Neil LaBute Adapting Novel The Burnt Orange Heresy

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Neil LaBute will re-team with his Death at a Funeral producer William Horberg to direct an adaptation of Charles Willeford‘s art world crime novel The Burnt Orange Heresy, according to Variety. This isn’t the first time Willeford’s work has made it to the screen; he scripted Cockfighter (Monte Hellman! Warren Oates!) from his own novel, and Horberg previously produced an adaptation of Willeford’s Miami Blues, starring a young Alec Baldwin.

The Burnt Orange Heresy, published in 1971, was Willeford’s first hardcover original after a string of pulp paperbacks. Not that the book isn’t lurid; “crossing the art world with the underworld!” is from one description. Story follows a womanizing art critic, Jacques Figueras, who advances his art career with shady dealings: blackmail, burglary, assassination. Figueras gets into trouble when he begins to work for an art collector who has no boundaries when it comes to how his pieces are collected.Variety notes the tale, “set in Palm Beach, centers on a corrupt art critic’s attempts to finagle an interview with a legendary but reclusive French painter.”

Willeford was a painter in addition to being a writer, and this novel is, in part, his own critique of modern art as it stood in 1971. The ‘reclusive French painter’ is a famous Surrealist that is essentially hiding out in Florida, which is the inroad for poking at figures in the art world. There’s fertile ground there for LaBute to update, certainly. (The novel seems to be sadly out of print, but there are some used copies on Amazon. Willeford is a great noir writer and I’d recommend checking him out.)

I’ve always enjoyed LaBute’s films, but he’s had a couple of clunkers in a row. Technically clunkers, at least, as both The Wicker Man and Lakeview Terrace are pretty damned entertaining, even if they’re not always entertaining in the ways intented. There’s no cast or studio set yet for this picture, but I’m always ready to see another film dive into Willeford’s unsettling sun-drenched crime stories.

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