It’s the dream of almost every writer to have a book published. But close behind that is the dream of having your book turned into a Hollywood movie. I got somewhat close to having this, sort of. Here’s what happened:
When my novel ‘Rohypnol’ was published in 2007 we were contacted by a couple of groups interested in the film rights. I had no idea about this stuff, I still had stars in my eyes about having my book in Borders, so I took the advice of my publishers on what to do, who to listen to, etc. There were four groups trying to buy the rights to ‘Rohypnol’, which was awesome, and in my head, it meant it was definitely getting made. But the film world is incredibly complex, there are so many variables when seeking film funding – you’re asking investors (producers) to put up millions of dollars on the promise of a return, I can understand why there are many hoops to jump through.
I met with one producer and director combo in Melbourne. The director was Amiel Courtin-Wilson, who has gone on to do some fantastic short and feature film work in recent years. Amiel was a really cool guy and seemed really into the project, had a good vision, I liked everything about him. But there was one other group who had got in contact with us late in the piece which were pretty much the winner as soon as we heard them mentioned. The group was Seed Productions. Seed Productions was owned by Hugh Jackman, his wife, Deborah Lee Furness and their business partner John Palermo. They were working on a a couple of major films (Deception and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) so they had the contacts – and it was Hugh Jackman, of course he knew people who knew how to get a film made. Seed were the safest bet to go with – they had a clear funding plan, they wanted to get moving on the project straight away. They were the ones. So I signed the film rights over to them.
I started working with John, who had asked me to take a shot at writing the screenplay. I hadn’t written a screenplay before, but I’d read all the books and who’s going to say no to having at writing a Hollywood screenplay? We went through a few drafts, with John giving me regular feedback and sending me reference books and DVDs to help get the story down. By the end of that process I was reasonably happy with the screenplay. I was pretty sure it needed work, but it felt okay as a starting point – it didn’t feel way off. Seed then signed up a director for the project, Kris Moyes. Kris was best known for his music video work, but he’s always working on major art projects, amazing stuff. I was a big fan of his video for ‘Are You The One?’ by The Presets. In fact, when I saw that video had won the ARIA award for best video I thought it would be awesome to get that guy as the director of ‘Rohypnol’. And there he was. Kris is one of those guys who’s way cooler than you. Not in a bad way, he’s one the most down to earth, easy going guys you’ll ever meet, and I really liked him, but he’s cool in that he can, say, wear some outlandish kaftan in public and totally pull it off without looking like a douche. The sort of guy who you’ll run into in the strangest of places and it’ll seem completely normal that he’d be there. ‘Cause he’s cool, he can just do whatever and make it cool. His ideas were great, he was keen, everything was moving in the right direction.
Of course, this is over the course of a year or so by now. John was based in LA wo we’d go back and forth via e-mail and I’d write and re-write and wait for his feedback, like everything in publishing, things take time. After probably a year and a half we got to a point where we needed to get an expert to go over the screenplay and fix it up. Andrew Bovell was one of the names put up as someone who might be able to go over it, which was great – Andrew wrote the screenplay for Christos Tsiolkas’ book ‘Loaded’ (the film was called ‘Head On’) and ‘Lantana’ which was a great film. But that never came about, Andrew was working on something else and wasn’t able to do it. I met with Kris and John at Seed’s offices in Fox Studios in Sydney and we went over where everything was at then things got real quiet for a long time. ‘Wolverine’ was getting close to release so I figured they had a heap on, so no problem. Both Kris and I got VIP tickets to the cast and crew screening of ‘Wolverine’, which was pretty cool then after that nothing. For ages and ages.
Kris and I stayed in contact for a little bit, but he had other projects overseas so that sort of faded out and I’d heard nothing from Seed for months and months. Then one day I read on a news website that Seed Productions had shut down. The guys had decided to part ways, with Wolverine being their only major production credit. After I read this, I sent an e-mail to the Seed guys saying I guess this means the film is no go, and thanking them for their time and efforts and for giving me a chance to be a part of the process. Hugh sent me a polite e-mail back, wishing me all the best and that was it. By now the book was a few years old, no longer in stores – the ‘heat’ of the book was gone and the film offers had died down. It’s been under offer a few times since, but it’s never gone any further. It’s disappointing, but that’s how it is with film stuff, so I’m told. A whole lot of things have to align for you to get the green light, even if you are working with a major company or a company with major contacts. I still hold onto the dream that it might one day get made, but it’s pretty unlikely now. I never met Hugh Jackman. People always ask this, but no, I never met him. I think one time I was in the Seed offices just after he’d left, that’s the closest I got, other than via e-mail.
So despite the disappoinment, I really did enjoy the process. Being able to work with John and Kris and just the excitement of working on the possible film adaptation was amazing. John went on to produce the excellent ‘Drive’ with Ryan Gosling – which was interesting to see because after reading the book of ‘Drive’ I could relate the transition from book to screenplay to some of the advice John had given me as we went through ‘Rohypnol’. Kris is always working on something ridiculously amazing, living a life of creativity we can only dream of – you can see his stuff here. And Hugh Jackman is doing something, somewhere, I don’t know, he faded out a little bit after that.
And that’s the story of how my book nearly, almost got made into a real movie. I’d already imagined myself in a tux on opening night too. That’s how it goes.