Literary Hub

Do We Need an Adaptation of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus?

This week in literary film and television news, there was a lot going on. The Emmy nominations were announced on Thursday morning, for one thing. More importantly, we were treated to first images from Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, after which I promptly stopped to gaze for many hours into Oprah’s glittering eyebrows. There was news about a handful of Extremely Exciting Adaptations, from Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death to Scaachi Koul’s One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter to Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona to James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk (from Barry Jenkins, no less)—as well as some Less Exciting Adaptations, enough to make me raise my own distinctly un-golden eyebrows rather high. Casting reports flowed thick and sweet, as did release dates, and everyone was obsessed with George R.R. Martin—even when they really shouldn’t have been, because the news was about Nnedi Okorafor. But then again, dragons, amirite?

The news, in brief:

First off, your literary Emmy nominees are:

The Handmaid’s Tale (based on The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood)Nominated for: Drama Series, Drama Actress (Elizabeth Moss), Drama Supporting Actress (Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley)

Westworld (based on Michael Crichton’s Westworld—the film, not the book, but still, Michael Crichton)
Nominated for: Drama Series; Drama Actress (Evan Rachel Wood); Drama Actor (Anthony Hopkins); Drama Supporting Actress (Thandie Newton); Drama Supporting Actor (Jeffrey Wright)

House of Cards (based on House of Cards by Michael Dobbs)
Nominated for: Drama Series; Drama Actress (Robin Wright); Drama Actor (Kevin Spacey); Drama Supporting Actor (Michael Kelly)

Big Little Lies (based on Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty)
Nominated for: Limited Series; Limited Series Actress (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon)

Genius (based on Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson)
Nominated for: Limited Series; Limited Series Actor (Geoffrey Rush)

Sherlock: The Lying Detective (based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Dying Detective”)
Nominated for: Limited Series Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch); TV Movie

The Wizard of Lies (based on The Wizard of Lies by Diana B. Henriques)
Nominated for: Limited Series Actor (Robert De Niro); TV Movie

Orange Is The New Black (based on Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman)
Nominated for: Drama Supporting Actress (Uzo Aduba)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (based on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot)
Nominated for: TV Movie

Attention all inner children, nerds, and past and future selves: first photographs from Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s classic children’s novel A Wrinkle in Time are here. “I saw so much beauty in [the novel], but also so much meaning,”DuVernay told EW. “[Madeline L’Engle]’s a very radical thinker and she embedded her sense of what society should and could be in this piece, and a lot of it I agree wit. And through that, the story of this girl saving the world and being out there in the universe slaying the darkness, it also says a lot about slaying our own dragons.” DuVernay had a lot of fantastic ideas for this adaptation right from the start—she wanted Meg to be portrayed by an actress of color, and she wanted to push the limits of what all the characters could be. “My whole process with this film was, what if?” she said. “With these women, I wondered, could we make them women of different ages, body types, races? Could we bring in culture, bring in history in their costumes? And in the women themselves, could we just reflect a fuller breadth of femininity?” Enter Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, and Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which. Insert exclamation marks at will. The film is slated to hit theaters in March of next year, and so far, it looks incredible.

And hey, if you liked those photos, there are also some Game of Thrones photos to check out. Yes, season seven of George R. R. Martin’s behemoth premieres this weekend. But you probably knew that already.

Speaking of George R. R. Martin—we found out this week that Nnedi Okorafor’s excellent novel Who Fears Death has been optioned by HBO, with Martin on board as an executive producer. But coverage of the news was a little skewed. Vice reported it as “George R. R. Martin is Adapting an African Sci-Fi Novel for TV” (headline now amended), which is misleading, not actually the point, and as many noticed, a gross act of erasure. On his blog, Martin clarified his role in the project (as an executive producer, yes, but not as the show runner nor writer) and wrote, “[Okorafor]’s an exciting new talent in our field, with a unique voice. Even in this Golden Age of television drama, there’s nothing like Who Fears Death on the small screen at present.” I, for one, agree with Okorafor’s take on her news.

Has the Trump administration’s deeply held desire to push us all decades backwards . . . worked? I don’t know, but the fact that the notorious 1992 self-help book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus—which has been roundly dismissed as errant bullshit by scholars and scientists—is being adapted into a film is giving me serious pause. Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights to John Gray’s bestseller, with plans to “develop a feature that appeals to Western sensibilities and to also develop a companion project for the Chinese market.” Apparently, the book is huge in China. Friendly reminder: women and men are both from Earth, and John Gray’s Ph.D is bogus.

