Posted on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Russ Fischer
No one seems to be able to get a movie based on a Jonathan Lethem novel off the ground. The latest attempt may come from David Cronenberg, however, and he’s got a pretty damn good track record when it comes to getting difficult material from the page to screen. (Think Dead Ringers, Crash, and Naked Lunch.) Cronenberg is reportedly attached to direct an adaptation of Lethem’s third novel, 1997’s As She Climbed Across the Table. But he’s got a few other titles on his plate, too, so will this actually get made?
Pajiba reported this last week and we missed it, so thanks to The Playlist for noticing. Pajiba’s report says that screenwriter Steve Zaillian is producing; no word on a writer, though I’d certainly like to hear that Cronenberg would pen the script.
In typical Lethem fashion, the novel is rather complex. While it has no small suggestion of cinematic influence and potential, there’s also enough going on, and such a whirlwind of peculiar detail, that a film adaptation would be a tricky prospect. Viz:
Particle physics, false vacuum bubbles, an alternate universe–this is the stuff of Jonathan Lethem’s novel As She Climbed Across the Table. The tale echoes Alice in Wonderland in its mad tumble through a rearranged reality. Narrator Phillip Engstrand is a university professor who has made a career out of studying academic environments. Engstrand is in love with Alice Coombs, a particle physicist engaged in a bold attempt to replicate the origins of the universe. The result of the experiment is Lack, a very selective black hole that sucks some things into its void–a cat, a pair of socks, a strawberry–and rejects others, namely, a love-struck Alice. As Alice’s unrequited obsession with Lack grows, Phillip becomes so desperate to save his beloved from this empty rival that he risks a journey down the metaphysical rabbit hole.
If accurate, this report puts As She Climbed Across the Table into the small pile of possible projects on the director’s desk. He’s filming A Dangerous Method right now, based on Christopher Hampton‘s play The Talking Cure. He may shoot an adaptation of Don DeLillo‘s novel Cosmopolis with Colin Farrell and Marion Cotillard. And there’s been talk of an Eastern Promises sequel with Viggo Mortensen returning.
And what of other Lethem adaptations?
The producers behind Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans have optioned his debut novel Gun, With Occasional Music, but we’ve heard nothing on that front in a few months.
Edward Norton is still working on his adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn, and told The AV Club not long ago that he’s only halfway through the script, that further progress is a matter of having time to work on it and find a directorial relationship to the story. (Still love to see this happen, but at this point I’ll be pretty surprised if it does.)
Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) was attached to Fortress of Solitude, but it’s been a long time since we got any news there.