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HHGG Screenwriter Self-Interview
June 3, 2004 2:02 PM   Subscribe

A fairly reassuring self-interview with Karey Kirkpatrick - the American (gasp!) screenwriter tasked with getting Douglas Adams' original script for "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" into filmable condition.

Here's hoping they don't screw it up...
posted by GriffX (39 comments total)

 
To me, it's exactly the kind of imaginative story completely ruined by a film version, but to each their own.
posted by agregoli at 2:04 PM on June 3, 2004


his imdb listing is NOT reassuring to me.
posted by dolface at 2:06 PM on June 3, 2004


YOU’VE ESTABLISHED YOU CAN WRITE FOR CHICKENS, BUT CAN YOU WRITE FOR REAL PEOPLE?
posted by smackfu at 2:09 PM on June 3, 2004


*cheesy trailer guy voice* "Mos Def IS Ford Prefect... Sam Rockwell IS Zaphod Beeblebrox... Trapped in a world they never made..."
posted by keswick at 2:11 PM on June 3, 2004


Well, that self-interrogation by the screenwriter is either very encouraging as to the chance for a worthy adaptation to the screen for HHDD (and I agree, no amount of CGI tech will ever match this listener/reader's original vision of Zaphod's second head), or a Cover Story far more ingenious than anything Karl Rove has ever come up with.

The Infinite Improbability Drive: It's Not Just For TV Sitcoms Anymore
posted by wendell at 2:42 PM on June 3, 2004


I'll be happy if it's better than the dismal tv series.
posted by Evstar at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2004


Because if it's one thing the SF filmgoing audience craves, it's low-key verbal humor.

Even if they do it well, they shouldn't do it. HHGG is first and foremost a radio series, secondarily a set of novels, TV series a very distant third, and a movie not at all.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2004


I'm not worried at all.
Hammer & Thongs + Martin Freeman = Ace.
posted by mr.marx at 3:01 PM on June 3, 2004


I think a well-made movie, while a distant third in 'trueness' to the radio series and books, would at least help to wipe away my unpleasant memories of the truly dismal TV show.
posted by wendell at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2004


The trouble is that, as shown in "Chicken Run," this is the kind of by-the-numbers Hollywood pro hired to de-Britishize this stuff. "Chicken Run" was sort of amusing, but it didn't have the English quirkiness of the original "Wallace & Gromit" -- and it did have Mel Gibson in it, as you will remember.

The other problem is with Adams himself, and it's the George Lucas/Gene Roddenberry Aging Genius Dilemma. There's no way that Adams's later revisions to the screenplay, done during his cushy years in Santa Barbara, will be as sensible as the stuff he came up with in as a scrappy young comedy writer.

I hope I am wrong. But as we've seen with the creators of "Star Trek" and "Star Wars," there's always the risk of geniuses buying their own press, mythologizing their own creations and not understanding what made them good to begin with. Also see "Opus."
posted by inksyndicate at 3:15 PM on June 3, 2004


The self-interview to me was kind of promising. While not chapter-and-versed in the canon, I get the feeling he at least has an idea of how something this esoteric could be brought off.

So how bad could it be?
Well, it could be awful.

But, y'know, how good could it be?
posted by chicobangs at 3:40 PM on June 3, 2004


how good does it have to be?
posted by mr.marx at 3:46 PM on June 3, 2004


The Wendell Award for the Best Rhetorical Question of the Week goes to mr.marx
posted by wendell at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2004


I'll be happy if it's better than the dismal tv series.

Actually I quite liked it. I thought some of the metaphysical imagary was ...
posted by feelinglistless at 4:01 PM on June 3, 2004


The other problem is with Adams himself, and it's the George Lucas/Gene Roddenberry Aging Genius Dilemma. There's no way that Adams's later revisions to the screenplay, done during his cushy years in Santa Barbara, will be as sensible as the stuff he came up with in as a scrappy young comedy writer.

