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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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The second signing session of the day was local, just a short drive up a rainy, traffic filled highway. This one had a Q&A session also, same restrictions on autographs though (two hardcovers, no personalization per trip in line). RJ seemed like he wanted to get going quickly for an early trip to the next stop tomorrow, so I only went through the line once.
In the Q&A, everyone was using the same questions that are answered in just about every Q&A RJ does, or at least recently: about writing female POVs, about compiling his notes, how does he store all the info about the plots and characters, etc... He did give some new info/answers on a couple of topics. He did repeat the tidbit about writing additional side stories that was on Wotmania today. He mentioned that he hates Apple computers because the early versions were not compatible with each other :p He mentioned if a mini series is done on NBC, there might be other sequel series on showtime or sci-fi channel.
The other really interesting thing he said was that ABC have bought the rights to make a WOT mini-series. It doesn't mean they will, but they've got the guy who wrote 'Merlin' working on a script.
How are the plans for the tele-movie version of Eye of the World coming along?
So far, the contracts have been signed, and I know no more. NBC has purchased an option, and while I hope the series will be made, many more options are purchased than shows see the light of day.
There was a question about the Tolkien movie and if anything similar would be done with WoT. Jordan mentioned the NBC miniseries, and the option to take options on the other parts. Also that each book deserved at least a miniseries. Perhaps New Spring could be done in a three-hour feature length movie. "I'm not saying that it will be done, but it could."
He also said that his editor was telling him that perhaps it was "time to start shopping this around again. I didn't have to go to him to say 'hey you think anybody would be interested?'"
Another point he mentioned was that if nothing would happen he wouldn't mind it too much, he never set out to write movies.
By far the most common question asked: What are your feelings on a movie version of your books? You've said that, to you, only the books really matter. Do you feel that a movie would do them justice though? Or do you think it might be too complex for the screen and even hurt their reputation? What about making a movie that focuses on a different time from the story you've told?
My feelings about the possibility of a movie are ambivalent. It would be very nice if a movie or movies, or a series on HBO or whatever were made, but that really would be something extra. I write books. If a movie is made, good. If not, I won't cry.
I don't think that a bad movie would do the books any damage, but with any movie, the writer of the book has to give up control to someone else and trust that other person to interpret the writer's vision. (God, that sounds pompous!) I used to think that it might be impossible for a movie to really encompass any of the books, but since seeing The Lord of the Rings, I've changed my mind. In any case, Harriet says (and Plato agrees with her) that the only thing to do when you sell a book to Hollywood is to take the money, walk away very fast before they can take it back, and never, ever go to see the movie. Of course, any movie depends on someone making an offer for an option and then following through to exercise the option, and so far, that hasn't happened. The option bit did, true, but not the rest. We are now waiting, as they say. But not very anxiously.
A Japanese company contacted me about doing an animated movie. I told them no, because they wanted to do a movie based on two or three books, and I said, "no, I won't do that".
There are an estimated 65,000 fan Web sites devoted to Jordan's work. But The Wheel of Time series has not been made into a film or miniseries. (In the 1980s, Jordan wrote a series about Conan the Destroyer of film fame. The character was first created in the 1930s by Robert E. Howard.) Jordan promises that he will write "at least" two more novels in The Wheel of Time series.
"What makes Jordan so popular, I think, is that everything he writes makes perfect sense," notes Swedish high school teacher Lars Jacobsson, 27, from Malmö. He has been a fan since 1995. "In most other fantasy books, there's always a point where you go, 'I don't buy that, that doesn't seem right.' In The Wheel of Time, that point has yet to come."
There is a company called Red Eagle that has the options for The Eye of the World to make the movie. I am waiting to see the outline from the screenwriters. Hmm, which is in effect telling me what of the book they want to keep and what they want to leave out of the book. Since you are not going to get the whole book into movie.
But if it's actually going to be made, even now I can't say. Some years ago NBC optioned The Eye of the World to make a six hour mini-series. Less than two years after we had signed the contracts, they came with the screenwriter, who did the miniseries 'Merlin'. Then two years after the contracts were signed, all the people who brought the project together had left NBC.
With the announcement of the movie deal for the Wheel of Time, I had a lot of emails asking me for more of my thoughts on the matter. Specifically, do I think that the Wheel of Time books can be made into good movies?
Well, the answer is no. But I do think that a good movie can be made from the Wheel of Time books. Let me explain the distinction.
