INT: John Hodge

After arriving on set just outside of Bucharest,
Romania we were ushered through quickly and brought to a tent filled with tables
and chairs. Our first interview of the day would be John Hodge, the man behind
the screenplay for TRAINSPOTTING. That’s right, the guy who wrote one of
the most powerful drama’s of the 90’s, a film filled with drug abuse and death,
has taken it upon himself to adapt a children’s book.
My first reaction was
‘What the f**k?’ My second reaction was ‘No, seriously. What the f**k?!!’ How does
someone write about a baby dying in a crib while her mom ties off, and than take
up a story about a young boy with magic powers? I must admit that it seemed like
a strange choice to me, but after talking with John it was quite apparent he was
the right man for the job. Read on as he discusses changes to the book, casting
influences and a stop-animation Ewan McGregor.


After looking at today’s call sheet it’s evident that there are some things
on here that are not in Susan Cooper’s book; example being a Viking village. Is
this one of the things that you’ve added screenplay to help ‘spice’ it up a
little bit?

Yes. When I looked through the book, I thought it was going to be tricky to
adapt because a lot of the book is almost sort of lyrical, sort of flights of
fancy that are taking place inside the young boy’s (Will Stanton) head. So as
with any adaptation, you’re looking for ways to dramatize what is more internal
in the novel. Obviously some novels are sort of more prosaic than others and you
can just pull it out off the page, but this one called for some sort of
re-thinking. And you mentioned the business of the Vikings. There is a
bit…there’s an illusion to Vikings in the novel and one of the signs, which I
don’t know if you know, he had to find these 6 signs in which is hidden the
power of the light. One of them, I think, is found on an old Viking boat, which
is excavated and than appears in the story. So it was kind of inspired by that
reference. But yes the sequence doesn’t appear in the book.

Can you walk us through the story?

In brief, for those of you who are not familiar with the book. I haven’t read
the script for a while, so I’ve been thinking about this on the way out here
during the long journey. Essentially it’s the story of a 13-year old boy, Will
Stanton, who finds himself caught up in the eternal struggle between good and
evil. In this story, between what are called the forces of Light and the Dark.
Specifically, he discovers that he’s not just a normal 13-year old boy, that he
is in fact someone called ‘The Seeker’. And he has special insights and special
powers, but most specifically he has a specific task, which is to find these 6
little signs in which is hidden the dormant part of the Light.

And at this point
in history with evil ascending, that’s to say the ‘the Dark is Rising’ as the
title suggests. He has to find these 6 signs which are hidden, restore the power
of the light and than defeat the dark. He has to do this, and this is what I
thought was interesting about the story, he has to do this at the same time as
being a 13-year old boy and dealing with the issues that a 13-year old boy has
to deal with. So, for example, he’s the second youngest in a large family. He
has older brothers who are picking on him and kind of trampling on him and
ignoring him because he’s at the lower end of the family. Also his parents don’t
seem to take much notice of him. So these are the kind of issues he’s kind of
dealing with at the same time as saving the human race. That’s the story.

You’ve made him 13 instead of 11. Is there some romance in the movie that isn’t
in the book?

There isn’t romance. He’s a 13-year old boy, there’s a girl he’s got a crush on
from a distance, and she does have a part to play in the story but we don’t
explore the relationship. She does have a very important part to play in the
story. Yah he’s 13 rather than 11, and that was something I felt and the
producers agreed that as a protagonist, basically he’s more plausibly capable
given that extra couple of years. And perhaps it’s also a time of greater
turmoil in the life of a young person. You know at 11, you’re still almost a
child. There’s more of a transition at that age of 13, which to me made him more
interesting at that age.

Is the film set in a contemporary time period?

Yes. Absolutely, yah.

But there’s time travel involved?

There is some time travel involved. Yeah. The boy is in the here and now. As it
happens, it’s an American family but they’ve relocated to England. So he’s in
high school.

Why make the characters American?