I don't know about anybody else, but I find DNA's later work to be not only just as good but better than his original HHGTTG stuff. The unfinished Salmon of Doubt, while very strange has some absolute genius ideas in it. He wasn't old when he was tragically stolen from us. He was forty-fucking-five. By no means a washed up has-been of a genius. And if he wrote new material for the movie, then I for one can't wait to see it.
posted by jaded at 4:32 PM on June 3, 2004


If you look at what Hammer and Tongs have been up to so far (click "Films" in the nav), you see some real classic music videos like Fatboy Slim's Right Here Right Now evolution-of-man video, and Blur's Coffee and TV, with the walking milk carton and all. If that's not enough for you, how about the titles from the Ali G show? And in ads -- the ITV Digital monkey! I love that monkey. These things are all practically cultural icons (well, here in the UK anyway) -- it's a damn impressive portfolio.

That, combined with the overall tone of the screenwriter's self-interview (heck, just the fact that he did a self-interview is good enough) and the fact that I quite liked Chicken Run makes me think that the Hitchhiker's Guide movie might be really great. It might not be, but I reckon the odds are looking way better than they once were.
posted by reklaw at 4:34 PM on June 3, 2004


Holy Freezing Hell, Keswik! Your cast list. . . its not just a joke?? The IMDB cast list - it *is* a joke, right?

I was just thinking that my, admittedly distant, memories of the BBC series are very pleasant, largely because of the brilliant casting. I always knew that I would have trouble accepting another Ford or Zaphod but I never dreamed that I would have to contend with Mos' Def As Ford. I mean, I really quite like Mos'Def - but he's no Ford Prefect.

I'm sorry, this has all been a bit of a shock.
posted by Zetetics at 5:06 PM on June 3, 2004


I'll go out on a limb^H^H^H^H twig and predict that the tv series > the movie.
posted by rushmc at 5:11 PM on June 3, 2004


The TV series had Peter Jones as the Book. The film doesn't.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:31 PM on June 3, 2004



Yeah, what feelinglistless said.

I remember the computer generated stuff was fairly whizz-bang, cutting edge for its day. They even did an OK effort with Zaphod's second head.

My problem with the TV series was:

1. They missed heaps out.
2. It stopped very suddenly. Like they had run out of money or something.


(bit like the first effort to bring LoTR to the big screen!)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:31 PM on June 3, 2004


I was just thinking that my, admittedly distant, memories of the BBC series are very pleasant, largely because of the brilliant casting.

Agreed. It had that Dr Who-esque BBC cheesefactor that I loved as a kid -- I think you had to see the series when it came out to get the full flavour of it -- and yeah, Trillian aside (that voice annoyed me no end), the casting was spot-on, I thought.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:34 PM on June 3, 2004


Any idea how they will be doing Zaphod's second head?

Or who these new characters are?
posted by whoshotwho at 6:18 PM on June 3, 2004


I have always imagined Arthur Dent as being a lot like Martin Freeman's character "Tim" from "The Office." That's great casting. I've never seen anything with Mos Def in it, but if he can pretentd to take himself too seriously (like Ford) he'll be fine.

I haven't really thought about "Hitchhikers" in 10 years, but I'd see this film.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:28 PM on June 3, 2004


I remember the computer generated stuff was fairly whizz-bang, cutting edge for its day.

It may have looked like CG, but it was all done by hand.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:16 PM on June 3, 2004


The kinds of books that don't work on the screen are the ones that depend on having a lot of mental access to the characters. Movies don't do that kind of stuff well.

HHG, though, just depends on having this loose, funny, Douglas Adams bent to it. The right filmmaker could totally create a loose, funny, spirit-of-Douglas-Adams bent film. I don't think they'll do it - Chicken Run was really flat - but it could in principle be done.
posted by lbergstr at 7:23 PM on June 3, 2004


funny that Major, I imagined a "Tim"-ish guy too, a little lankier and more British.
posted by dabitch at 7:28 PM on June 3, 2004


"Actually, Garth and Nick and I spent an entire day sitting poolside at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles discussing the infinite improbability drive and how to make more sense of it and better use of it as a plot driving device."

