Kavalier Next for Daldry?

Will The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay be Stephen Daldry’s next film project?

Hard to tell, based on a series of often contradictory interviews and articles with Daldry that appeared during the last month in various publications in connection to his newest film, The Reader. Often, he says he doesn’t know. Yet as recently as Monday, Bloomberg reported that the long-delayed Kavalier would be his next gig.

On December 8, Daldry told ComingSoon.Net that the adaptation of the book isn’t dead yet. “I sincerely hope that Kavalier & Clay hasn’t been lost and forgotten and that Scott and I do get back on the track as soon as we can,” he said. That said, Daldry noted money could be an issue. “Kavalier & Clay is an expensive movie and I do think in the end it will depend on how confident or not Paramount feels about spending that kind of money,” he said.

A day later, IFC Film News asked if Kavalier was in trouble since Daldry didn’t have another film lined up. “No,” Daldry replied. “You know, I went into the comic book world hugely and vastly, and enjoyed that enormously. I do sincerely hope that that will come back into the fray. I love it, and all of Michael’s work. He’s an amazing writer and he wrote a fantastic script for it himself.

The next day, New York Magazine asked him point blank if Kavalier was next. “I don’t know. TBD,” Daldry said. “Call [Paramount Pictures CEO] Brad Grey now and ask him. [Laughs] He’s the one holding the keys to the kingdom of Kavalier & Clay.”

All those interviews would suggest it’s stuck. Yet in the last few days, news agencies have reported the movie is Daldry’s next project. Bloomberg and The Independent both reported this week that Daldry plans to or hopes to next direct Kavalier, though no supporting quotes were provided. The Independent did note Daldry also hopes to film an adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s children’s tale The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Kavalier Script Review Online

A blog that says it obtained a copy of Michael Chabon’s screenplay adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay calls the script “a skillful and faithful adaptation of wonderful source material.”

Big Shiny Robot!, a blog that describes itself as a source for “nerd news,” posted the positive review today of what it says was the seventh draft of Chabon’s script, dated May 12, 2002. The reviewer says while the story was compressed, “not for a minute did I feel like I was missing any part of the story.”

“Chabon included just about everything he could and he does it in a way that truly keeps the spirit of the story and makes you feel like you got the gist of the book,” the blog says.

The site acknowledges that the script was six years old and that Chabon had likely polished it more since the seventh draft. Indeed, Chabon told Comics Continuum back in October 2002 “it took eight drafts of the screenplay before the producer Scott Rudin finally said, ‘OK, you did it.'”

It is one of only two reviews to ever surface online of the script. In July 2002, the now-defunct site Coming Attractions posted a negative review of an unknown draft of the screenplay. The reviewer, Darwin MayFlower, called the script “the merest, most basic trace outline of the novel. I think it’s safe to say this is one of those cases where a novel simply could not be made into a movie, unless you wanted to go the Sergei Bondarchuk route and make it five hours long.”

Big Shiny Robot’s review disagreed. While the ending was “slightly different, it still had very much the same sentimental resonance.” Still, there were changes. The movie was narrated by Thomas Clay, and rather than ending in the 1950s, it ends in 1945 as World War II comes to a close. Thomas is only four when Joe Kavalier returns and isn’t into magic and escapism. “No rubber-band jumping off the Empire State, either,” the review adds.

But the review says other parts are still in, including Kavalier’s stint in Antarctica. The reviewer concludes saying producer Scott Rudin should “get this script into a meaningful production stage before it’s too damn late.”

Chabon on Defensive Over Kavalier

Michael Chabon is on the defensive after a column in Slate criticized his portrayal of Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist whose writings helped fuel criticism of comic books in the 1950s as overly violent and innappropriate for children.

In Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Chabon describes Wertham as “a child pyschiatrist with unimpeachable credentials and a well-earned sense of outrage” who “had for several years been trying to persuade the partents and legislators of America that the minds of American children were being deeply damaged by the reading of comic books.” Congressional hearings that followed the publication of Wertham’s book Seducation of the Innocent are credited with bringing about the end of EC Comics and the birth of the Comics Code Authority, a self-censorship body.

In a column on Slate earlier this month, Jeet Heer, co-editor of Arguing Comics, writes that while Wertham’s criticisms were off, such as of the supposed homoerotic themes in Batman and Robin comics, his principle concen about the violence, misogyny, and racism in comics of the time “wasn’t wrong.”

“Many of the comics now nostalgically celebrated by Hajdu and Chabon were extremely unsavory in their social attitudes,” Heer writes.

Heer calls Chabon’s portrayal of Wertham in Kavalier “unsympathetic” and notes Wertham’s defenders call Chabon’s view point “pure calumny.”

And to that, Chabon took issue. In a reply posted April 8, Chabon calls Heer’s description of his portrayal of Werthem “seems simpleminded, or at least awfully lazy” and says Heer must have “failed to read the novel, or at least to have read it carefully or recently.”

“In fact my personal view of Wertham, reflected in the novel itself, had progressed beyond the simplistic condemnation … or demonization that Heer suggests well before I actually wrote the relevant scenes in the novel itself,” Chabon writes. “No one who does even the most rudimentary research into Wertham’s career and accomplishments can fail to admire him for his compassion, his intelligence, his desire to help children, and his fairly snappy prose style. He was not wrong about the meretriciousness or offensiveness of many of the comics he condemned, though he was wrong about a lot of them; nor was he wrong when he argued that many of the stories featured inappropriate material for young children.”

Chabon continues: “It was Wertham’s boneheaded inferences about the direct causal connection between, say, ‘headlight’ comics and ‘deviance’ in children, not to mention the hysteria his inferences helped to foster (along with a counter-hysteria among comics fans) that have tarnished his admirable legacy.”

Chabon also took issue with Heer’s claim that Kavalier “nostalgically celebrated” the “extremely unsavory” social attitudes in the comics of those days. But Heer, in his own reply, sticks by his argument. “Surely any good reader of Kavalier & Clay would acknowledge that the novel is suffused with a nostalgic appreciation of the early comic books,” Heer says.

To read up on the entire literary dust-up, click here.

Vaughan to ‘Meet’ Sam Clay

A new hardcover edition of The Escapists will feature an introduction by Michael Chabon that will introduce real-life writer Brian K. Vaughan to Sam Clay, according to the comic’s writer and artist.

The hardcover, set to hit stores Dec. 12, collects the six-part series about Maxwell Roth and Case Weaver, two Cleveland comic fanatics who try to revive the dormant Escapist line of comics. In his e-mail newsletter Wednesday, Steve Rolston, who drew the “reality” sequences in the series, says an intro Chabon wrote for the collection is “almost like an epilogue to Chabon’s novel, as the fictional Sam Clay meets a young boy at a comic convention.”

Vaughan, who wrote the series, talked about the introduction with Los Angeles CityBeat in September. It features “a character from Kavalier & Clay, who’s at a convention for old-timer comics creators in the 1980s, and inspires a young Brian Vaughan to become a comic book writer.”

“It’s the most surreal experience to read my favorite novelist writing me into the canon of his world,” Vaughan said. “It’s awesome.”

The collection also features a cover by Alex Ross. It’s priced at $19.95.

Yiddish Makes No. 2 on Times List

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union reached the No. 2 spot on The New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover fiction.

The listing marks the highest any Chabon adult fiction novel has made it on the list. In fact, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is the only other one to have been ranked. It made No. 16 for one week in 2001.