

Michael Curtis said...

"Man Who Fell to Earth" era-David Bowie as Elric would be interesting.

He was my second choice. You can't dream cast Elric and not consider someone once known as the "Thin White Duke."

crowking said...

I know Elric was picked up by Universal at one point and del Toro wrote/ or was working on a spec script. I also remember Chris Weitz had wanted to make it at one point. But just like ATMOM, Universal was hesitant on making it, but last I heard they renewed the option. Maybe if Game of Thrones is a hit, they might do it. But, studio exec's are generally cowards and like to go with safe bets: hence, why we have nothing but remakes and vampires :-)

richard said...

it's a funny thing, I consider most of my favourite books to be unfilmable, and the films I've seen of them largely confirm my suspicions (Dune, Frankenstein, Dracula, Moby Dick).

I think it's a mercy that Borges remains outside the moviemaker's canon, and I'm really pleased the Anne McCaffrey books never got picked up, not because I love them but because I could just see My Little Dragon-pony taking over from My Little Vampire-boy.

I read the whole goddamn Covenant thing and the only bit I could imagine making a movie out of was the sequence with Nom. But if I were casting for Covenant I'd pick Tom Waits: I think he could make the old bastard relatable if anyone could.

Anonymous said...

Gor. Do not attempt to film. The direct to video was abominable. I'm really frustrated with the awful sci-fi channel adaptations (and consequent butcherings) of other classic works,like Brave New World.
Yes, Elric is "unfilmable". Even the comics were disappointing (for me that is). The P. Craig Russel art was lack luster and the Gould book covers for Del started out awesome then devolved.
In my dream, an Elric film would entirley look and feel like the cover of Weird of the White Wolf as drawn by Gould. Can one stretch and expand upon that single menacing instant, glowing sword, and cloudy sky?
Thanks for the space to write,
PS Please hire Peter Jackson to reinvent and remake the Star Wars prequels. He did such a great job with King Kong.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh, not that I meant seeing a single picture on screen for two hours, I meant just j]keeping the feel of it. OK I'm shutting up now.

Francisca (it's an ax, trust me) said...

Speaking of "Me too....

"As for adapted stories, my own answers are both Elric and the Fahfrd and Mouser tales."

Same here.

Mister Scratch said...

"Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel".