Seth Grahame-Smith is becoming the go-to guy for genre projects. After writing a number of tongue-in-cheek comedy books, Grahame-Smith broke big with his novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in which he mixed a zombie plot into Jane Austen’s classic novel. He followed that book up with another mash-up, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and now both properties are getting the big screen treatment. Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and was tapped by Tim Burton to write his adaptation of the cult soap series Dark Shadows. Burton was so impressed with Grahame-Smith’s work that he hired him to write a sequel to the horror-comedy classic Beetlejuice (read Grahame-Smith’s update on that project here).
Steve recently got the chance to speak with Grahame-Smith at WonderCon where he was promoting the upcoming release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The scribe gave an update on the long-in-development feature adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, his next book Unholy Night (which is also getting the movie treatment), talked about the tone of Dark Shadows and fan response to the trailer, and more. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
A feature adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been in the works for a few years now. David O. Russell (The Fighter) was originally set to direct with Natalie Portman in the lead before Russell dropped out completely and Portman moved back to a producer role. Next Mike White (Year of the Dog) signed on to direct, only to leave the project over scheduling conflicts. The latest director to come and go was Craig Gillespie (Fright Night 3D), but he vacated the project late last year over casting disputes. Speaking of which, a number of actresses have been offered—and turned down—the lead including Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone and Blake Lively. The project is now without a director or star, but Grahame-Smith seems confident that the film will see the light of day eventually:
“The status of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies right now is to be determined. I think there’s still a will at Lionsgate to do it. What I’m hoping is that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes out, does well, and there’s more of an appetite for this kind of thing. But then again, Snow White and the Huntsman should come out and do well and that should renew an appetite for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’m pretty confident that sooner or later that movie’s gonna see the light of day, frankly it’s just waiting for the right combination of director and star to come together.”
He seems to insinuate that director/cast concerns aren’t the only thing holding the project up, as Lionsgate may be wary of the audience appeal of the zombie-infused Jane Austen story. Despite the gut reaction to blame the script for the coming and going of so many directors, Grahame-Smith maintains that the screenplay for the film is solid:
“Definitely the script is there. David O. Russell wrote a great draft, Marti Noxon revised that draft, so right there you have two great writers from different backgrounds. One is very in tune with the Buffy universe, one with more of an indie sensibility and everything. The script is great; this is not a script issue at all. I think it’s a timing issue. I think that sooner or later the right director and the right star are gonna get their hands on that script and that movie’s gonna go.”
Russell’s got a fantastic track record and while Noxon may be hit or miss, the infusion of her work with Russell’s is promising. Still, why have so many actresses turned down the role if the script is top notch? Maybe the director(s)’ vision is to blame. Whatever the case, we should have a better idea of the chances of a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie after this summer’s genre fare tests the waters.
Switching gears to Dark Shadows, Grahame-Smith revealed that he attended a test screening recently and it went very well. He talked about how the film differs from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and addressed fan reaction to the trailer:
“[Dark Shadows] is a completely different type of movie [from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter]. It’s much more overtly funny, it’s PG-13 it’s not R, I would say it’s probably a little more family-oriented than Lincoln in its R-rating gore fest. I think the trailer has kind of confused a couple people because they’re like, ‘Wait, is this not dark? Is it not shadowy? Is it all humor?’ That’s not the case; we have a very funny movie which has some very dark, gothic elements in it.”
“To me it’s more of a harkening back to the Sleepy Hollow or Beetlejuice Tim [Burton] movies. It’s not as broadly family as Alice in Wonderland is, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it’s a little darker than that. It’s very different, and it’s epic.”
Finally, Grahame-Smith talked briefly about Unholy Night, his next book that’s set to be released next month. The story is am action-oriented reimagining of the story of the Three Wisemen of the Nativity and pits them as heroes rescuing baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary from King Herod’s army:
“It’s the next screenplay I’m gonna write. I’m finishing an assignment right now, and in the next month or so I’m gonna start writing the Unholy Night adaptation… So we are waiting for a screenplay from me, then we’ll go out to directors.”
Warner Bros. has optioned the property and Harry Potter producer David Heyman is onboard, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one shakes out. You can watch the portion of Steve’s interview with Grahame-Smith concerning Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dark Shadows, Unholy Night and more below, followed by a full time index.
- :02 Dark Shadows. Says he was onhand for a test screening and talks about the tone of the movie and the fan reaction to the trailer. Says it’s not as family-oriented as Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
- 2:01 The music for Dark Shadows. Says it’s a lot of period music from the early 1970s.
- 2:31 Gives update on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Says the script is ready, they’re just waiting for the right combination of director and star.
- 3:46 Talks about Unholy Night, which is his action take on the Three Wisemen.
- 4:41 Talks adaptation of The Scorpio Races, which he’s producing. Says they’re currently out to screenwriters.
- 5:52 Says he’s currently using his time to become a better writer with each project he takes on and he doesn’t have any interest in starting a “Seth Grahame-Smith Presents” factory.
- 6:50 Does he write towards a certain budget? Says when he’s writing a book he doesn’t take “budget” into consideration at all, but when working on a screenplay he has to make sure everything he writes can be executed.