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Peter T Chattaway

The Screwtape Letters

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'Screwtape' attaches Walden

Ralph Winter Prods. is producing a bigscreen adaptation of the C.S. Lewis novel "The Screwtape Letters" with Philip Anschutz's Walden Media. Pic will be produced via Walden's Bristol Bay Prods. banner ("Ray," "Sahara").

Variety, January 31

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UPDATE: Blogged it.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I can't see that it would work as a film. It might be one of those things that would be better handled visually in the smaller visual space/longer temporal space of television.

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I didn't see this thread in the New Posts menu today until just now, after creating a duplicate thread. Found out about it from a Google alert. And oh, man, my heart is racing. I've always wanted somebody to do this.

CHARLIE KAUFMANN! GET CHARLIE ON IT!

I'm blogging like a maniac over at LC.

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: I've always wanted somebody to do this.

Really? The book doesn't exactly cry out for cinematic treatment, or even dramatic treatment. There is a play out there, somewhere, based on this book, and I remember skimming through it at Bible school and wondering what was the point.

And I have to say, "From the makers of Fantastic Four and Sahara" -- or "From the makers of Hangman's Curse and The Chronicles of Narnia" -- doesn't do a whole lot to inspire me. Heck, earlier today an image flashed through my brain of Andrew Adamson talking about the great "epic battle scene" he had created for the climax of this movie, as demons and angels battle for the "patient's" soul ...

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No, no, it has to be a comedy. A dark, wicked comedy. The Coen Brothers. David O. Russell. Charlie Kaufman. Paul Thomas Anderson. We need talent like that on a project this rich. Tom Stoppard. We need a genius with a mean streak on this one.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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No, no, it has to be a comedy. A dark, wicked comedy. The Coen Brothers. David O. Russell. Charlie Kaufman. Paul Thomas Anderson. We need talent like that on a project this rich. Tom Stoppard. We need a genius with a mean streak on this one.
After Fantastic Four and X-Men 3 (not to mention all his Christian schlock), I see no reason to be sanguine about the likelihood of Winter finding the right talent for the job. (Did he learn his lesson on Fantastic Four? He did not. The same writer and director are back for the sequel.)

I agree with Peter that the work doesn't cry out for adaptation (BTW, I've also seen a comic-book adaptation), but at the same time I am forever open to the possibility that -- in the right hands -- anything can be brilliant. By itself, that doesn't make me very optimistic about the likelihood of that happening in any particular case.

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SDG wrote:

: After Fantastic Four and X-Men 3 (not to mention all his Christian schlock), I see

: no reason to be sanguine about the likelihood of Winter finding the

: right talent for the job.

Yeah, I have mixed emotions about this. Winter seems like a great guy, and he's got a great reputation, and I enjoyed interviewing him eight years ago when it was announced that he would be producing the film version of Left Behind -- but the actual films he's associated with aren't a very inspiring bunch, by and large. (I believe Winter has disowned Left Behind, largely because the franchise was taken over by Cloud Ten -- and Winter seems to be closer to Namesake Entertainment, the company which originally bought the film rights -- but still. That is one franchise that should never have been filmed in the first place.)

I am wondering if I should check out Shoot or Be Shot! (2002), the William Shatner film that Winter produced because the writer-director (or someone otherwise involved in the project) owned the rights to The Screwtape Letters. Winter played a clip from that film at Regent College five years ago, as an example of the sort of thing one has to do in order to accomplish other things down the road -- but what about the film ITSELF? (I note that the writer-director of that film -- who has no other credits at the IMDB right now -- is listed in the Variety story as one of Screwtape's producers, along with Winter and Douglas Gresham.)

: (BTW, I've also seen a comic-book adaptation)

I've got the Marvel Comics adaptation, but it's in boxes right now; I went Googling for images last night and couldn't find anything big enough, but wow, I had forgotten that Neil Gaiman wrote the intro to it!

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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The book doesn't exactly cry out for cinematic treatment, or even dramatic treatment.
Which is exactly why it could be such a great film.

No, no, it has to be a comedy. A dark, wicked comedy.

Yes, but *sigh* it won't be. I predict another turn in his grave for C.S. Lewis...

This is one of those films that I think would be nigh impossible to "get right" (though if one DID "get it right", it would be superb). And, well, with Walden Media in on the game, I think the chances of "getting it right" are pretty slim.

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I can see it being filmed more as a My Dinner with Andre type of film. The two sit down over a fish and chips meal before the fire place of the Eagle and the Child, and while the older demon smokes a pipe, he mesmerizes his young nephew with his "wisdom" and "professional skills." The simplicity of the setting would be part of the message as the room could take on an increasingly darkened or even comic appearance - a kind of "twighlight zone" sense perhaps. I wouldn't cut away to anything else, but leave the thoughts of the demons' conversation to carry its own imagined effects.