Good point. There are obvious reasons, but actually when I was reading the book,
and had my reservations about entering into the screenplay, one of the things I
thought was that he should be culturally alien to the setting. This is because
one of the questions I had is ‘Why is this happening to him now’? You always
have that feeling that if someone’s an outsider than it kind of feels more
appropriate that they should be sort of the person to whom these strange things
are happening.

Can you talk about how you came on to the project? When you think of a John
Hodge type movie, you don’t think exactly kids. How were you brought on to the

I was sent it about ten years ago by a different producer. looked at it then but
I was busy doing other things and I thought it wasn’t really for me. Than this
time around, as well, when it was sent to me, I started reading and I didn’t
really think it was for me. But when I got talking to the producers and we
started talking about making the boy a little bit older and having that possibly
making him American or making him an outsider, and being fairly free with the
adaptation, that’s when I got into it.

Were there any restrictions to adapting it?

I don’t think so, no.

Have you met Susan Cooper?

No I haven’t met Susan Cooper. I know that Marc Platt (producer) had a lot of
dealings with her and as far as I understand it, she said do what you need to
do. She’s done some screen adaptation’s herself. Also this has been around for a
long time, and I know there have been a lot of people who have been going to try
and make it and then have fallen short. So perhaps she was quite keen to finally
get it done, whatever it took. Obviously you’re adapting a novel; you want to
respect the writer and all that. At the same time, perhaps it’s different with
‘Harry Potter’ or something where it seems like every child has read it but,
when you’re looking at a book that was written quite a long time ago that quite
a lot of people have not read, and then your duty is to the film not to the

In adapting a book like this for the film, you clearly need to have clear action
or action beats. Can you talk about what you’ve done that you’ve added to the
film that was not in the book to make it more of a movie?

Right. I think perhaps the most obvious addition is a sequence which doesn’t
take place in the book. In it Will goes to do some Christmas shopping a couple
of days before Christmas. He lives in a small village, he’s going to get the bus
to go into town to go to the mall. As he’s waiting for the bus, there’s a just
like gathering of birds, rooks, gathering in the trees. And rooks play a kind of
recurring part in the story. They’re the kind of foot soldiers of the Dark as it
were. And these rooks are gathering. It’s a bit like sort of THE BIRDS or
something like that. And there’s a bit of tension, but they don’t attack. The
bus arrives, he gets on, he goes. Than he’s in the mall, he’s doing some
shopping; he buys a gift for his sister.

Than he’s approached by two security
guards and the security guards suggest to him that they think he’s taken
something from a shop without paying for it. They ask him to come to their
office and their office is kind of back stage of the mall, if you like, behind
all the breeze block. They take him in and they start questioning him and they
get very aggressive and it’s quite intense. Than as the interview is
progressing, they’re demanding that he gives them ‘the Sign’. At this stage of
the story, Will doesn’t even know what the signs are, so he’s really perplexed
under pressure. Than basically the men, they change into rooks. (Note:
Later on in the day director David Cunningham shows us part of this scene where
the men turn into rooks, which are basically American crows or ravens. I must
admit that the transition is absolutely amazing. Cunningham has used a perfect
blend of CGI and practical special effects to create a truly magnificent scene

Than he runs and he breaks out of this office and they start chasing him
along a corridor, so he’s being chased by these men who change into, I haven’t
actually seen this done on screen all I know is how it is in the script, they
become like scarecrows. They’re men made of rooks and they break up into their
constituent rooks and the birds pursue him aggressively along. So that’s an
addition that was in the script as a moment of action and tension. There’s
another moment I can think of. In the book, one of the signs is found in a
church and in the novel there’s an atmosphere of threat and then he sees light
shining out from the wall and he finds the sign. That’s fine, but that’s not
quite enough action for this kind of film. So we basically increased the scale
of the battle of it. They have to battle against a whole lot of snakes and than
Will finds himself dropping down into a crypt, where he has to open a tomb. You
get the idea.

When you’re adapting a piece like this, because you’ve done adaptations
before, I should think one of the important tasks that you have at the beginning
is to sort of tear the whole thing apart and say ‘What do I have to keep as far
as why we’re adapting this book. What do I have to add to it and what do I have
to change’. What were some of the big decisions you had to make early on?
Because you made an illusion before about maybe having a few reservations about
adapting this, just curious to what was your thought process was when you
started putting this together as a screenplay.

For me the key to what you’re saying there is what do we have to keep within the
motive for doing this piece of work. Because obviously there’s lot of things you
could keep or chuck out, but you really ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this, what
do I like about this’. For me it was that thing about here’s a boy in the real
world, dealing with being in a family or fancying a girl or whatever it is, and
at the same time he’s kind of dragged into having to save the world. For me that
was different from say ‘Harry Potter’, which is great, but there’s a boy who you
never really have any sense of his real life or his real family.

I mean the
family is sort of, almost comic. So what I wanted most to retain was his family
life. Than there’s the parameter of the story of the 6 signs of the Light that
will defeat the Dark. That’s the framework around which you kind of rebuild the
story. The signs were specifically itemized within the book as being made of
different elements, it felt reasonable to stick to that. They’re made of stone,
iron, wood, bronze, fire and water, and you know those were Susan Cooper’s
choices and they’re all sort of rational within the book. So once you start
messing with that, you mess with that too much, you could say why bother.

Can you talk about beefing up the family element of this story. In the book
it’s not that prominent is it?

No, it’s there in the book. I would say in the book it’s more of a happy family.
I think in sort of following the adage that conflict is drama, I just introduced
a bit more tension. For example, the opening of the film, Will arrives home with
his twin older brothers who’ve been kind of persecuting him on the bus and then
as he arrives home there’s another brother who has been away at college and has
arrived back. He’s the kind of bohemian of the family and there’s that tension
there. Than we discover that the returning bohemian has taken Will’s room and he
says, well, I’ve got your room. There’s just nothing Will can do about this. He
goes to try and share with his other brothers and it’s like ‘King Lear’ or
something. Every door he goes to, he gets turn away from. He’s offered less and
less every time. So I put in stuff like that just to give it a personal note.

What did producers tell you as far as, I mean it’s one book out of a series,
what did they tell you about either keeping it open ended? Obviously this would
be a stand alone movie, but did they say they wanted it open ended so they can
do another movie?

Yes. But that’s there in the book as well. That almost went without saying in a

Did they have to have an ending in case they just did one movie and they
wanted to have an ending to it? Or did they do it open ended?

It was always going to be a happy ending, so in that sense it could stand alone.
Say, ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’, that feels open ended. It was never going to be like
that because the book isn’t. With ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’, they feel like one piece,
whereas the books feel more stand alone as well.

Are there other elements from the books that you used. With regards to back
story or stuff like that?

I haven’t dipped into the other books at all.

So you just focused on the ‘Dark Is Rising?’

Just ‘Dark Is Rising’, yeah.

The challenge of a film like this after ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the
Rings’ and ‘Eragon’ and every other movie that’s come out in the last three
years is to make it fresh or different. How do you do that?

Well, as I say, I think the thing that’s different is the fact that it’s, you
know they’re all very good, the thing that’s different about this one is the
fact that we open in the here and now with a real boy, in high school, on his
way home on the bus. That’s not literally where the story ends, but it ends with
the boy in the real world and his family as well. So I hope that’s
distinguishing. And he’s an American as well.

Setting it in the real world, ‘The Dark is Rising’, does that elude to any
happenings that are going on now?

Well, if you want, but I mean it was written in 1970 so maybe there was an oil
shortage threatening in the early ’70’s as well. So nothing’s changed there. If
you’d been making it in the ’70’s, you’d have to come from unpopular war. No, I
mean, you could reel all that into it, but I think that would be laying too much
on the film. I mean it’s aimed at its audience, and I hope that there’s
something in it for other people.

A story like this is also kind of a metaphor of coming of age and finding
your own power as an adolescent growing up. Is there something else that you see
in this as a metaphor? Or is it just what it is?

I think it would be closer to say it’s just what it is. I mean I hope, and this
may depend on the casting and the film, it’s one of these things I hope it’s
there about a boy finding his place. But without kind of having it stamped on
the subtitles.

