Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Brendon Connelly
Overlapping slightly with everything from A Life Less Ordinary and Pushing Daisies to Stranger than Fiction and The Truman Show, Demetri Martin‘s screenplay Will made a few waves when it was recognized by the 2007 Black List. For a while it was set up at Dreamworks, whose interest eventually lapsed and it then set up home at Paramount.
Today, news comes that Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis have signed on to star in the film as respectively Will, the eponymous human, and Aimsley, his ‘Life Writer’ from ‘The Beyond’, as the screenplay has it, a supernatural scriptwriter who has been charged with controlling Will’s destiny down to the most minute detail. Attached to direct are Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the sometime music video and commercial directing duo who made one mother of a motion picture debut with Little Miss Sunshine.
I’ve read the Black Listed draft of Will. Details after the break, including the kind of minor spoilers that would show up in a typical trailer.
The opening section of the screenplay introduces us to the titular Will and his life, including his girlfriend, co-workers, regulation issue movie-friend and, curiously, an opposite number, a man named Paul who is living a very, very similar life. At the same time, a voice over by the quasi-angelic Aimsley sets out the rules of this world. The important bit is that every human’s life is written for them, every key decision predetermined with the ‘inbetweens’ left blank for them to fill in with a predictably that is due, the script says, to social conformity.
Aimsley’s ambition is to script the life of somebody special, not just one of the 95% of humans that are based on off-the-peg templates. To do this, he has to write a large number of the boring ones first. As a result he rushes, makes a mistake and leaves Will’s life script unfinished. This means that from the age of 35, Will is suddenly in charge of his own fate.
This is the turning point in the film, and it comes some thirty or so pages in which is rather late, I feel. Then, the first wave of repercussions are quite predictable – Will quits his job, plays like a child and so on – but pretty soon, there are more pronounced effects to ‘free Will’, and they spread unexpected change around the world.
Sadly, I don’t think the internal mythology really makes sense and a lot of the symbolism is laid on rather too thick, but the intent of all these metaphors is clear and admirable. With streamlining and focus on the intended meanings, and if Dayton and Faris can avoid letting the film get bogged down in a tangled weave of fantastical conceits and cluttered, if funny, details and side-gags, then we’ve got a real winner on our hands. If not, then we’ve got something as messy and half-baked as The Invention of Lying, even though Faris and Dayton should ensure that Will is executed with more panache and skill.
Another similarly themed movie is currently in the works over here in the UK. Good Luck Anthony Belcher was the top selection on the inaugral Brit List, and I gave more details at the time. Will the two movies end up going head to head? How will they compare? I can’t wait to see the finished films and find out for sure, but my estimation so far is that the first draft Belcher script is certainly a bit tidier, but I still enjoyed reading Will a whole lot more.