Denny

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The book doesn't exactly cry out for cinematic treatment, or even dramatic treatment.
Which is exactly why it could be such a great film.

Actually, I tend to think that Screwtape Letters, just like most of C.S. Lewis' books, are better as books, and don't as a general rule make good film adaptations. I mean, think of someone trying to adapt the space trilogy to the silver screen. Especially Perelandra!

The ideas in Screwtape, just like his other works of adult fiction, are simply too intricate and complex to be expounded upon, through any other medium than a book.

In reference to Ralph Winter, I think he's got great vision and imagination. However, just like Scott Derrickson with Paradise Lost, he's attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. Some books are only great as books. They simply won't translate. I'm sure the stories will be interesting, but they won't by any stretch of the imagination do the authors justice.

Edited by Joel C

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This makes me think -- is the Christian life cinematic? Spiritual life and gifts? The practice and power of prayer? Service: assisting widows, orphans, and others in need? Hospitality? Obeying the government? House churches? Avoiding divisive people, worldy associations and worldly wisdom? Families treating each other with respect and love? Being modest in dress and hair styles?

I just do not see this being handled capably.

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Joel C wrote:

: I mean, think of someone trying to adapt the space trilogy to the silver screen.

Funny you should mention that, I once exchanged e-mails with Doug Gresham in which he said someone had, indeed, bought the film rights to that...

As I mention at my blog, I have probably read The Screwtape Letters more often than any book outside of the Bible; and whenever my thoughts turn to, say, the Trinity or the Christian understanding of sex, the primary reference point, for me, is often a passage from this book. It would be lovely if someone made a film that spelled out all these doctrines, a la My Dinner with Andre or some similar non-dramatic feature, but somehow I don't expect them to; none of the individuals or corporations involved has shown an aptitude for anything beyond the conventional and the formulaic.1 Which is fine, when you're working with a project that demands a somewhat conventional or formulaic approach (though you can always hope that the creative personnel will go beyond that a little bit). But The Screwtape Letters, by its very nature, does not lend itself to conventional or formulaic storytelling.

1 Indeed, one of these corporations is currently being sued by the author of one of the properties it adapted, partly because the author believes they ruined his story (and he was supposed to have script approval, etc.).

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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For myself I would like to see the sci-fi trilogy filmed - while of course the films wouldn't capture the depth, they could still be great, powerful movies.

At times I feel a little more tolerant towards film adaptations than I used to. I've realised that there are simply too many pressures on most film-makers, commercial and otherwise, for them to have a really faithful adaptation. And for most great books, there are depths and subtleties and internalised thought processes that can never be adequately put on screen. Then there's the inevitable problem of condensing everything down to a couple of hours or so. I now find myself increasingly thinking that life is too short to rant and rave over every substandard adaptation; rather I should be glad that the essence of the story is being brought to a new audience who aren't reading much or are reading all the wrong things. An adaptation of the space trilogy would result in new film tie-in editions of the books and a fresh audience who will discover the riches within.

Having said all that, I stand by my initial reaction that the idea of filming Screwtape stinks.

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Someone should mention the John Cleese audio version. (Which you can only download if you live in the states even though he's one of ours. Peter isn't the only one to have had international issues with iTunes)

I wonder if Cleese'd reprise the role for the film. If they avoided the temptation to Dante it up it could be rather good. Alternatively they could get Kevin Spacey in to re-do his line from Usual Suspects ;)

Jeff's ideas about Kauffman sound good. But what about Frank Cottrell-Boyce? He wrote the equally so-bizarre-it's-masterful adaptation of Tristram Shandy, and of course the much-loved-by-everyone-here-except-me, Millions, which also has a spiritual angle.

Matt

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It may require a great deal of restraint and skill to keep this from being unbearably didactic. The idea of one demon expounding to another on the best strategies against humans is obvious enough (organically doctrinal, if you like) without everything being spelled out in excruciating detail. That's great for the book, but many of Lewis' ideas could stand to be illustrated without being merely repeated.

Personally, I'd love an American Splendor vibe... quirky and insightful.

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I mean, think of someone trying to adapt the space trilogy to the silver screen. Especially Perelandra!

True. But to me, the space trilogy seems like something really obvious to make into a film. Screwtape, not so much. It seems to me that sometimes those books that just seem unadaptable (is that a real word) make the best adaptations.

It'll take me some time to think of specifics.

BTW, I'm of the mind that only That Hideous Strength would be any good as a film. It could stand alone well; one doesn't really need to read the first two books to understand it, after all.

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This is one of the first books I read when I initially became a Christian. I found it utterly fascinating to read.

I have always envisioned that it would be more properly adapted into a one-man stage play, not as a film. Someone above said it's a play already? Sounds great! Making it into a film would most likely require it to be a VERY dialogue-heavy film, akin to adapting the equally verbose (and similarly British-in-tone) "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.

