Why isn’t there an I Hunt Killers movie/TV show?

IHK_movie_theaterOf late, I have noticed a certain topic coming up on social media. And it boils down to the question at the top of this page.

For those of you new to the series, rest assured: It was attempted and it failed. There’s no one to blame — things just don’t work out sometimes.

I get it, though — if you’ve read the books and you really, really liked them1 then you’re sitting around going, “WTF, Hollywood? These books are perfect for (as one person wrote to me) ‘a television show or series of blockbuster movies.’ Get on it!”

You want a movie or a TV series. Hell, so do I.

Here’s the deal: There are a ton of books that would make great TV or great movies. A ton of them. Thousands of books are published each year; mere hundreds of movies are made. Not everything that’s worthy will be chosen.

And in general, so far as I can tell, Hollywood decides to make a movie or a TV show from a book based on one of two factors:

  1. Someone very powerful really loves the book and insists on turning it into a film, or
  2. The book is a mega-super-duper-bestseller, so Hollywood knows there’s a built-in audience for it, making it a risk worth taking

It’s not just about “It’s really good and would make a great movie!”

As to #1: Well, look, if any of you out there are close personal friends with someone powerful in Hollywood, sure, go ahead and hand that person a copy of I Hunt Killers. Because if Brad Pitt or Reese Witherspoon or Ryan Reynolds or Jennifer Lawrence read and love it, it’ll become a movie. I guarantee it.

But so far, that hasn’t happened.

As to #2: Hey, I know you loved the books, but we need a couple hundred thousand of your friends to love it, too. Or at least to buy it. Don’t get me wrong: I Hunt Killers is without a doubt the most successful book of my career; it even landed at #3 on the bestsellers list! But what makes something a “hit” in publishing doesn’t always measure up to something that will get Hollywood’s attention. As best I can tell, I’d need to sell four or five times more copies of I Hunt Killers to get Hollywood to sit up and take notice. And at this late date, with the book being so old, the odds of hundreds of thousands of readers suddenly discovering it are pretty slim.

The news isn’t all bad, though. There’s still option #1. Rest assured: My agent is always working to put the book in front of the right people, and even though we’ve had no luck thus far…we only have to get lucky once.

  1. And thank you for that!

My Superman Movie

Some background…

This treatment dates from around 2002-3. (The actual writing may have taken place in 2004. I don’t remember. But the idea itself comes from 2002 or 2003.)

At the time, there was discussion of a possible new Superman movie (which ended up being Superman Returns). At the same time, there was a lot of fretting in the comic book community about how 9/11 made Superman irrelevant and impossible to write. You can’t write a story where Superman stops 9/11, the thinking went, because that’s Too Much. And if Superman can’t stop 9/11, well, then what’s the point of Superman?

With this in mind, I came up with an idea for a Superman movie. Part wish fulfillment, part rejoinder, all dream. The treatment I wrote follows. If I were developing this today, I would almost certainly replace 9/11 with some other disaster (and, yes, I am fully aware that many people may be offended by the use of 9/11 at all, but recall when I came up with this — it felt necessary at the time). But the basic thrust of the story — the arc of it, the themes, the tropes — would remain the same. Is it perfect? God no. Would I tweak some things, were I writing it afresh? God yes. Still, I happen to think it’s a pretty kick-ass Superman story.


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Making Movies from Books

There’s a question I’m asked at pretty much every school and library I visit, as well as online via Twitter, Tumblr, the contact form, what-have-you. So I figured maybe it was time to write something up that I can point to from now on.

The latest iteration of this question came via email the other day:

hello Mr. Lyga i was just wondering and if you think this is stupid you don’t have to respond but why don’t you make a movie out of some of your books (ex the fanboy and goth girl series) they all seem to have the potential to become a movie just saying oh and just for the hell of it i’m adding peer pressure here it comes all the cool authors are doing it =)

It’s not a stupid question, but it does point to a basic point of information that apparently has not filtered into the public consciousness. I get this question from kids as young as ten and adults much, much older.

It is, of course, enormously flattering that someone loves a book of mine enough to want to see it translated into a medium (film) with a much wider audience. But there’s a problem with this question.

To wit: I don’t get to decide to make a movie out of my books.

I’m not trying to pick on the asker — I get asked this exact same question in this exact same fashion dozens and dozens of times a year. The question seems to assume that there would be movies of my books at a cineplex near you right now if only I weren’t so recalcitrant.

Ain’t so.

Movies happen because movie studios make them. Not authors. I can’t look at, say, Boy Toy, and say, “Gee, that would make a great movie! Let’s make that happen!”

A book becomes a movie when someone in Hollywood — an actor, a producer, a director, a studio executive — says, “Gee, that would make a great movie! Let’s make that happen!”

At that point, they get in touch with me and say, “We’d like to make a movie out of your book!”

And yes, I’ve gotten that phone call. Every single time, I’ve said, “Okay, sounds cool. Do it.” And they give me some money and they go off to make a movie.

Also every single time, the movie hasn’t been made. Why? I don’t know, exactly. Making movies is a tough, expensive, complex business. With a book, it’s basically me and my editor. With a movie, you have to wrangle hundreds or thousands of working parts. Someone once told me the rule of books made into movies. It is:

Of the books published, only a few are actually optioned. Of the ones optioned, only a few are actually set up to be filmed. Of the ones filmed, only a few are actually released. Of the ones released, only a few are actually good.

Sounds about right to me.

So, people in Hollywood have to be willing to do what’s necessary to make a movie out of one of my books. I can’t just pick up the phone and call Spielberg and say, “Stevie! I’ve got a new book coming out. Get on the movie-making, will ya?” It doesn’t work like that.

Now, it seems that once you get something on the screen and it does well, it’s easier to get more of your books turned into movies. Stephen King probably sells his movie rights at the same time he turns in his manuscripts. And if The Fault in Our Stars does well at the box office, I’m willing to bet a decent sum of money that you’ll see Looking for Alaska in theaters within a couple of years.1

There are no movies of my books because as of yet, no one has managed to clear all of the various hurdles to get one made. Not for lack of trying. The movie screenplay to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl was drop-dead hilarious and — believe it or not — even geekier than the novel.  WBTV has been working for a couple of years now to try to bring I Hunt Killers to the small screen.

Movies (and TV) are tough. And expensive. And complicated. Tens of thousands of books are published each year in the U.S. Mere hundreds of movies are made.

Do the math. Not all of those books are going to become movies. Thus far, mine are among those not to be anointed by Hollywood.

The good news is this: If someone wants to make a movie out of my book, great, but I don’t attach any sort of self-worth to it. I’m happy to keep writing books, and fortunate enough to have readers like you who care enough to keep reading them.

  1. Probably John’s other books, too. Although how much do you want to bet they rename An Abundance of Katherines to simply Katherines or The Katherines?