Back to IndieWire

Todd Field Was Set To Write & Direct An Adaptation Of Aravind Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’ Before Legal Troubles Halted Its Progress

Todd Field Was Set To Write & Direct An Adaptation Of Aravind Adiga's 'The White Tiger' Before Legal Troubles Halted Its Progress

We’ve often wondered about long absences from some of our favorite helmers, and pondered when and how they might return in our “What Happened To These Directors” pieces. While many of the talent highlighted in both our 2008 feature and the 2011 update have since gone on to make successful returns (Lynne Ramsey, Alexander Payne, among others), one of the finest American filmmakers included in both pieces remains away from the spotlight: “In The Bedroom” and “Little Children” helmer Todd Field.

News came last month that his period Mexico-set actioner “The Creed Of Violence” was gaining momentum, but THR have now detailed a legal power struggle that has halted development on another project Field was working on as recently as June last year. The writer-director was evidently adapting Aravind Adiga‘s Booker Prize-winning novel “The White Tiger,” with an eye on helming an Indian production at some stage. The project’s progress looks to be truly halted now as the two American production shingles (Smuggler Films and Ohio Films) behind it are locked in legal battle with India-based financier Watchtower Media Ventures.

So, what’s causing all this trouble? It’s a fairly convoluted tale but, from what we gather, Watchtower are claiming that — after telling all involved they weren’t happy with the screenplay Field handed in — the two U.S. shingles were going behind their back, trying push them out by authorizing Field to set up shop in India. Discussions were apparently had about changes to Field’s script but the producers advised Watchtower that no more scripting would be done unless a greenlight was given — which Watchtower claim would see it “forgo all of its rights of approval,” unable to pre-sell the picture’s rights and be left with a ballooning budget.

On the other hand, Smuggler Films are claiming that Field was a pre-approved writer, that Watchtower were to have no involvement with the script and that, in disapproving of what was delivered, Watchtower had waived rights to finance the pic. In reaction to all that, the financiers are now looking to foreclose on the film adaptation rights to Adigo’s novel, with things getting even more complicated as Smuggler Films and Ohio Films are claiming that the rights are owned by a new shingle, Rooster Coop, an entity set up to make the film, instead. Good luck getting out of that mess.

The most disappointing part is that the project’s premise sounds wholly intriguing. The award-winning novel Field has adapted, which is described as “a brutal view of India’s class struggles [centering on] a racist, homicidal chauffeur,” sounds like a fascinating tale that we would have loved to see Field tackle. Here’s the full synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:

Balram Halwai is from the Darkness, born where India’s downtrodden and unlucky are destined to rot. Balram manages to escape his village and move to Delhi after being hired as a driver for a rich landlord. Telling his story in retrospect, the novel is a piecemeal correspondence from Balram to the premier of China, who is expected to visit India and whom Balram believes could learn a lesson or two about India’s entrepreneurial underbelly.

Adiga’s existential and crude prose animates the battle between India’s wealthy and poor as Balram suffers degrading treatment at the hands of his employers (or, more appropriately, masters). His personal fortunes and luck improve dramatically after he kills his boss and decamps for Bangalore. Balram is a clever and resourceful narrator with a witty and sarcastic edge that endears him to readers, even as he rails about corruption, allows himself to be defiled by his bosses, spews coarse invective and eventually profits from moral ambiguity and outright criminality. It’s the perfect antidote to lyrical India.

The legal woes sound quite twisted, so who knows if ‘White Tiger’ will see the light of day anytime soon. The failures of the project, though, just may be what initiated the revival of “Creed Of Violence,” which, seemingly out of nowhere, saw Cross Creek Pictures and producer Michael De Luca (“Moneyball,” “The Social Network“) come on board last month with an eye on a early 2013 start. Hopefully, for Field’s and our sake, that project has a less problematic path to production from here on in. The writer-director also has gangster heist taleHubris” in the works, which is being scripted by Bobby Moresco, but for now it looks like Field’s attention has well and truly turned to ‘Violence.’

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox