Gilligan

I have some good news and some bad news.

The Good News: Several years ago I told my agent that I’d be open to the idea of writing the novelization of a screenplay. I thought it would be a good experience and the extra money from the advance would come in handy.

Well, as you can tell, nothing really came through. The projects weren’t right or the film’s producers wanted more of a name author.

Until yesterday.

After a month of negotiations, my agent called yesterday to let me know that I’d been picked – on the strength of the Pembroke Hall novels – to write the novel for Tim Burton’s next big project, which starts filming this month. The contracts are being FedEx’ed to me as I type this.

The Bad News: Because of publishing deadlines needed to have the book on the stands when the movie hits the theaters, I’ve got about three months to get the thing written to final draft and in. So everything else will have to go on the shelf… including The Word Foundry.

I hope you don’t mind.

So what is this big project?

Happily, I can talk about it a little. It’s a film version of Gilligan’s Island (actually, the draft of the script I have calls it Tim Burton’s Gilligan’s Island, but that will likely change. The first draft of the script was done by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation), and word has it that his feathers are ruffled over the title, so the matter is with the Writer’s Guild at the moment.

The cast is nailed down; Matthew Lillard (Gilligan), Jason Alexander (the Skipper, too), Edward Herrman (the Millionaire), Jane Curtin (and his wife), Madonna (the Movie Star), Hillary Duff (Mary Ann), and Gary Oldman as the professor, whose interest in the island may be related to its possible use during post-WWII atomic testing.

According what I’m told, Burton wants Albert Finney in a small role as a U.S. Senator who has more than a passing interest in finding the Minnow survivors. Ditto Scott Glen as the Navy Commander in charge of the rescue mission, who is conflicted by his duties to the missing castaways and the orders he gets from on high in regards to the search.

How can the Minnow get lost in this age of satellite reconnaissance and GPS locators? I can’t really say, but the way they get around it is clever. Not quite as clever is the Agatha Christie-like whodunnit involving the death of an eighth castaway, who might be played by a surviving member of the original television cast. Part of my challenge will be to write that part into the book in such a way that it can be taken out because there’s talk of cutting that part from the film. The script I have also looks into that whole “little buddy” thing, but Burton’s people tell me that this will disappear in the next draft, because he wants to keep the film to a PG-13 rating.

That might sound restrictive, but I’ve actually got a lot of freedom to play with the plot for the book to flesh it out.

And yeah, there is that whole “But it’s Gilligan’s Island” stigma, but like my agent said, the show is still in reruns, there have been several successful TV reunions, there’s a successful musical version making the community theater circuit (a local theater group is doing it this summer, but, ironically, I’ll be too busy working on the book to audition), so it’s a viable commercial project. The time is definitely worth the money.

If there’s time, I’ll check in at the end of May to let you know how the first draft went. Otherwise, I’ll see you all in August, and hopefully I’ll have some interesting stories to tell. This is going to be fun, I think. For sure it’s going to be an experience…

NP: iPod Shuffle – XTC, “I Bought Myself a Liarbird

Update 4/3/05:

April Fool!

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