There’s nothing quite like momentum. You struggle for years, working miserable day jobs and writing desperately at night to no avail, but as soon as you land your first gig, you’ve suddenly got more offers than you know what to do with. Fast-rising screenwriter Noah Oppenheim didn’t quite have the same experience as most scribes, parking cars and waiting tables — he spent years working in TV, as a Senior Producer on both NBC’s “Today” show, and “Hardball” on CNBC, as well as co-creating “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer, for which someone should probably give him a slap.
Nevertheless, Oppenheim’s gaining a good deal of attention as a screenwriter — he had two high-placed entries on the Black List this year. One was “Easy Money,” the English-language remake of acclaimed Swedish crime thriller “Snabba Cash,” which has Zac Efron attached to star, the other is “Jackie,” which follows Jackie Kennedy in the days immediately following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. The latter, which we read and mostly loved last year, was set to re-team real-life couple Darren Aronofsky and Rachel Weisz, although with the couple since splitting, and Aronofsky taking on “The Wolverine,” it seems to have stalled for the moment.
Oppenheim’s probably not too concerned, though — he’s just booked another high-profile gig, and is now set to adapt one of the reams of young-adult novels that studio executives hope will create franchises to replace the soon-to-end “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series. 24 Frames reports that Fox have hired Oppenheim to pen the script for “The Maze Runner,” which is based on James Dashner‘s bestselling 2009 novel, the first of a trilogy.
“Twilight” helmer Catherine Hardwicke was signed to direct the project last month, and Fox are clearly high on the series, which is set in a dystopian future where a group of teenage boys survive, surrounded by a seemingly inescapable, ever-shifting maze, haunted by terrifying creatures. As far as we can tell, it’s a meld of “Cube” and “Dark City,” with some fairly heavy-handed puberty metaphors thrown into the mythology, but the books certainly have legions of fans, so we’re sure the potential is there for a decent action-adventure.
Oppenheim’s a very talented writer, and we certainly feel better about the project with him on board — we’d shrugged somewhat with Hardwicke’s hiring, even if she’s been capable of good work in the past, most notably on “Lords of Dogtown.” Nevertheless, Fox have been burned previously trying to capture this audience, with the likes of “The Dark Is Rising” and “City of Ember,” while even the bigger-selling likes of “Lemony Snicket” and “The Golden Compass” disappointed at the box office, so this is by no means easy money. Our biggest problem, however? Remembering the difference between this and “Hunger Games” for the next few years…