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On ''Dune,'' ''Shadowland'' and trying to film unfilmable novels

Berg Actor-turned-director Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, The Kingdom, The Rundown) has told MTV News the Dune remake that was announced last year is really going to happen. Writer Josh Zutamer has turned in a script that is a whopping 200 pages long.

Berg said he must now figure out how to whittle down that screenplay into a manageable, feature-length film "without offending the purists ... filmmakers have struggled [in the past] because it's a very complicated book to crack."

Berg also promises a radically different Dune than we've previously seen on movie and TV screens.

Dune_frank_herbert "My experience with the book was different than David Lynch's experience or the people behind the Sci Fi Channel's experience," Berg said. "I found it to be more of an adventure tale, more of a muscular action/adventure story. I think that's my approach, not as an R-rated film, but as a pretty hard PG-13 film about a young man dealing with issues of vengeance over the death of his father and wanting some payback and having to come to terms with his destiny along the way."

Ted, one of the friends who went with me to see the awesome Springsteen show on Sunday, is a hardcore Dune/Frank Herbert fan. On the way to the concert, we happened to be talking about the book and what he liked best about it, and none of what he said bears any relation to what Berg is describing. Maybe that's why Ted said he has no interest in ever seeing a Dune film adaptation, because the movie that is in his head will always trump whatever an actual filmmaker comes up with.

Shadowland That's the same way I feel about Peter Straub's 1980 novel Shadowland, which I first read while in high school and remains one of my favorite books, all these years later. I read that book obsessively. I carried it with me everywhere and secretly read while my 10th grade English teacher, Brenda Feldman, was going on about dangling participles and other such nonsense.

 I've always thought Shadowland would make a sensational movie, except it would have to be R-rated and about four hours long (also, I would need to be the one who directed it). Shadowland also deals with teens and magic, so a film made today would forever be compared to Harry Potter, except this one is much, much darker. Although the novel was unfilmable 29 years ago, it would be a cakewalk with contemporary CGI. Still, I don't think a Shadowland movie is ever going to happen, post-Potter. And I'm totally fine with that. 

I got to interview Straub at his home in Manhattan's Upper West Side a few years ago. Even though I was there to talk about his new book, I immediately started babbling about Shadowland and asked him why no one had ever turned it into a film. He told me many had tried but they all eventually gave up, because no one could lick the screenplay, which is pretty much the problem with Dune.

Straub Then Straub asked his wife to bring him a copy of a just-published new edition of Shadowland and he signed and dedicated it to me. That's one of only two times in my career I have accepted an unsolicited autograph from someone I was interviewing. It was awesome. I also think Straub liked me immediately because we both stutter when we speak.

Comments

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can't fight this feeling anymore

I always liked Shadowland, but preferred Ghost Story and Floating Dragon (which gave me NIGHTMARES).

Rene Rodriguez

Those three books are Straub's holy trilogy, for me. "The Talisman" and "Black House" are his other two essential books. I can't believe they haven't made "Talisman" into a movie yet.

They REALLY botched the "Ghost Story" movie, though. And "Floating Dragon" is another one that is kind of unfilmable.

Shane

It is strange that "Talisman" isn't a movie yet, esp given that they've practically adapted Stephen King's grocery list into a movie at this point. But I hope someone does, cause would make a great movie! (Talisman; not the grocery list.)

Erwin

Concerning these "unfilmable movies", if Charlie Kaufman can figure out how to make a tense, exciting movie out of flowers, anything can be made into a movie.

If a book is 500+ pages, or there are lots of descriptions and backstory, then an intelligent writer can try to create a smaller story within the world of the book. Sometimes you come out with a masterpiece. The Godfather was a 500+ page book, but Coppola focused on the 200 pages that revolved around the story in the movie and the family dynamic and now whose complaining?

theWireSmith

Shadowland would be hard to film because of its layers and implications. A lot would have to be flat out explained with what could result in a lot of tedious scenes. Too talky for today's audience, probably.

Ghost Story was a horror, and not in a good way. Talisman should also probably be left alone, but possibly could do well as an animated movie if it wasn't turned into a cartoon.

And thanks for the link to my blog.

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