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One of the seemingly eternal residents of Development Hell has been William Gibson‘s novel Neuromancer. While the novel has influenced more films than any of us could count, the various adaptations that producers have tried to mount over the years have all stalled out, most in the early stages. That might be for the best, given the fact that movies based on certain speculative authors (Gibson, Philip K. Dick) so often seem to miss the point.

For the last couple years, Torque director Joseph Kahn (this week’s /Filmcast guest) was working on a version that was said to star Hayden Christensen. That was announced in early 2008 and we haven’t heard much more than glimmers about it since. Now the deal is off (or, now we know the deal is off) and there’s a new director on board: Vincenzo Natali, whose film Splice is about to go into wide release via Warner Bros.

THR buried the Neuromancer news in a piece about Jason Priestly directing an indie film (yeah, seriously) but offers little significant detail beyond the fact that the deal was announced by production company Fire Development, Inc. Natali will write the script as well as direct.

This is a weird development, however, as when Kahn was on the /Filmcast just this past Monday he talked extensively about Neuromancer: his attraction to the story, the challenge of cracking the script, and what he had in mind for the movie. The gist was that he was still on the film, and still quite committed to it. Now, not even a week later, there’s a new director. What happened? We’ll try to find out, and when this week’s episode of the /Filmcast After Dark is released, you can hear Kahn talk about Neuromancer.

Years ago, Gibson said that once-attached director Chris Cunningham (Aphex Twin’s ‘Come to Daddy’ and ‘Windowlicker’ videos) was the only man to bring Neuromancer to the screen. But Natali is a damn good choice as well, especially given what I’m hearing about Splice. Now we need to know if the previous casting remains set, or if he’ll tap new actors. Fortunately, we’ll be talking to Natali next week, so expect an update soon. And what does this mean for some of the other films he has talked about wanting to make, such as an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, and Swamp Thing? We’ll try to find out about those, too.

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