Micheál Neeson (yes, that’s Liam Neeson’s son) has joined Big Dogs, the television adaptation of Adam Dunn’s crime series, along with Lance Henrickson, Michael Rabe, Manny Perez, and Brett Cullen. According to Deadline, “each season will be based on specific books from the series including Rivers of Gold, The Big Dogs, Saint Underground, and the forthcoming The Unfathomable Deep.” I feel like we need fewer shows about Big Dogs (whatever those are), right now, not more—but fine.

Actress Toni Colette is working on turning Julia Dahl’s 2014 novel Invisible City into a television series. Colette wrote the pilot, and will be executive producing with Jen Turner, Jon Kamen, Jon Doran, and Justin Wilke. “I love Julia Dahl’s novel because it’s about fighting for personal freedom and living an authentic life,” Colette said in a statement. “It couldn’t be a more relevant time to tell this story about acceptance and integration, or lack thereof. These complex female characters are honest, flawed and inspiring. We can always use more of those.”

Netflix is adapting The Umbrella Academy, the kooky graphic novel written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, into a live-action series. I haven’t read the comics, but after having been told that the names of the superheroes are The Monocle, Spaceboy, The Kraken, The Rumor, The Séance, Number Five, The Horror, and The White Violin, I’m 100% in.

Lionsgate’s adaptation of Chaos Walking, the YA science fiction series by Patrick Ness, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, just got a release date: March 1, 2019.

Outlander is coming back. Season 3 of the Starz adaptation, this one based on Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s series, will premiere at 8 p.m. on September 10.

There’s Kurt Vonnegut, and then there’s . . . Son of Kurt Vonnegut! That would be Mark Vonnegut, whose book The Eden Express: A Memoir Of Insanity—about his battle with mental illness in the middle of the counterculture movement of the ’60s and early ’70s—will soon be adapted into a film with help from a new development fund launched by Scythia Films and Stellar Citizens.

Essayist Scaachi Koul is writing and executive producing a scripted series for First Generation Films, based on her debut collection One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. Her dad is already making demands for black licorice and air conditioning.

Harlan Coben, bestselling author of mysteries and thrillers and creator of TV show The Five, is executive producing a new show for Netflix and Canal Plus. Safe, written by Danny Brocklehurst, will star Michael C. Hall (a.k.a. Dexter) and Amanda Abbington.

Get out your pearl-encrusted pocketbooks. Vivien Leigh’s effects—including her copy of Gone With the Wind, inscribed to her with a poem by Margaret Mitchell herself, her copy of the Gone With the Wind film script, and her large book collection—are going up for auction. You can bid on Scarlett O’Hara’s stuff at Sotheby’s in London on September 26th.

Woo-hoo! Nimona, Noelle Stevenson’s kick-ass webcomic-turned-graphic novel, will hit the big screen in 2020 as a cg-animated feature. The film will be the directorial debut of Patrick Osborne, who won an Academy Award for his 2014 short film, Feast.

Book Club has recruited its final member: Mary Steenburgen, who will join Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, and Candace Bergen in a movie about a bunch of women whose lives are changed by E. L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey. I mean, I know, but listen—I’m going to see it. It’ll be amazing, even if it’s terrible.

A film adaptation of The Dangerous Book for Boys is in the works at Amazon, created by Bryan Cranston and director Greg Mottola, and starring Erinn Hayes and Chris Diamantopoulos. The book, written by Conn and Hal Iggulden, is a guidebook of boy stuff for boys “from eight to eighty.” What relation the film will have to the actual book remains to be seen.

Deliciouser and deliciouser. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving have signed up to join Benedict Cumberbatch in Showtime and Sky Atlantic’s mini-series adaptation of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels. Edward Berger will direct.

In the best of news, Barry Jenkins, the man who brought us Moonlight (and who will be bringing us The Underground Railroad), will be directing an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk for Annapurna Pictures. “James Baldwin is a man of and ahead of his time; his interrogations of the American consciousness have remained relevant to this day,” Jenkins said in a statement. “To translate the power of Tish and Fonny’s love to the screen in Baldwin’s image is a dream I’ve long held dear. Working alongside the Baldwin Estate, I’m excited to finally make that dream come true.” Us too, Barry!

Bill Skarsgård, whom you may know from another literary adaptation, Hemlock Grove, has joined the cast of Castle Rock, Hulu’s new show set in the Stephen King mulitverse. According to Deadline, he “will play a young man with an unusual legal problem.” OK! Michael Uppdenahl will direct the pilot and co-executive produce.

And in further casting news, Ray Panthaki has joined the cast of Colette, the Colette biopic from Wash Westmoreland, as  French playwright and novelist Pierre Veber. That’s like, double-literary right there.

Originally published in Literary Hub.

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