How have you handled the time travel aspect?

Time travel is…

You haven’t got a blue box or anything like that?

What’s a blue box?

Sorry. It’s Christopher Eccleston.

Sorry. Yeah, absolutely. I sort of thought it shouldn’t be. You mention the
Viking episode, that’s the only one where you kind of feel like you’re traveling
to. It’s not to be like, what was that show with Dean Stockwell?

‘Quantum Leap’?

Yeah. I didn’t want it to be like, now we’re in Victorian times, here we go to
the Stone Age, that’s not what the stories about. I mean, for example, in
finding one of the signs, he’s in the village and there’s a pub and he finds
himself going back and forth between the current day pub with the jukebox and so
forth and the ancient tavern that stood on the same side and the same building
and all that. When you’re in the old tavern, and I say this without having seen
the film yet, but it’s full of kind of Hogarthian, kind of 18th century peasants
knocking back the beer, pigs running around and that stuff I suppose. It’s not
like saying here’s King George or something like that. It’s more the flavor of
the time travel.

One of the problems I pointed out in this film is that the
worst place to show time travel is an old English village because the reason
people like them is they haven’t changed. So it wouldn’t have been a good idea
to hinge the film on time travel because, I mean they’re in the church, the
scene in the church, there is an element of time travel in there. The very
nature of the interior of 14th century English church is that in the 21st
century, it still looks like a 14th century church. So the time travel is a way
of leaving the people that are there in the present. For example, in the church,
they go into the past and the main sign that it’s the past is that the rest of
the congregations aren’t there anymore. His family is no longer there. So he’s
in the same place but different time. The Romans don’t turn up.

One of the interesting things about the book is that it’s sort of contrasting
pagan England of the past with the Christian England of the present. Is that
something you kept?

I think some of that sort of, the pre-Christian element or the Arthurian stuff
isn’t really in the script.

Is there a specific character that sort of hooked you?

I think the boy. I keep coming back to that but he starts thinking about, for
me, what it’s like at that age sort of thinking to yourself I’m growing up and
then feeling other people aren’t really necessarily with you on that. Maybe not
everyone can relate to that, but that’s what it was for me.

When you’re doing a film like this, how difficult is it to sort of establish
the rules of the universe? One of the things I found in the book is that there
are very sort of esoteric. And from a screen-writing perspective I should think
you have to make things very clear so that your character doesn’t suddenly pull
these abilities and powers out of nowhere, which doesn’t really work on screen
as well as it could in a book

Yeah, you’re right. I think in Susan Cooper’s book the powers are, as you say,
esoteric, a bit fluid and I think that perhaps it’s just that she was writing at
that time. I think nowadays, authors write with one eye on the film rights and
all that, they would have kind of a set up where the rules are explained. So
that was kind of devolved to the scriptwriter in 2006. So, yes, we have a little
bit of exposition about you can do this and you can do that, but I think it’s
sort of like the time travel, the film isn’t really all that much about his
powers, it’s more about his experiences. Wherever possible, I tried for him to
solve the problems he’s faced with using his own kind of normal human resources.
Of course, he does use his powers. But he uses his mortal powers rather than his
supernatural ones.

I think one of the things I was eluding to is the part right from the book,
he basically reads this book, which is like all the powers of the universe and…

Yes, yes.

And in a way that’s sort of an easy escape route for a writer because
suddenly low and behold I can do this because I read it on page 56. So you would
have to be more careful as a screenwriter in indulging yourself like that,
wouldn’t you?

Absolutely, yeah. The kind of scene where he learns about his powers comes
rather a bit earlier in the script and someone tells him what he can do. And
because Will is just 13, he doesn’t really want to be involved in this at this
time. He denies that he is this special person and part of his journey to
accepting that he is The Seeker is when he gets one of the powers that’s
described to him, they tell him at certain moments of tension, you will find
that you have greater strength. He gets home and his twin brothers are hassling
him, as we’ve seen earlier on, and he discovers that he has kind of much more
strength than he thought he had. So the discovery of the power is part of his
journey to accepting that he’s The Seeker rather than as you say reading a book
and, ‘Oh great I can fly’.

