In the land of TV and film adaptations, it's no secret that speculative fiction is a bountiful wellspring of ideas. Just look at all the blockbuster films and top-rated television shows that sprung from the pages of science fiction, fantasy and horror. What's particularly noteworthy is when several of those adaptations stem from the same mind. Philip K. Dick is one of those minds. There have been adaptations of several of his stories, like Blade Runner, Minority Report and Man in the High Castle. But a look and pending adaptations reveals another bright star in genre: Neil Gaiman.
Gaiman, of course, has already had a some of his books made into films, specifically: Stardust, adapted in 2007 into a film starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Claire Danes; and Coraline, a 2009 stop-motion animation film featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher. And in this space, I've already talked about some previously announced forthcoming adaptations based on Gaiman's work (American Gods, Sandman and Anansi Boys, Lucifer and Hansel & Gretel), but there are several new projects in the works based on Gaiman's stories. Here's a rundown of those new Neil Gaiman-related projects that are on the horizon.
Gaiman's first novel, published in 1997, firmly planted Gaiman as a master urban fantasy storyteller in the literary world. The story concerns Richard Mayhew, an ordinary London businessman who stops to help a woman in distress and is plunged into another world when he slips through the cracks of reality. Neverwhere is the "London Below", a land of shadows and darkness, where the woman Richard met in the London Above is a noblewoman whose family has been murdered. If Richard is to ever return to his world, he must help the woman named Door find her family's killer and bring him to justice.
Here's the interesting thing about Neverwhere: it started as a BBC television series in 1996 co-written by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry. Gaiman wrote a novelization of the series the following year and that's the book that introduced the story to many American readers. Just recently it was announced that there's going to be a new adaptation of the BBC series led by Mark Gordon, Erwin Stoff, and Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence.
This fable-like novel is about a man who returns to his childhood home in rural Sussex, England to attend a funeral and finds the horrible memories of a decades-old accident resurfacing. When he was younger, the unnamed protagonist underwent a harrowing experience involving monsters, but he was protected by the Hempstocks, the owners of a farm down the road from his childhood home. Now, decades later, the Hempstocks somehow look exactly the same.
Focus Features acquired the rights to turn The Ocean at the End of the Lane into a feature film a few of years ago. Tom Hanks was named as one of the producers and Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Pan) was named as the director. Time will tell if the film can pull off the poignant magic of the novel.
The Graveyard Book is about a boy named Bod (short for "Nobody") who lives in a graveyard. Not only does he live there, he was raised there by ghosts, werewolves and the other supernatural residents of the cemetery who chose to take care of him after his parents were murdered. His supernatural guardians taught Bod how to Fade, so that he may hide from mortals visiting the graveyard. The book's episodic stories take readers from Bod's boyhood to young adulthood.
This novel has already been turned into a graphic novel, but that hasn't stopped Hollywood. After one failed attempt to turn this into a stop-motion film (like was done for Gaiman's Coraline), they're back with a new effort to turn The Graveyard Book into a live-action movie. Ron Howard was in talks to direct the film.
Aimed at younger readers, Fortunately, The Milk is a madcap adventure story that begins when a man goes to the store to get some milk for his cereal and is kidnapped by aliens. Things get weirder from there as the story introduces a time traveling hot air balloon ride, pirates, a stegosaurus, "wumpires", and dancing dwarves – all the more fodder for Skottie Young's zany illustrations.
How do you adapt a crazy story like Fortunately The Milk? Enlisting Johnny Depp is a great start. Depp was in early negotiations with Fox studios to produce and star in an adaptation of Gaiman’s time-travel tale with Edgar Wright directing. The film adaptation is being written by Bret McKenzie, who co-wrote Flight of the Conchords.
"How to Talk to Girls at Parties"
Gaiman's “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” is a 2006 short story in which two young British teenage boys go to a party to meet girls in the 1970s. What they find is that the girls they meet -- foreign exchange students -- are very, very different from their expectations…unless foreign includes the extraterrestrial. [Read it here for free].
A film adaptation for the weird-but-charming short story is being executive-produced by Gaiman. The already-attached cast includes Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas, Jessica Plummer, and Alex Sharp.
If you haven't heard of the Gaiman's novel "Likely Stories" it's because it doesn't exist. It's the umbrella title being given to a new television anthology series based on four of Gaiman's dark short stories set in London. The series is being directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. The stories being adapted include: "Foreign Parts", "Feeders & Eaters", "Closing Time" and "Looking for the Girl". It's also been reported that Gaiman will appear in each story in an “unusual way,” so add "actor" to Gaiman's already impressive resume!John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, the Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.