Neil Gaiman the new Stephen King? Now that Hollywood has run out of
Stephen King material to bring to the big screen, they have turned to Neil
Gaiman it seems . . .
Neil Gaiman is of course the forty-something
British fantasy author probably best known for the ‘Nineties
groundbreaking Sandman comic book series. Gaiman however hasn’t
exactly been idle since ending that influential and highly acclaimed title
back in 1996, writing quite a number of books, short stories, graphic
novels, poems and, yes, screenplays since then.
In fact, since co-writing
Beowulf and getting
Stardust made into a movie in 2007, it
would seem that Gaiman has “gone Hollywood” really big time. There doesn’t
seem to be a movie project out there that Gaiman isn’t involved in somehow
– right from being kicked off from David Fincher’s upcoming adaptation of
Charles Burns’ 1995 Black Hole graphic novel about teenagers
suffering hallucinations of a sexual nature in 1970s Seattle to Marvel’s “sorcerer
supreme” hero Doctor Strange.
Throughout the years several Hollywood has
toyed with several Gaiman properties, which are in various phases of
development hell, including: Sandman, Death: The High Cost of
Living, Neverwhere, Good Omens (a novel he co-wrote with
Terry Pratchett) and Interzone.
Gaiman is also working on several screenplays
based on other authors’ material, including an adaptation of Nicholson
Baker’s The Fermata and of course Doctor Strange for
director Guillermo del Toro. Don’t expect to see all of these movies on
the big screen one day though. Sandman ran 75 issues and is
impossibly complex to condense into a single movie . . . or even a few
movies. (This project has been floating around for years now, so don’t
hold your breath. Hollywood also doesn’t know what to do with the
material. Producer Jon Peters for example allegedly wanted to turn Sandman
into an ass-kicking supernatural superhero like
Ghost Rider for instance . . .) The
Fermata also seems unlikely. Dubbed “literary pornography” by some,
the movie deals with a man who can stop time for everyone except himself. What
does he do with this power? Fondle women and, er, masturbates. Let us see
Hollywood make a movie out of that one . . .
Your odds of seeing the other Gaiman books
mentioned here on
the big screen one day (especially Death: The High Cost of Living)
are a bit better though. A stop-motion movie version of Gaiman’s 2003
novella Coraline is practically in the can as
well and if a recent interview with Gaiman is anything to go by his latest
novel The Graveyard Book (2008) is a dead cert as well.
Gaiman had the following to say:
"They [U.K.-based special effects firm,
Framestore] want to start making films, and start producing their own
films. And they read it [Graveyard Book], and they loved it, and I spoke
to them, and they said all the right things, and they seem to listen. So
I don't think it's going to be transported to a graveyard in Los Angeles
where they've been burying bathing beauties or anything. I think we're
actual going to stick with where the book is written and film that. And
I think part of the idea is that they know they can also do the special
Gaiman will also serve as producer
on the film.
"Animated characters don’t need to take a dump . . ."
If Coraline could be described as a
Grand Guignol version of Alice in Wonderland, then The Graveyard
Book can be summed up as Grand Guignol rewrite of Rudyard Kipling’s
The Jungle Book. A mysterious figure simply known as “the man Jack”
one evening murders an entire family in their home. The family‘s baby boy
somehow however manages to elude him and the boy (later christened Nobody
Owens) finds refuge in a nearby cemetery where he is adopted by some
benevolent ghosts. The novel follows Nobody’s life as he grows up in the
graveyard, protected by its otherworldly denizens. Sound familiar? Nobody
is safe and provided for within the graveyard’s perimeters, but one day he
will have take his rightful place in the living world . . . but in the
outside world the dangerous man Jack and the shadowy evil organization he
works for lurks . . .
Reading the book, I couldn’t imagine The
Graveyard Book as anything else except as . . . an animated movie.
Perhaps one using stop-motion clay models (like Nightmare Before
Christmas) or a CGI process to duplicate the look (like in Tim
Burton’s Corpse Bride). However
considering the lovely illustrations by regular Gaiman collaborator
artist Dave McKean for The Graveyard Book perhaps a movie version will work best as an
old-fashioned 2D traditional cell animated movie . . . in Black & White.
With dashes of occasional color, of course. But how cool it would be I
thought if they could make The Graveyard Book in a style similar to the
recent Persepolis movie based on the graphic novel detailing author
Marjane Satrapi‘s life as a child in revolutionary Iran. (Or 2006's
Renaissance for that matter.) Now that would be
In fact the more I read The Graveyard
Book, the more convinced I became convinced that going the live action
route with “normal” actors would be doing the material a disservice. Live
action will simply distract from the story’s fairy tale vibe. Placing the
action in a real world setting will pose too many questions. Like what
exactly does Nobody Owens use for a toilet? Graveyards don’t usually have
toilets. Where does he bath? And so on. Making it into an animated movie
will distract from such issues. Animated characters after all don’t need
to take a dump . . .
Yet judging from Gaiman’s interview it would
seem that they are in fact intent on making The Graveyard Book into
a live action movie. Framestore seems to deal with physical
effects and isn’t an animation studio. It is the special effects company
that did the grisly Harvey Dent / Two Face makeup for
The Dark Knight. To be honest we are
yet to be sold on the idea. This material just screams for it to be made
into an animated film . . .
Don’t believe us? Then read The
Graveyard Book. It may be aimed at 9-12 year olds who has nothing to read
now that Rowling wrapped up the Harry Potter series, but it is a brisk and
enjoyable read with the sort of eccentric (very British) touches and
bitter sweet lyricism that distinguishes Gaiman’s work. It may not reach
the dizzying heights of the work he did on Sandman, but at 312 pages with
a widely spaced font, it doesn’t have the same epic canvas to work on. And
it’d make for a cool (animated) movie . . .