One of things about Will in the book is that he spent a lot of the book with
people telling him, ‘Than you’re going to go do this and this is going to
happen.’ Obviously that doesn’t work in the movies. How did you make him look
more proactive as a character?

In the book he is quite passive in that people often just end up giving him the
signs. So yeah, we made him 13 rather than 11. We felt it was reasonable to ask
him to do more. And yeah, you just tackle the problem head on. You just make him
do things. For example, I was talking about the scene in the church where he
goes into the tomb. He’s on his own in this crypt. He has to work out how to
open the crypt himself and there’s a small opening and he has to get into the
tomb himself beside the very old skeleton. He has to actually to be a bit brave.
He has to do things. The scene in the tavern, there’s a scene where his older
brother, the kind of bohemian one, has kind of become taken over by the force of
evil and he has to take on his brother physically. As I say, he has to take it
head on, say it right, going to have to do things rather than just be given

Talk about writing with and working with the director and the producer on the
script. Have you been involved with being on set to do rewrites and stuff like

This is the first time I’ve been here.

Did you work with them a little bit before production?

Oh yeah. I met David [Cunningham] a few times, not as much as I think we would
have liked, but it was difficult with me being in London, him being in America
and he was spending a lot of time here obviously. He was obviously working very
closely with designers and the location staff at that point.

Did they take your screenplay and work from there or did they have to work with
you a little bit?

I mean I think I did rewriting with the producers before David came in. I would
say David had some points about it, mainly he wanted us to put stuff back in
that had been in the first draft that we’d taken out. But yeah, that pretty much
worked for me. I did a little bit of rewriting while we were shooting just for
production reasons, just stuff that wasn’t feasible and all that.

How long did the script end up being when it was done? How many pages was it?

About 120 or so, I think.

I was curious if they were going to go for this two and a half hour type of

I hope not. No, no. My hesitancy is, it was A4 but when it gets to be American
ledger a little bit more, so about 120. Yeah, I hope it wouldn’t be two and a
half hours.

It wouldn’t be the first time they take a short book and make it really long.

I know. I was going to write a short script but I didn’t have time so I wrote a
really long one instead. (laughs) To paraphrase Mark Twain.

When your writing a script like this, I don’t know how you feel about this,
but when I read the book I thought one of the things that really stood out to me
was the idea of this teenage boy was basically now told that he’s one of the
most powerful beings in the universe and yet he can’t tell anybody.


And in a way it’s almost sort of a wish fulfillment for teenagers, isn’t it?
Is that sort of an aspect of the film that you wanted to tie up at all?

Yeah. We did. I liked the idea that there was a conflict between what he has to
do and what he can do. What he has to do is find these signs and save the world,
but kind of in a sense what he would rather do is find a way to sort of fit in
and be respected and accepted and maybe have the courage to talk to the girl
that he never has the courage to talk to. There is a scene about halfway through
where he goes to one of the mentors, I think he goes to the character played by
Ian McShane, Merriman, and he says, ‘Look, I’m fed up with this. Why is it me?’
And Merriman, I wanted this to be different to kind of the traditional mentor,
basically the mentor says, ‘Well, that’s tough. That’s the way it is.’

than being the kind who puts his arm around him and says, ‘Oh, you know, you’ll
understand the mystery of the universe.’ The guy just says that’s life. You got
to live with it. So Will does what any kind of self-respecting kind of teenager
would do, he goes off and he kind of lets loose. Obviously most kids would go up
to their room and break something, play their music loud, but he, having some
special powers, he goes out and I’m not sure quite what they’ve done here, but
he blows up a car and makes some trees explode and stuff like that. And as Miss
Greythorne says to Merriman, ‘Don’t worry, he’s just expressing himself.’ So we
kind of tried to put a little bit of that in.

Can I ask you about two of the important characters in this and how you
approached them, because The Rider, Christopher Eccleston, is sort of a villain
that doesn’t really get a huge amount to do in the book. He basically sort of
shows up, acts menacing and than is thwarted and comes back. And at the same
time you have the Merriman character, who in the book is basically the sort of
exposition machine. He basically shows up to provide all the information. And
dramatically I can’t help thinking that neither of those would work as such as
characters. So did you have to play around with them and try to change their
roles in the film?

