Oscar award winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who worked with Danny Boyle on 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire, gave us an update on their next collaboration: translating Toby Barlow's lycanthrope book Sharp Teeth into film! Find out which Hollywood dogs might make the casting cut! Plus more news on his current project: adapting the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire.
While promoting his latest work Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at a roundtable, we got a little update on Boyle and Beaufoy's latest supernatural project Sharp Teeth!
Are you able to enjoy a book, when you're reading a book? Or do you see a screenplay straightaway?
Simon Beaufoy: It's quite difficult to read a book now, I took to reading poetry (because I thought that will be alright. And it's not. I just started adapting an epic poem. So that didn't work, called Sharp Teeth it's a really fantastic novel length poem. It's gangland LA. Except the gangs happen to also shapeshift into dogs. It's all about the pack dynamics — it's very mad, but really fabulous. So poetry wasn't even safe from the adaptation process.
Who are you adapting that for?
Don't know yet, I've been talking with Danny [Boyle] about it. But I've gotta get the script right first.
Danny Boyle werewovles, I'm in!
Well I know, they're kind of dogs, more than werewolves.
Will it be animated?
Yeah probably not, that would be too easy. We have to make life much more difficult for ourselves and use real dogs. That would be the best, because that would be truly terrifying. I think animation would allow too much distance from it.
You can take the dog from Beginners and Uggie from The Artist?
They're very good actors. But they're just a little bit cute. These dogs eat people. So I'm not sure if the little dog from The Artist would eat somebody. It could do it in a cute way, I suppose, that would be nice.
How do you think you've changed as a writer in terms of screenwriting?
I'm sort of clearer about the journeys films need to take... Experience really [does that]. I sometimes would be in love with something just because it was an amazing novel. Twelve years of adapting means I can sort of see ahead whether it can make a really good film or not. I quite like choosing particular sorts of novels that appear as if they won't. I would be terrified by trying to adapt a Dickens or a Jane Austen, which obviously would make a great film and so many are great novels. But I like trying to adapt the strange and quirky ones. There's more free range as a writer and you can bring more of yourself in there.
How are you applying all of that to the adaptation of the second Hunger Games book , Catching Fire?
Oooh... that's more difficult, because one has to be very loyal to a fan base that is rigorous beyond anything I've ever come across. And yet, you still have to do the kind of brutal process of turning it into a film. Just transposing the book wholesale onto the screen, isn't doing nobody any favors I don't think. I always think faithful adapatations are a real mistake. That's not reinventing what's wonderful about the book onto the screen. That's just a slightly scared way going, "We'll keep it the same and it will be fine!" And it actually won't because it's the brother or the sister of a book, it's not its twin, it's different.
So what did you have to cut?
Oh I don't know yet, and anyway I couldn't possibly tell you.
Here's the official synopsis for Sharp Teeth:
An ancient race of lycanthropes survives in modern LA and its numbers are growing as packs convert the city's downtrodden into their fold. Stuck in the middle are a local dogcatcher and the woman he loves, whose secret past haunts her as she fights a bloody one-woman battle to save their relationship. Meanwhile, dog packs fight and scheme all around the them, hiding out in old warehouses, city kennel cages, or the plush comfort of suburban homes. Paying no heed to the moon, these packs change from human to wolf at will, squaring off against one another as they seek dominance at any cost. "Sharp Teeth" is a novel-in-verse that blends epic themes with dark humour, dogs playing cards, crystal meth labs, and acts of heartache and betrayal in Southern California.
We really hope Beaufoy keeps plugging away, we miss Danny Boyle's beautiful genre eye! It's been too long!