This year marks a full decade since Michael Chabon‘s masterpiece “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel telling the story of America in the 1930s and 1940s through the eyes of two Jewish comic book creators, was published. And as tends to happen with a cultural phenomenon like that book, movie rights were snapped up even before publication, with Scott Rudin (who produced the adaptation of Chabon’s “Wonder Boys” around the same time) acquiring the project, and setting the late Sydney Pollack to direct, with Jude Law circling the role of escape-artist-turned-comic-artist Joe Kavalier.
That version never came to pass, and Pollack departed the project, with Stephen Daldry, hot off his Oscar-nominated sophomore film “The Hours,” replacing him in the director’s chair. And he’s loosely remained there ever since, coming close to making the film twice: once in 2004, with Tobey Maguire, Jamie Bell and Natalie Portman in the lead roles, and again in 2006, where Ryan Gosling, Andrew Garfield, Ben Whishaw and Jason Schwartzmann were all thought of for the titular Kavalier & Clay. Both times, however, Paramount got trigger-shy, and didn’t greenlight the potentially expensive project.
Daldry has just come off his third Rudin-produced, Oscar bait, literary adaptation, namely the imminent “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” and Collider spoke to the director during the film’s press junket, where he revealed that he’s still keen to make the project, but is considering moving it into a different medium, telling the site, “I would love to do something for TV… I wanna do ‘Kavalier & Clay’ on HBO as an eight-parter.”
The book’s 600-page length and digressive nature has clearly been one of the stumbling blocks for an adaptation (even Chabon’s own adaptation for Pollack, which we’ve read, guts the source material, jettisoning the crucial third act entirely), and Daldry thinks it could work better with the greater length available on HBO saying, “It’ll be so much better as as series, honestly. If you could put that in the article and ring up HBO and tell them that’s what I wanna do, I’d really appreciate it.”
Of course, right now, this doesn’t seem like it’s that close to reality. Daldry does say that, “I spent a year working on it with Michael Chabon, so we’re pretty close,” but it’s a little ambiguous as to whether he means working on a film script , or on a potential eight-part TV take, and he also admits that the studio may not be willing to give up the rights — “Will Paramount give [the rights] to me? I don’t know.”
There are other considerations to be taken into account as well; Chabon is currently working on another HBO series, alongside wife Ayelet Waldman and Darren Aronofsky, named “Hobgoblin,” which shares certain themes (namely magicians and WW2) with ‘Kavalier & Clay,’ and seeing as that has more potential for being a long-running show than the novel adaptation, that may take precedence.
We also have to say: eight parts? The book could certainly benefit from a three-hour plus running time, but unless Daldry and Chabon are planning to expand the thing beyond the parameters of the book, eight hours seems very, very generous.
Still, if anyone could step up, it’ll be HBO, who are getting underway on another epic novel from the same time, “The Corrections” at the moment. Of course, whether Daldry is the right choice to helm is something of a moot point — we’ll have a better idea when “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” hits theaters on Christmas Day.