This is one of Lewis' all-time great works, easilly in the top-ten of his most well-known books (if you count all 7 Narnia books as just "one" work, and the Planet Trilogy as "one"). There's a built-in audience for it already.

Also, Randy Alcorn wrote a book called "Lord Foulgrin's Letters."

http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Foulgrins-Lette...TF8&s=books

Alcorn's book is lifted directly from Screwtape Letters. Nowhere near as well-known as Screwtape Leters, the Alcorn book did respark a renewed interest in Lewis' book amongst a younger generation of Christian readers.

I can't wait for this film. (And with any luck, its sucess will only make my own scripts more marketable.)

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I mean, think of someone trying to adapt the space trilogy to the silver screen. Especially Perelandra!

True. But to me, the space trilogy seems like something really obvious to make into a film. Screwtape, not so much. It seems to me that sometimes those books that just seem unadaptable (is that a real word) make the best adaptations.

It'll take me some time to think of specifics.

BTW, I'm of the mind that only That Hideous Strength would be any good as a film. It could stand alone well; one doesn't really need to read the first two books to understand it, after all.

You could do it in a Star Wars kind of way, just make the first two books prequels if the movie is successful.

And only if Paul Giamatti plays Ransom.

And if one could hire the effects crew from The Fountain.

Edited by Clint M

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Someone above said it's a play already? Sounds great! Making it into a film would most likely require it to be a

A local theatre group recently did it as a play. Unfortunately I didn't get to see it, and I do not know whether it was the same adaptation Peter read. But it's out there.

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And only if Paul Giamatti plays Ransom.

Why not a Brit to play Ransom??

Someone above said it's a play already? Sounds great! Making it into a film would most likely require it to be a

A local theatre group recently did it as a play. Unfortunately I didn't get to see it, and I do not know whether it was the same adaptation Peter read. But it's out there.

If it was a theatre "group" then I suspect it wasn't a one-man play. Sounds intriguing.

BTW--I once saw a one-man performance of The Lord of the Rings.

No lie.

Edited by Plot Device

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And only if Paul Giamatti plays Ransom.

He's a good actor - but I can't see him as Ransom. How about Daniel Craig? Clive Owen could be good. Damien Lewis? Not sure he's got the right face.

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Robbin Parrish at Infuze Magazine just posted an interview with Ralph Winter where he asks him about this film.

http://www.infuzemag.com/interviews/archiv...lph_winter.html

What's happening with C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters?

It's in development with Fox and Walden Media. Fox has owned the property for decades. They bought it in the 50s. There was management at Fox that wanted it and bought it, and they've owned it for decades.

So what's the current status?

We're signing deals right now. We're finishing the Fox option deal, we're finishing my deal with Walden. Doug Gresham's deal is done.

Does the movie have a green light?

Not yet. We've been talking to Randall Wallace about writing and directing. We need to have more discussions with Fox and Walden about that, and make sure that Randy's still available. Everybody wants to make this movie; I think it's going to happen, I just don't know what the timetable is right now.

We're very excited about that. With the right script, dealing with temptation and that whole upside down world, it could be a very, very interesting movie. And it's going to be dark. This isn't a light, happy, Narnia piece.

The C.S. Lewis name alone should be enough to draw people into the theaters.

We've been telling people that for years, and they wouldn't believe it. And now that Narnia has happened, they're a lot more open to it. (Laughs.)

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Not yet. We've been talking to Randall Wallace about writing and directing. We need to have more discussions with Fox and Walden about that, and make sure that Randy's still available.

Not an obvious choice with only two directing credits: The Man in the Iron Mask and We Were Soldiers . I haven't seen either, but with additional writing credits also including Pearl Harbour and Braveheart, I can't say I'm full of eager anticipation.

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On a semi-related note...

Last night I stumbled across this nine-year-old article of mine on the upcoming Inklings movies that were then in development. (This was back when Lion King director Rob Minkoff was attached to a proposed adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Paramount; he went on to do the Stuart Little movies instead.)

The article concludes:

Gresham also confirms that British filmmaker Henry Seggerman has bought the rights to produce a film adaptation of Lewis's science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet and is now working on the second draft of the screenplay.

That would be this Henry Seggerman, I guess? I wonder what ever became of this...

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You could do it in a Star Wars kind of way, just make the first two books prequels if the movie is successful.

And only if Paul Giamatti plays Ransom.

And if one could hire the effects crew from The Fountain.

AUGH!!! NOOOOOO!!!

Sorry. I just had a horrific vision of Hyoi as a Jar Jar-like character. :shudder:

My thinking is that Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra simply wouldn't work well as films. The SFX could overwhelm the story in each case. That Hideous Strength, on the other hand, is much more... ah, what's the word? Visceral, perhaps? It seems to me that, if properly done, it would make the transition to film quite well.

Whoops. Have I derailed a thread again? :D When I can change the title under my avatar, I'll make it "Thread Derailer".

Edited by Plankton

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