With The Forever War that much closer to the big screen, maybe it's time for Hollywood to take a closer look at Joe Haldeman's other works as well. Haldeman is already talking about trying to have more creative input into movie versions of his other books, if the Ridley Scott film is a hit. So which of his works should get the Hollywood treatment, and which are best left alone?Haldeman has already blogged about one possibility for Forever War's star. He wonders "if Scott would want to use his buddy Russell Crowe. At 44, he's a bit old for the part as written, though that's why they call it 'acting.'" And he already has a pretty good idea about what might constitute a sequel to the new movie:
I suspect that if the movie is made and is successful, they'll use the rest of the book in a sequel, which will be called Forever Peace. (They've optioned the title to that book, but not the story, so the intent is pretty clear.) I won't complain. It's an honor just to be nominated, as the actor said on the way to the bank. I'm really hoping that someone with clout will pick up the phone and say, "Dolores, see if this guy Haldeman wrote some other book we might pick up cheap." I've got a couple of dozen of them.
He sure does, and he's not going to turn down the color green in these times:
(A couple of years ago I asked my Hollywood agent whether he could put together a package deal: All of Haldeman's books except TFW for $X million, X being a number big enough to support me and Gay for the rest of our lives. He said no.)
We compare Haldeman's blog notes with our own takes on his adaptable oeuvre:
Tool Of The Trade. Haldeman's Take: "The most conventionally cinematic is Tool of the Trade," he opines, "which even has a kind of a car chase." We Say: Tough to find and never recognized on the level with his hard-SF work, Tool of the Trade makes the Jason Bourne series look like Rachel Getting Married. If Haldeman submitted the book to publishing houses today it would be a smash thriller. The problem you have in adapting old spy novels is outdated technology, but there's no such problem with near future espionage tales. Haldeman's characters are rarely all-powerful — he carefully considers the most entertaining reasons and situations in which a person would control another's mind, and outdoes your expectations for what can be done with a familiar concept.
The Hemingway Hoax Haldeman's Take: "I've always thought The Hemingway Hoax would be a good low-budget film, made-for-teevee," says the author. We Say: Haldeman is hit or miss in the short form, as he openly acknowledging devoting less time to less lucrative projects. If the idea he's preoccupied with is worthy, the story usually works, and boy does it work here. Easily his most famous shorter work at about the size of a novella, The Hemingway Hoax ranks with Jack Finney and H.G. Wells for best use of time travel, and an affinity for similar subject matter would result in 2007's return to form after a few mediocre novels in The Accidental Time Machine. Truly a must-read if you've never gotten to it.
All My Sins Remembered Haldeman's Take: Joe recognizes the problem inherent in this three part novel's composition: 1977's All My Sins Remembered is cinematic but has the drawback that the male lead keeps dramatically changing his appearance. Maybe Eddie Murphy could do it." We Say: Before he tries to cast Richard Pryor, it's important to understand just how awesome All My Sins Remembered is. The man character is perfect for Sacha Baron Cohen: Otto McGavin is a Prime Operator who can assume any disguise — kind of like the prototye for Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs character from Altered Carbon. In three novella-length assignments, McGavin variously takes on the disguise of an overweight alien sociologist, a swarthy feudal duellist, and a questionably intentioned Man of God. Each of these concepts could easily be a feature, and feudal society of the middle part would make perfect material for a series.
"Seasons" Haldeman's Take: His 1985 epistolatory novella set in the same universe as All My Sins Remembered is called "Seasons." He doesn't mention it in the post, but he chose it to lead off his remarkable short story collection/light autobiography Dealing in Futures. We Say: The concept revolves around a series of diary entries of an anthropological expedition to a sexless group of aliens that completely changes personality during seasonal depression, it's an action-packed merciless narrative with a harrowing last act. And since it's a longshot that this ever gets filmed, my plan is to trick Haldeman into selling me the rights through light gunplay and begging.
Mindbridge Haldeman's Take: Joe can't let it rest without putting in a good word for the rare novel from his output in the 1970s that didn't age well, Mindbridge. "Mindbridge would be good," he says, but "it's under a kind of option, stalled." We Say: One of the early books that burnished his reputation, Mindbridge hasn't aged as well as Haldeman's other universes. The plot now reads like one of the filler episodes of Babylon 5, and the approach to telepathy in this 1976 Nebula-winning novel comes across as a little hokier than we'd expect in a similar story today. At the time it made its author $100,000, and a stern word from critic Leonard Michaels not to waste his "talents on this commercial crap."
The Worlds trilogy Haldeman's Take: In that particular blog post, Joe doesn't mention his Worlds trilogy, but he's previously acknowledged that it is a work dear to his heart. We Say: A strong heroine and a ravaged Planet Earth are the highlights of the trilogy, and although the third book Worlds Enough and Time released in 1992, kinda goes to sleep on you, it's a worthy ride. If the Ridley Scott Forever War does well, look for TV to give this series a hard look. It's the perfect eight-hour miniseries and it could capture the curiosity of the Twilight crowd by presenting an accessible heroine in an apocalyptic American setting. At the very least put it in the mail to Angelina Jolie.
Forever Peace Haldeman's Take: He doesn't even pay lip service to the idea of adapting his spiritual but not actual sequel to The Forever War, Forever Peace. We Say: That reluctance is more a reflection of the steep hill any screenwriter would face into making this story about the violence of humanity and its continuing evolution a film. The story is both extremely internalized and outwardly action-packed, making it one of the best of Haldeman's novels, but the least likely to ever hit Blu-Ray. The Forever War finally got a true sequel in 1999's Forever Free, but the movie version is unlikely to take it on either because it's so different from the original in plot and setting. Whatever happens with Haldeman's other works, we encourage Ridley Scott not to toss away the details of The Forever War too lightly. Although he pretends to be at peace with minimal involvement in the production, Joe will fume away on his blog if he doesn't like what he hears — the book is naturally close to his heart. Joe Haldeman's lecture at MIT this year [The Craft of Science Fiction]