[envy]
posted by lbergstr at 7:36 PM on June 3, 2004


Oddly enough, Mos Def is also in the Confederacy of Dunces movie that's making its way through the pipeline. With Will Ferrell as Ignatius...
posted by toothless joe at 8:21 PM on June 3, 2004


The kinds of books that don't work on the screen are the ones that depend on having a lot of mental access to the characters.

Witness Dune, the movie, vs. Dune, the SciFi miniseries. I actually preferred the latter, as hearing all the character's inner ruminations in the former just bored me to tears. Not that either did the book justice, but at least the Harkonnen in the miniseries were just fat and evil, not fat, evil, beboiled, and Sting.

[/tangent]

I suffer under the knowledge that D. Adams himself was originally trying to adapt his own work for the big screen before his unfortunate demise and, to be honest, no one else I think could do it as well as he could have. Sigh.

But hey, Rockwell's in it? I kinda like that dude. I'm piqued.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:10 PM on June 3, 2004


It's so hard to live up to the expectations of thirteen-year-olds.

I say this as a Douglas Adams fan.
posted by interrobang at 11:15 PM on June 3, 2004


Fat, Evil, Beboiled, and Sting sounds like the most successful law firm ever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:49 AM on June 4, 2004


My take on this has always been that the true joy of the Guide is the use of language - which is why it translates so badly on the screen. It's not the characters or plot, but the delightfully twisty sentences, the sudden reversals, the hyperbole, the rhythmic pushes-off-a-cliff.

He stole it all from Wodehouse, another of my all time faves whose stories look awful on screen.

You just can't film this:

"A fragrant breeze wandered up from the quiet sea, trailed along the beach, and drifted back to sea again, wondering where to go next. On a mad impulse it went up to the beach again. It drifted back to sea."
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:54 AM on June 4, 2004


CunningLinguist, you are right. Adams idolized Wodehouse. And he is a worthy successor. What the film adaptors never seem to get right about Wodehouse is the speed at which the dialogue needs to be spoken. The relaxed sort of exchanges Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie had as Jeeves and Bertie were way too slow. These aren't real people, after all. They're snappy line machines. Monty Python had the right pace. I hope Hammer and Tongs captures it.
posted by Faze at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2004


What this movie will need to do well is a whole new perspective from what Hollywood would give it (on the order of a Terry Gilliam, at least, though I don't know if he could bring HG2G in properly even if he wanted to, which I suspect he wouldn't).

Scenes like the one Miz Linguist mentions can certainly be shot, but not by anyone in Hollywood. Everyone seems to understand that.

Maybe the fact that Hammer & Tongs are coming from the other end of the universe, experiencewise, will count in their favor.

I remain optimistic, at least until we see a humorless plodding trailer. (The cast could really work. I think Mos Def especially is an inspired casting choice.)
posted by chicobangs at 10:49 AM on June 4, 2004


Funny. I always read Bertie and Jeeves as being quite slow in speech. They are, after all, upper-crust.

Well, slow when they aren't in trouble. Once trouble starts, I imagine Jeeves to continue to be slow and calm, while Bertie gets all high-pitched and panicky.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2004


It may have looked like CG, but it was all done by hand.


No way!

Thanks for the heads-up, inpHilltr8r.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:19 PM on June 4, 2004


It may have looked like CG, but it was all done by hand.

To animate the Guide in the TV series I think I remember they cut the frames out of black card and back-lit it to acheive the glow using an overhead projector with a colour filter.

I thought the TV series was OK, Peter Jones is the book.
posted by asok at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2004


Here is a nice summary of the first TV episode.

I wonder if the Hollywood version will keep the destruction of the earth in the story?
Will it be one book at a time?
Will there be a happy ending?
posted by asok at 10:04 AM on June 5, 2004


I wonder if the Hollywood version will keep the destruction of the earth in the story?

Yes, but with the minor change that it was destroyed by terrorists...
posted by rushmc at 2:59 PM on June 9, 2004


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