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You know that old question about what actress should play Honor?

  • Series: Honorverse
  • Date: September 27, 2011

Okay, according to my "Hollywood representative," we've officially closed the deal on the movie option for the Honorverse. I should be seeing the contracts in the next few days, and there are a couple of other legal documents that need to be traded back and forth, but We Have a Deal.

There was quite a bit of discussion on the forum a while back about what goes into a successful movie adaptation of a literary work, and whether or not a literary work can be "successfully" adapted at all. The Lord of the Rings was used as an example, and everyone involved (including me) trotted out the aspects of the Peter Jackson adaptation that didn't work for us. And now, if all goes well, it's going to be Honor's turn, beginning with On Basilisk Station.

I'm not going to lie to you — I feel a certain degree of trepidation. I think that's inevitable, given how many years I've put into creating the books and the characters in them. It's a given, inescapable, that there are going to be changes to the books to bring them to the movie screen and that some of those changes are going to tick off some of Honor's most devoted readers. It can't be any other way, if only because of the size of the books and the sprawling nature of the Honorverse.

At the same time, though, I'm very excited about the discussions we've had so far on this project. There are several things, I think, working in our favor.

(1) The studio involved is headed by people who have actually read the books, who like the characters, who know the characters, and who have pulled up blocks of actual dialogue from the books in face-to-face discussions with me to illustrate their understanding of Honor's character and the reason they're excited about the project.

(2) Although the studio is a cutting edge CGI/3-D studio, what they said to me more than once when we were discussing the option is that "All the special effects in the world cannot make a successful movie. Special effects may make a satisfying visual spectacle, but a successful movie requires storyline, and a successful series of movies requires characters. It's the characters and the fully developed background of the Honorverse which have drawn us to this project."

(3) The producer and the studio are the same entity, which is going to preclude or at least hugely reduce the kinds of pissing contests producers and studios can get into.

(4) They have not simply hired me on as a creative consultant, but we've already been in fairly intensive coast-to-coast videoconferences about the characters and the story line, and they are clearly listening to me.

(5) They are thinking in terms not of a single feature film but of a series of films, based not on generated-for-the-movie plots but on the actual storyline of the series. As a result, they have a very strong interest in treating the characters and the storyline with respect.

(6) One of the things they are especially excited about is the opportunity to bring actual fleet combat to the screen. Not a couple of starships dogfighting at visual range, but actual walls of battle engaging one another. Obviously, since they're starting with Basilisk Station, there is going to be the classic single ship duel between Fearless and Sirus, but that's not all they have in mind. I'm not going to tell you what else they have in mind at this point, but I will say that while I experienced a moment of reservations when they told me the first additional thing they were thinking about, I've since come to the enthusiastic conclusion that it's A Good Idea™, especially from a cinematic perspective, and enthusiastically aided and abetted them in making it work.

There are other points working in favor of a good outcome, as well. At the same time, clearly this is a very, very early stage in the process, and I'm learning quite a bit already about the nuts and bolts and the decisions that have to be made when you start adapting a novel to film. It is unfortunately true that there have to be cost-benefit trade-offs when you start looking at which characters to keep, which ones might possibly be merged with other characters, what parts of the original plot can be preserved, etc. You only get about 120 pages of script to work with, and that requires some fairly ruthless pragmatism when you start deciding what goes on those pages. When it works properly, what you get in the end is a movie which is faithful to the original but not identical to it. That's what we're looking at accomplishing at this point.

There are, obviously, certain characters who simply cannot be written out or written around or combined with someone else. In some cases, you actually find yourself having to give a secondary character more screen time because you want an especially good actor or actress to portray that character, and unless they have enough screen time you're not (a) going to be able to attract an actor or actress of the caliber you want or (b) going to be able, within the constraints of your budget, to pay an actor or actress of that caliber. I'm sort of thinking, for example, that Harkness could fall in that category, and possibly Klaus Hauptman. Certainly we need someone really good for MacGuiness, and we need to be thinking about Hamish Alexander for the future. So there's going to have to be some strategic horsetrading where dialogue and screen time are concerned.

The critical thing to me is that these people are interested in the Honorverse and in the characters who live in it, and they clearly don't see it as the opportunity to make one movie and then get out. That's what they told me when we originally began discussions with them; that's what I observed when Sharon and I flew out to LA to meet them face-to-face; that's what the option agreement is set up to produce; and that's consistent with all of the discussion we've had so far about characterization, technology, the back story of the characters and the universe, etc. I'm sure that everyone who options his literary works to Hollywood starts out filled with confidence, and we all know the process doesn't always end well, despite that. I genuinely don't think that's going to happen in this case, however. I think these people are going to treat Honor and the Honorverse with respect, and they clearly really, really know the characters and the books.

I'll probably be providing occasional, periodic updates on the project as we go along. Obviously, this is just the beginning of what will probably be about a five-year process to actually getting the picture released, assuming that everything goes well. Assuming we're living in the real world, it will probably take just a teeny bit longer than that. [G]

At any rate, the process has started, so far it looks good, and I'm really excited about the prospects.

Stay tuned.