I think that books can make excellent inspirations for movies—but the best movies, particularly in fantasy, that come from books are the ones that adapt the work, rather than just trying to film it scene-by-scene. The Lord of the Rings movies are an excellent example. It would have been a miss-fire if Jackson had tried to turn the books into movies; instead, he used the books for material to make great movies.
The formats are very different. If this were a TV mini-series, then I could see The Eye of the World being adapted straight across. In a feature length film, however, there would have to be adaptation. I look at the Harry Potter movies as another example. The first film was only okay, but the third film was great. Why? Because the third film's director adapted the story, choosing the parts that were the most cinematic, and didn't just try to film the book—he tried to make a great movie, taking elements from the books.
Maybe this is blasphemy, but it's the only way I see a good movie coming from The Eye of the World. There is just too much going on, too many characters, too much weight of history, to make it into a two hour movie. However, there are stories in The Eye of the World which—if adapted—could make an excellent movie.
In the end, however, if it gets more people to read the books, then the movie has at least accomplished something. That's why I sold movie rights to Alcatraz, even though I knew that Hollywood has a good track record of making terrible movies from adapted sources. (Fortunately, I've got a lot of confidence in the team working on Alcatraz over at Dreamworks.) But if the movie ends up getting even one more person into my books, then I feel that I'm ahead.
Who knows where the Wheel of Time movies will go in the future. Maybe they'll get made. Maybe the option will just sit there gathering dust. Maybe they will turn out to be terrible, like some other recent fantasy book adaptations. Or maybe we'll get lucky, and they'll get a director who understands the books and can bring out the same FEEL of the novels while still adapting them in a way that suits the film medium.
The thing is, you never know which of those you're going to get until you try. And so, I repeat my congratulations to Harriet. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.
People have already started emailing me about this.
My response is . . . huzzah! Congratulations Harriet! I know that things have been stalled for a long time on this front, and while she mentioned to me that something like this might be coming, I didn't think it would be so soon.
I'm afraid I'm not the one to ask about specifics, however. Even if I knew them, I wouldn't be comfortable sharing them. But I'm sure more will be coming in the future. All I will say is to remember that things like this tend to move very slowly. I hope that won't be the case here, but chances are good that it will be many years before we actually get to see the movie.
Now, back to work on Book Twelve. . . .
Yeah, I just picked up a couple of them myself. They look gorgeous.
Yeah, they did look really good. Is it more of a Harriet thing? I know we're also talking about the movie itself. Are you involved in that, have they been coming to you and asking you your opinion on things, or is that more of a Harriet...
That's been mostly Maria. Maria's been handling that. Maria is the continuity expert on staff. And so she's been handling that. I suspect they will come to me when they reach these books more. But I've been so busy, that really it's been her and Jason from Dragonmount that have been consulting on those. And I've just not wanted to stick my nose into it because I've got so much on my plate already with these books. So that's mostly Maria. So if you want to ask about those, interview Maria.
Movie: No movement, if you're up to date on things I've said over the summer. Those things are thus. The books have been bought (not optioned) by Universal. They are planning on doing feature films, one per book. Many of us have suggested that television would be a better venue. (Perhaps Game of Thrones will persuade them.) I have met the studio exec and writer, but have been told I cannot release names. A script is done, but needs a lot of work.
Video Games: Red eagle is working with Obsidian on video games. I have suggested a Knights of the Old Republic style RPG. I don't know yet if they will listen, though there are talks of doing an Age of Legends MMO, and of exploring various time periods in the world. No specific games have been announced or begun, I believe.
Do you know what kind of rating will be aimed for the movies? I would imagine a visual depiction of what happens in the books would almost require a R for violence, but that rating would cause a lot of people to stay home.
I strongly suspect, from what I've heard, that they would shoot for PG-13.
Ah, yes. The Mistborn movie and game. The movie rights were optioned to a production studio called Paloopa Pictures. We'll see what happens with that. I mean, they have a screenplay—if you don't know, getting a film made, there are a lot of ways that it happens; most of them seem kind of chaotic. One of the primary ways is a production company will option rights on something or option a screenplay. In my case, they optioned the rights, they write a screenplay, they do a big pitch, then they go to the studios. And the studios have to fund the thing. The production company would then become the producers on it, with the studios funding and make the film.
That's why what'll happen, often you'll see a film that'll [have] these five production studios at the start. Those are the people who did that sort of thing. So that's where we are there.
