Guy Pearce, Ben Foster, and Kelly MacDonald Attached to Steve Buscemi’s Adaptation of William S. Burroughs Novel ‘Queer’
Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by Russ Fischer
Being a big fan of William S. Burroughs, especially of his early novels before rampant experimentation took over, I thought one of the best news stories of 2010 was the fact that The Messenger and Rampart writer/director Oren Moverman had scripted an adaptation of Burroughs’ early novel Queer and that Steve Buscemi would produce and direct.
Readings of that script have taken place here and there, but we’ve heard almost nothing about Queer since Moverman started working in earnest on Rampart. With that film finished, earning serious early praise and being set for an Oscar qualifying run late this year and full release in early 2012, news on Queer is starting to surface once more.
In short, the Moverman script is still in use, and Buscemi is still directing. Even better, a recent post-Rampart screening Q&A with Moverman revealed that Guy Pearce, Ben Foster and Kelly MacDonald are all set for roles in the movie.
Let’s refresh on the book first. Queer is Burroughs’ second proper novel as a solo author. It follows Junkie and was written in the early ’50s, but not published until the mid-’80s. If you’ve seen David Cronenberg’s film version of Naked Lunch you’ll be familiar with some aspects of Queer, as Cronenberg drew from the novels Junkie, Queer and Naked Lunch when scripting the film.
Here’s a synopsis:
[Burroughs] reveals that the book had its genesis in a terrible event: his accidental shooting to death of his wife, Joan, a tragedy that released the black wellsprings of his talent. The narrative recounts the hallucinatory life of William Lee, an American in Mexico City in the 1940s and his journey to Ecuador with his reluctant lover, Eugene Allerton, in search of the drug Yage. Lee is Burroughs after the killing, weighed down by guilt, drugs, lust and despair; seeking oblivion. Admirers will find an early exposition of Burroughs’ later themes here, as well as a strain of gallows humor. The work is almost cinematic as it unfolds; the author is not yet experimenting with the meaninglessness of language, and, indeed it is thin in both thought and expression.
Vulture records that at the Q&A Moverman said of the book,
…it was really the story of William S. Burroughs kind of discovering himself as a writer by being obsessed with this boy. And there’s very little in it about the wife, but what’s happening at the same time is it’s the time where [Burroughs] killed his wife, you know, during the whole famous William Tell routine. So that’s sort of the incident that we started working with and built this whole movie around.
As you might recall, that’s also the incident that provides some early character motivation in Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, and which closes the movie as well. I’d expect Buscemi’s movie to be very different from that, however — far more grounded in reality, even if it does delve into the particularly hallucinogenic perception that is so characteristic of Burroughs.
Moverman also says that financing isn’t set yet, and that Buscemi’s Boardwalk Empire schedule is something to work around,
It’s still in the early stages of the actual making because Steve, as you know, is a little busy with his show he’s doing on HBO. But once he has his hiatus next time around, after the next season, we’re going to go shoot this movie. God willing.