Yeah, again it’s a bit like the boy. The comment was made that he’s slightly
passive in the book and I would agree with you about Merriman in the book, he’s
delivering some exposition. So again, it’s just tackling the problem head on and
acknowledging it and saying, that’s fine for a novel but here we are in the
screenplay and there has to be more in the way of visible physical threat, for
example, from The Rider. I mentioned the rooks and he uses the rooks as a kind
of weapon, if you can imagine that can be quite sort of scary on screen. He does
physically threaten the boy.

I was just trying to think of other moments. One of
the scenes towards the end when all the inhabitants of the village and Will’s
family, and Will himself, have all taken refuge in the central manor house and
that’s the final refuge and it’s being besieged. The Rider, the Christopher
Eccleston character, he arrives and he kind of personally delivers an attack of
ice and he makes it thaw so that it floods. Just giving him these kind of
proactive roles.

It’s interesting because you talk about the problems of some of these
characters and changing them over The Walker, on the other hand is a character
in the book but has always different motivations for the story. Can you talk
about approaching that character?

Yeah. The Walker is a character in the book who has been a normal human being
whose been used by these immortal people, these protagonists of light and dark.
He’s been used by them and he feels very embittered, and as a result he’s kind
of sold out to the forces of the dark. He was interesting to us because we felt
that his experience almost reflects that of Will Stanton a bit. And that Will is
someone who’s been dragged into this business and, to a certain extent, he’s
being used. Although he has the power, like I was saying, Merriman says to him,
‘You’re in this situation, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just tough.
You got to get on with it.’ The Walker is someone who has given up his soul in
order to serve the light. And he feels very bitter about this and, in the film,
he’s sort of stalking Will because he wants his soul back. And he can only have
that once Will has found the signs. We wanted him, as not a reflection of Will
but as a kind of example to Will of what can happen to you once you get into
this business.

You’ve also made him younger haven’t you? He’s played by Jonathan Jackson.
There’s another element to him that he’s not the older timeless character that
he was in the book.

In the script I didn’t write him as young; and I was quite surprised! I thought
it was really a good idea when they cast him as young because your initial
thought is he’s timeless. He’s been kind of walking the Earth and so forth so he
must be old. They went for the idea of having him frozen as he was when he lost
his soul and I thought that was casting I liked. And similarly, casting Chris
Eccleston as the baddie, I really liked that.

Because again when I was writing I
thought they’ll probably go for someone a bit more venerable, McKellen, not
necessarily him but I’m thinking of someone more of that generation but I
thought I liked the idea of Chris because he brings a bit of vigor to it. I’m
not suggestion that Sir Ian doesn’t bring vigor. Let’s not get in trouble here.
But you know what I mean. And also what he brings to it from the other recent
work Chris has done. I really liked, some of Ian McShane, I thought they would
go for someone a bit more, I don’t know, respectable in some sense. But I
thought what you get from what Ian brings to it from ‘Deadwood’ and all that, I
liked that.

Trainspotting. There’s always been talk of Danny (Boyle) and you adapting the
other book. Has that been something you guys have been talking about at all?

Yeah. Moving away from the PG market, porno, yeah. (laughs) I don’t see Danny
very often, but every time we do we talk about it. But I see Andrew McDonald
quite often and it’s kind of a cyclical conversation we have. We’d like to do it
and I’d be up for it immediately today, no problem. But it’s kind of dependent
on if Ewan (McGregor) and Danny (Boyle) want to do it.

You can’t wait until they’re in their 40’s, but you could work on the script
and get the script ready.

Absolutely. I’d be happy to. I did a bit of work on it. But I think it obviously
would need Ewan (McGregor) really. And I’m not quite sure where he is. I don’t
know what his immediate ambitions were and I think it was put to him a few years
ago, asked if he wanted to do it. And he passed at that point. So if he changed
his mind.

Five years, paycheck.

