House of Stairs by William Sleator is an intense, dark story, and it would make a fantastic movie. So it's fantastic news that a House of Stairs movie is in the pipeline, with a goal of starting production in September or October. We talked to a producer and got the inside scoop on the film.
The House of Stairs movie is being produced by Scott Hyman ((500) Days of Summer), with a script by Doug Taylor (Splice). We talked to Hyman, and here's what he told us about the project:
How long have you been working on a House of Stairs movie?
We've had the film rights to the book for just over 3 years, during which time we've been developing the story and have progressed from treatment to a current draft of the script that we think is ready to shoot.
Did you talk to William Sleator when he was alive? Did he approve of this idea?
Yes, one of the exciting things about getting involved with this project was having the opportunity to speak with William Sleator. I think it would be fair to say we had a lot of very productive conversations with him before he passed away and he was friendly and supportive of our turning his story into a feature film.
How far along are you in the casting process? Are there directors that you're talking to about this?
We've already brought on the fabulously talented Jacob Tierney as our director. He's done some incredible films in various genres, ranging from the comedy "The Trotsky" to the dark Hitchcockian "Good Neighbors".
We are still in the early stages of compiling casting lists of potential actors for each role. We are attempting to be true to the material and the age of the characters, such that we want to try and stay as close to 16 year olds as we can. As Jacob was a child actor himself, he will be able to get the best performances possible out of our eventual up and coming stars.
This novel is really, really terrifying and messed up — how much will you have to tone it down to make it into a movie? Can you keep the sadism and the weird "Milgram experiment" thing, without losing today's YA audiences?
We feel we have remained extremely faithful to the book in terms of the "terrifying" factor. At every turn with our amazing screenwriter we have chosen to go against our commercial instincts and tell the story the right way. If you've seen "Splice" you know that Doug Taylor is not afraid to push the envelope. He's produced a script that works at multiple levels. If you just want to sit back and relax and enjoy the action, you will enjoy it. If you are more interested in the deeper meaning of everything and why its happening, it satisfies on that level as well. We feel there's a sophisticated audience out there that's eager for an edgier piece where the violence isn't glossed over or dumbed down.
People coming to this from Hunger Games or Divergent will expect a heroic fight against oppression — how do you get those audiences to invest in kind of a depressing storyline?
In many ways, we are positioning ourselves as the anti-Hunger Games. As a smaller indie film, there is no way we can compete with those $100 million films. So, while we are playing in the same genre as those films, we are telling a very different story and targeting a slightly different audience.
Since we only just had The Giver, which was another movie adapting a really dark, weird YA book, only to dumb down the book's point and insert a pointless romance, what makes you think you guys can avoid the same pitfalls?
We are all huge fans of William Sleator's book, and as it will be the first feature film based on any of his works, we are very sensitive to this issue. I can guarantee that no romantic sub-plot has been or will be added. The characters' actions are true to those that Sleator set up in the book.