We have seen some great adaptations, most notably The Hunger Games, John Carter, and A Game of Thrones. I’m happy about this. It means fantasy is alive and strong in pop culture. But it means more than that. All three took the source material and successfully translated it to a different medium, something that appears easy but in reality is difficult to do.
I have found the difficulty in adapting novels to the silver screen usually arises when a writing team and director decide to stray from the author’s original intent—almost always at the detriment of the finished project. For reasons unfathomable, many Hollywood script writers believe they either have to put their own stamp on a project or that they know more than professional storytellers who spend a year or more crafting a tale. Either way, it can become a mess quickly.
There are more adaptations on the docket—some greenlit into production, others waiting for that to happen. One of the ones waiting is Magic Kingdom For Sale–Sold! by Terry Brooks.
Several months ago, Terry sold the rights for his Landover series to Warner Bros. It is a great choice for the studio. Magic Kingdom For Sale–Sold! and its sequels are mostly a family friendly affair, fantasy with a slightly humorous bent to it at times. It doesn’t begin that way though. It is the story of lawyer Ben Holiday who, after losing his wife and unborn child in a tragic accident, decides he needs to change his life and buys a magic kingdom where he will be king.
The only problem is, that magic kingdom is falling apart and in complete disarray.
Here are the first few paragraphs of Magic Kingdom For Sale–Sold!, giving the reader an idea of who Ben Holiday is:
Chapter One: Ben
The catalogue was from Rosen’s, Ltd. It was the department store’s annual Christmas Wishbook.
It was addressed to Annie.
Ben Holiday stood frozen before the open cubicle of his mailbox, eyes slipping across the gaily decorated cover of the catalogue to the white address label and the name of his dead wife. The lobby of the Chicago high rise seemed oddly still in the graying dusk of the late afternoon rush hour, empty of everyone but the security guard and himself. Outside, past the line of floor-to-ceiling windows that fronted the building entry, the autumn wind blew in chill gusts down the canyon of Michigan Avenue and whispered of winter’s coming.
He ran his thumb over the smooth surface of the Wishbook. Annie had loved to shop, even when the shopping had only been through the mail-order catalogues. Rosen’s had been one of her favorite stores.
Sudden tears filled his eyes. He hadn’t gotten over losing her, even after two years. Sometimes it seemed to him that losing her was nothing more than a trick of his imagination—that when he came home she would still be there waiting for him.
He took a deep breath, fighting back against the emotions that were aroused in him simply by seeing her name on that catalogue cover. It was silly to feel like this. Nothing could bring her back to him. Nothing could change what had happened.
Warner Bros. bought the rights and immediately there were people interested in playing the role of Ben Holiday. Steve Carell, the actor from The Office and numerous movies, happens to be one of those people. A few weeks ago, Hollywood.com broke the news that Carell was interested in playing the role, that he’s been attached to it, and that a screenwriter had been hired to work on the script to fast-track the adaptation to the silver screen. Terry even flew to Los Angeles to talk with the people involved, answering any and all questions about the book and how it should be brought to theaters.
Many of Terry’s fans immediately became irate about the possible involvement of Carell though. How could a comedic actor play Ben Holiday, a man who has lost everything he cherishes and is quite desperate? It should be a serious movie, not a comedy, many said.
Argument ensued, which is natural for the internet(s). I largely sat back and observed.
Terry and I spent about an hour on the phone long before this news broke, talking about Carell and his acting abilities. Yes, he has largely been a comedic actor. But many people don’t realize Carell has played several dramatic roles that makes him perfect for Ben Holiday. In Little Miss Sunshine, he played a gay, suicidal professor. It doesn’t get much darker than that. In Dan In Real Life, he plays a widower who must learn about love all over again. These are serious roles and Carell shined in them as a dramatic actor.
Terry and I both think he is perfect for the role. Behind the comedic smile, there is a dark vulnerability about Carrel that is necessary to play the role of Ben, who is a devastated man looking for a way out. He also possesses the wry humor that Ben carries with him to Landover, especially needed when he meets bumbling wizard Questor Thews and the Wheaten-Terrier scribe Abernathy.
The only aspect I’m worried about is timing of production. If you view his possible future plate, Carell is attached to another six or seven projects—and who knows which one or two he will pick to work on in the next few years. The others won’t get greenlit and their rights will likely revert back to their owners.
I think the harder question is: Who should play the beautiful sylph Willow?
There is reason to be hopeful though. Warner Bros. is excited about this movie. Let’s hope we all get to journey to Landover on the silver screen and see the castle known as Sterling Silver.