- 29 May 2011
- By Gerard Wood
The journey from page to screen often takes a long and winding road and too often, at least in the case of classic works of SF and fantasy, the road seems to lead into the wilderness where it fades away to nothingness. Way too many interesting projects we’ve announced over the years have come to nothing, but this week two projects we’d last had cause to mention three years ago have returned from the wilderness. Earlier we announced that the adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer has entered pre-production, and now we learn that there's a spark of life in the adaptation of Dan Simmons’ superlative Hyperion Cantos.
The word on the web is that actor Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, A-Team) is in negotiations with producer Graham King, who own the rights to Hyperion, to write the script. The actor and would-be screenwriter let slip in interview with Charlie Rose mid-week that he’d written a spec with his friend Colin Burns [?]: “I said [to Graham King], 'I know this is a very audacious endeavour, but can you just read this spec we wrote? I think we have a way in to tell the story.'” Cooper is an articulate and thoughtful speaker and appears to be passionate about Simmons' novels, and we can only presume that the two writers have done an impressive job with the spec to be in negotiations to write the script. (The interview is about 20 minutes long but you’ll find this snippet at 18 mins 45 secs).
Cooper also mentions that he’s looking to move into directing, although it's unlikely that he will do so with Hyperion due to the sheer scale of the project. "Ideally I'd love to direct," he says. 'But there's no way. I shouldn't say that. You never know."
The Hugo Award winning Hyperion (1989) and its sequel Fall of Hyperion (1990) are intelligent, literary SF at its best. For sheer imaginative force and an abundance of literary and philosophical references Hyperion has few peers. Perhaps most notable of these nods to literature was Simmons use in Hyperion of the formal structure of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: in the far future a group of travellers are on pilgrimage to the Time Tombs of the planet Hyperion, where they will make a request of the mysterious and monstrous Shrike. The Shrike guards the Time Tombs and likes nothing more than to impale pilgrims on iron thorns on the Tree of Pain: only one pilgrim is ever spared and their request fulfilled. Within this framing story, each pilgrim tells their tale, adding something more to our understanding of why they have undertaken this seemingly suicidal pilgrimage. By the cliff-hanger ending of Hyperion we are left with more questions than answers, many of which are resolved in Fall of Hyperion.
When we last had anything to say about this project, the plan was to combine the first two novels into a single movie, a ridiculous endeavour that deserved to fail and fortunately did. We can only hope that this is not the approach Cooper is taking. There is such a wealth of material and complexity in novels like Hyperion and Frank Herbert’s Dune (another novel languishing on the road to nowhere) that they require sufficient time to explore and develop them. The only reasonable approach is either to do what Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings, adapting the novel across three films, or to go down the path that HBO has taken with George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, serialising it for the small screen.
Speaking of which, it must be time for Episode 7 of Game of Thrones. Excellent!
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