What's happening with the Neuromancer movie? An update, three years on

NeuromancerWhen we last wrote about the big screen adaptation of Neuromancer, it was to bemoan Hollywood’s apparent lack of respect for William Gibson’s seminal novel of cyberpunk, the first ever novel to win the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards, and one of the most influential SF novels in recent decades.

That was three years ago and back then Peter Hoffman had been named as producer, Joseph Kahn as director, and Hayden Christensen was attached as Case, the novel’s washed up hacker protagonist. So, why the rant? Well, Hoffman’s involvement with another Gibson project, Johnny Mnemonic, is memorable for all the wrong reasons, and Kahn appeared to have been selected for the job on the basis of a vaguely Gibsonesque Britney Spears’ video, Toxic. Far from promising credentials. Now it’s true that Ridley Scott only had a couple of movies and a raft of commercials under his belt before tackling Blade Runner and let's face it, that turned out ok..., but one of those movies under his belt was Alien. Kahn is no doubt an accomplished director of music videos, but his only movie credit to date is Torque (2004), and that is frankly no Alien.

Vincenzo NataliFortunately, little more was heard of the project until last June (2010) when Seven Arts Pictures announced that Canadian director Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Cube) would now be helming the feature. Natali is an accomplished writer and director with a unique vision and style and there’s no question that he is a better choice to helm this project. Clearly that's a sentiment shared by the Studio: Hoffman, who is still involved with the project, believes that Natali has “both the story telling ability and the command of the visual medium to give this film the treatment it deserves. In Vincenzo's hands we think Neuromancer will realise William Gibson's extraordinary vision of the future while being a big draw at the box office.”

On Hayden Christensen's continuing involvement, there's no word.

The news this week is that the Studio has been able to secure sales from distributors and the movie is finally in pre-production. According to Seven Arts Pictures Chief Operating Officer Kate Hoffman "Response to this cult cyberspace thriller has been tremendous and the film ticks a lot of boxes with distributors. The film will be a Canadian-European co-production with principal photography occurring in Canada, Istanbul, Tokyo, and London. Work on the visual effects has already begun, with an anticipated start date in the first quarter of 2012.”

Word is that Seven Arts sees Neuromancer as part of a potential multi film series, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For those who missed Slash Film’s interview with Natali in 2010, we’ve lifted a few choice paragraphs, in which Natali describes his vision for the film and talks about adapting the novel for the screen:

For me, it’s a story of redemption, if you want to get down to the core element of it. I think in terms of how you approach Neuromancer now, post-Matrix, post-all the other films that have poached from it, in the 21st century (because the book was written in 1984), I think you have to take those things and use them to your advantage, because what they give you, what The Matrix, for instance, gives you is the opportunity to make Neuromancer in a culture that is already aware of what The Matrix is. I mean, the very word “matrix” is in Neuromancer. It was borrowed by the Wachowski brothers for their film. I think that’s a good thing, because I don’t even know how someone would have been able to make that film ten years ago or fifteen years ago, because it’s so abstract. I don’t even know how people understood the book when it first came out. I think I read it in the late 1980s, but in 1984, how would people even understand it, because it was just so far ahead of the curve?

[SFW: Hmm, well that's Science Fiction for you...]

I think when you read it now, it still feels very relevant, maybe in some ways more relevant, because so much of what it predicted has come to pass. And therefore, my approach to it would be to be very realistic. I think The Matrix is a wonderful film, but it absolutely takes place in a comic book universe…everything about it, in the best possible way mind you, but really I think it’s a very heightened reality…

On the adaptation, Natali has this to say:

... I actually don’t think you need to stray too far from the book. I think you have to add some connective tissue, and I think that the ending needs to be finessed. I had a conversation with William Gibson about a week and a half ago, and he kind of agreed. You have to retool the ending a little bit. But basically I think the structure is there. And I actually see my version, if it were to be made, as having a little bit more of a literary kind of a structure. There would be a little bit of trickery with the timeline, and we would delve into characters’ pasts and then come back into the present. I think that’s the way to approach it. And that really excites me, because as somebody who watches a lot of movies and a lot of science fiction films, I’m really getting tired of the same old tropes, the same old kind of structures. If you’re going to experiment with narrative structures, this is the movie to do it with.

The full interview can be found here.

With Natali at the helm, this could be one adaptation to look forward to, although I can’t help suspecting that the Studio may have left it a bit late in the day to bring this great novel to the screen. Neuromancer was ahead of the game back in 1984, but it has been so heavily borrowed from in the intervening years that there’s a risk that an adaptation now will appear tired and unoriginal. Only time and Natali’s talent will tell.

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