Two years ago, it appeared that Stephen Daldry was locked in to direct the long-awaited adaptation of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY. His stars: Tobey Maguire as Sam Clay, Jamie Bell as Josef Kavalier and Natalie Portman as Rosa Saks.
Well, that didn't happen. In an April 2007 interview with DETAILS, Chabon, who also wrote the screenplay, lamented that "...it just completely went south for studio-politics kinds of reasons that I’m not privy to." Bummer.
But no project is ever completely dead in Hollywood. There's always the possibility of resurrection - especially when you've got the backing of a tenacious producer like Scott Rudin. With that in mind, I decided to ask Mr. Daldry at today's L.A. press junket for THE READER about the state of KAVALIER & CLAY. Here's what he had to say:
Mr. Beaks: I wanted to briefly touch on one project that's been of great interest to our readers: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY. You were attached to direct the film a few years ago.
Stephen Daldry: Indeed!
Beaks: It was one of those films that seemed to be constantly "in development". Then, in 2006, it was suddenly on the brink of production. And then... nothing. Michael Chabon has said the stall-out was a result of studio politics. What do you think? Is it something you could see yourself directing at some point?
Daldry: Oh, absolutely. It would be great. I sincerely hope Paramount picks it up at some point.
Beaks: So you're still technically "attached"?
Daldry: As far as I'm concerned, I am. (Laughs)
Beaks: Structurally, that's another story [like THE READER] that poses challenges in terms of whether you adopt a linear or non-linear approach.
Daldry: Also, how much you use the comic books and how much you don't. How much is animated? Do you use animation? How do you use animation in comic books? What's the difference between the two? That was one of our big discussions. I spent a lot of time with different animators exploring ways to animate comic books.
Beaks: You know, it could be that the book is finally ready to be filmed. We're just getting to the first major deconstructive "superhero" work with WATCHMEN. Perhaps KAVALIER & CLAY has benefited from the delay. Now that the comic book film is further along, people are more familiar with the history of the medium and its conventions.
Daldry: Maybe you're right. Maybe it's a good time to remind people who wrote them and who created them and why they were created. And how central they were to a generation of immigrants coming to the United States from Europe and what the superhero was originally speaking to and speaking about.
Had I been on my toes, I would've pressed Daldry on the style of animation and the degree to which that might get away from the more static, panel-based medium of comic books. Blending the pulpier elements of Chabon's story with the straightforward dramatic stuff will be quite a challenge (and I must say that I never considered animation). Then again, Daldry has just pulled off a half-erotic/half-tragic film about a love affair between a fifteen-year-old boy and a thirty-six-year-old former guard at Auschwitz. I'm very confident in his ability to manage tone.
Don't get your hopes up, but it is encouraging to know that Daldry is still quite enthusiastic about the material. Let's hope Rudin is, too.
I'll have my full interview with Daldry next week (in advance of THE READER's 12/10 limited release).