Yeah. You never know. Andrew and I talked about it, whether we could do it with
Clay-mation or something, which I would pay to see. Because imagine what you

He’s been naked in so many movies that you could use that as…

Yeah. Exactly.

Is this a different sort of a project for you? You haven’t really worked in
this end of the genre at all. And you’ve made more of a mark in terms of hard
hitting drama. Did you find that it was an easier fit than you thought it was
going to be?

I took a few years off. And I wasn’t really doing anything. And then I got an
invitation from Harry Granite to work on ‘Sahara’ while they were shooting. And
I went out there and I really enjoyed it. I just enjoyed the atmosphere of
commercial film making and working for the studio under the pressure and
everything. And then after that Harry sent me this book and I just liked the
idea of doing something that had, not from me, just working for the studio with
a very clear goal and a very clear audience. I liked that. And I just enjoyed

I can’t help thinking, ‘John Hodge; at last a film that the entire family can
watch!’ It’s very different in terms of your previous work.

Yeah. It is different. But I think it’s, I’ve never not wanted to do a
children’s film. There’s never been a part of me that said I would never do
that. I did see the ‘Harry Potter’ films and I thought they were very good. And
I thought it would be something that was like them but I think maybe this might
be a little bit more intense. ‘A grownup film for children’ if you know what I

Your ‘Sahara’ experience was good?

Yeah. I enjoyed it. I know there’s been quite a lot in the press about it, but
you know you could subject any big movie to that kind of dissection and you’d
find out lots of stuff like that. But I enjoyed it. Yeah.

What are you working on next?

I just started an adaptation of a book for channel 4 called ‘Remainder.’ by Tom
McCarthy. Very good book. Very interesting. It’s about a man who’s injured when
a bit falls off in the airplane and hits him and he’s given a huge sum in
compensation and he’s damaged physically and mentally, but he recovers
physically. He spends the money paying people to reenact little things that he’s
remembered little trivial incidents. And then he becomes addicted to the process
of reenactment. And it all spirals out of control as things tend to do in books
and films. So it’s unusual and it’s a really good book.

Have you found a director?

We don’t have a director yet.

How do you approach doing adaptation? I know some people actually take the
book apart and have pages that they work from. What do you do?

This one, ‘The Dark Is Rising’ was very much about the spirit of the book, and
because the book is quite tricky a lot of it is in people’s heads and it’s quite
fluid and almost sort of lyrical and a little bit tricky I think in parts, in
contrast to a lot of the modern very successful children’s novels. So as I said,
it was more about the spirit than holding onto trying to latch onto a framework
of the 6 signs that he has to collect. So that’s one approach. But then this
other book ‘Remainder’ I’m doing is different. It’s a little bit more like this
is the story and I really want to use this bit. There are certain problems with
it but books are all different.

It’s not like you read the book like 7 times? How do you actually approach?

I just think every book is different. Different books offer more and present
different problems. You just got to treat each one differently.

Is the approach more on an intuitive level? And some would be more a
mechanical exercise?

Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. I once went to see Buck Henry talking about ‘The
Graduate’, he was talking about how he’d done the adaptation. Then I went and
read the book ‘The Graduate’ and basically it’s a good book and a fantastic
film. And he did a great job, but the film is all there. You can almost just
reformat it. Not slandering a great writer, he’s great, but that book offers
itself whereas others are just much more tricky. The film adaptation is in
itself, a great adaptation of its source but that’s a different approach, isn’t

Do you have any original scripts lying around that you’re working on?

I actually started work on a children’s script a few years ago, an original. I
don’t want to say what it’s about but I might start work on it again. I had
forgotten I’d done that. But you were asking if this was a bit of a departure,
but I actually started work on my own. Unfortunately it hasn’t reached

Is it as satisfying?

I like the idea; it’s a different way of working. Producers like adaptations
normally because they have some idea of what they’re going to get and it’s a
little bit more certainty for everyone. So that tends to be a lot of the work.
If I was doing an original, I would probably just try and sort of develop and
take it forward myself, but adaptations tend to be more of where it’s at.