to be read backwards

Fargo and Legion creator Noah Hawley is headed back to the big screen with To Be Read Backwards. Based on a short story by Matthew BakerTo Be Read Backwards sounds like a cross between Memento and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, telling the story of a man moving backwards in time from his death. Hawley will make his feature directorial debut with the upcoming Natalie Portman NASA drama Pale Blue Dot.

Deadline is reporting that Fox has snapped up the rights to Matthew Baker’s short story To Be Read Backwards, with the intent of developing it as a project for Noah Hawley to direct. Here’s the logline on this somewhat strange story:

To Be read Backwards is a mind bending take on man who begins his life at his death and learns about himself as he, and the world, unravel in reverse, ultimately revealing humanity and mystery.

Baker’s work is turning into a hot commodity in Hollywood. Netflix bought the rights to his story Life Sentence, while Amazon landed the rights to Transition, another Baker short story. His short story The Appearance was sold to Makeready.

To Be Read Backwards‘ high-concept plot will no doubt prove fruitful for Hawley, who seems to revel in making strange, surreal, overly stylish pieces of entertainment. While Hawley has primarily operated in TV, he has a feature directorial debut coming up – Pale Blue Dot, starring Natalie Portman. He was also supposed to direct the sci-fi film Man Alive, but now will only produce, with Hiro Murai directing.

A film unfolding backwards isn’t exactly new – Christopher Nolan’s Memento is the most prominent example. Irreversible is another film that moves back in time, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind begins at the ending, before doubling back and filling in the gaps. The unique angle here seems to involve the main character starting at his death, and learning more about himself as he moves backwards. That recalls The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but is different enough to stand on its own.

While Hawley will produce and likely direct To Be Read Backwards, Fox is going to find someone else to handle the script. That’s probably for the best. While Hawley is a good ideas man, more often than not, I find his TV scripts running out of steam very quickly. More often than not, Fargo and Legion will set up an intriguing concept, and then fail to deliver on it. Letting someone else handle the To Be Read Backwards script will helpfully side-step this issue.

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