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Paul Auster novel being adapted by Terry Gilliam

Terrygilliam_2009Filmmaker Terry Gilliam is at work on a script based on Paul Auster's novel, "Mr. Vertigo." Auster's best-known film work has been written directly for the screen -- 1995's "Smoke" won him the Best First Screenplay prize at the Independent Spirit Awards.

For his part, Gilliam has adapted books to screen before, notably the 1988 film "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," from a children's book series, and 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" from the book by Hunter S. Thompson.

"You read books," Gilliam said at a recent film festival in Poland, "and at first think, oh, that would make a great film. And then you realize, no, it wouldn't make a great film." But then he remembered one that would.

"I got a book! It's called 'Mr. Vertigo' ...  by Paul Auster. And I’m actually working on a script of it at the moment,"  he says in a video from the festival. "Doesn't mean it will be a film; but I'm working on a script."

Indiewire writes that Auster's book is "is firmly within [Gilliam's] wheelhouse with a mix of fantasy and history." Not that fantasy and history have always worked well for Gilliam -- he has notoriously long wanted to do a film based on Cervantes'  17th-century "Don Quixote," which he's never gotten across the finish line.

Auster's "Mr. Vertigo" was given to Gilliam to read, he told the festival audience. "And I thought, yeah. This is good stuff. And now, adapting the script, I began to think maybe I was wrong." He laughs. "It's a very interesting thing about books, because you realize what makes it work is the very thing that's not going to work in a film. Because it's too long, it's got--" Gilliam gestures with his hands. "You really want slightly simpler things to make a film out of. But anyway, 'Mr. Vertigo,' trying to do that now."

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Paul Auster: computer, no; cigars, yes

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Terry Gilliam in 2009. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 

 
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