Sometimes you'll get lucky and a film will just get optioned by a studio directly. That doesn't happen as often. For instance, the Wheel of Time books got optioned to Red Eagle Entertainment, which is a production company. They did all of this, then went to Universal and got Universal to buy the rights and fund the movie... We have that. We also have some people with a video game that I can't announce yet, because I'm sure they want to announce it, but we had a nice offer on a video game that would be slated for around 2013. It will be cross-platform, so it would be on PC, Xbox, and PS3. I will probably be writing the story and the dialogue for it.
I can only give one 'really' on either one. They are in the works, but anything coming out of Hollywood gets hesitance from me until we get a greenlight. (And there hasn't been one on the film, despite the projected release date. 2013 is possible.)
Video Games are more likely, but I haven't had any updates on those for a few months.
Just finished a scene in A Memory of Light that ranks among the most visually powerful I've ever done. I REALLY want to see this one in film form.
A lot of questions about the WoT film rights. Universal has the rights. Maybe I should have phrased my last tweet as...
"Dear Universal, please do a good job on the first WoT movie, because you really, REALLY need to get to book 14 and do this scene."
I don't know how far off the WoT film is. The screenwriters produced a new draft of the script a few weeks back. I have not read it.
I would love to see a Wheel of Time movie series or TV miniseries. Has anyone optioned that you can mention?
Universal has the rights. Not an option, but a full buy-out.
Just out of curiosity would you prefer WoT to be a film series or a TV series a la Game of Thrones? Also keep up the great work.
I would prefer television.
Do you know if the film is going to be super-long like the Lord of the Rings movies, split in parts like Harry Potter or something ...
...else? Also, thank you for finishing WoT! I really, really like the books you've written, they're excellent!
By that I mean the WoT books. I like the other books too (especially Mistborn), but not as much as WoT.
Thanks for reading! The plan now is one film that covers Eye of the World, and will be somewhat long.
I don't understand why you wouldn't be working integrally with the screenwriter, I hope they realize that this isn't a movie...
...that they can just pump out. They need to do an amazing job or not waste their time.
I'm hoping they will let me comment on the screenplay, but so far, I've been kind of busy with A Memory of Light...
I haven't read WOT but these A Memory of Light Tweets are making me want to check it out! I've not read any of Jordan's work. Thoughts?
I love the WoT, and have for many years. It is a long journey, however, so be warned.
When is A Memory of Light out; I thought January, but I've heard its been put back?
Gah,this is unacceptable!! You've already delayed this once!!
Not much I can do, I'm afraid. I'm turning it in on time; the date is being set by the publisher.
Okay, that scene is done. Now I have a few quick, one-shot viewpoints to do. People you may not expect.
Do we get a Dark One PoV? Is that question an auto-RAFO?
RAFO, of course. :)
Red Eagle Entertainment has signed an option to create a feature film based on The Eye of the World. I hope that this will happen, but we’ll see.
Will you be involved in the production?
To some extent. The contract I signed asked me to be a consultant but how much movie makers consult writers….well.
Are you worried about what can become of your work?
Well, you always worry because once they get their hands on the book they can do almost anything they want with it. For all I know they could re-release Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-rama under the title of this book.
On the American websites there is a term used in these cases: RAFO - read and find out.
I personally also asked if anyone has been interested in making a film inspired by his books, he replied that someone was interested in doing a film of The Eye of the World .... but for now there is still nothing concrete.
NBC bought an option to do a miniseries based on the first book, but Jordan said odds are against a television movie, at least for now.
"I've been told the key people involved in getting that contract together have left NBC," he said. "That means it's highly unlikely the option will be exercised."
He finds this amusing in light of an apparent resurgence in sword-and-sorcery epics. A "Lord of the Rings" film is now being made in New Zealand, and a "Dungeons and Dragons" movie is set to open December 8.
Still, such things "are all peripheral, anyway," said Jordan. "The books are what's important to me."
The theme of "Wars of the future", raised to the fifth congress of Russian fiction, has an eerie, but not completely unexpected development. Now we do not see skyscrapers crumble before our eyes in the catastrophe movies, but in documentaries, and they have created no mythical King Kong, but one that is at least biologically related to the form of Homo Sapiens. Unfortunately, the science fiction writers were much closer to the truth than those who should have been able anticipate and prevent such events, if it was at all possible to prevent. Included among these authors is Robert Jordan, the author of the extraordinarily popular book series "The Wheel of Time", which is also a TV series in Russia. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Robert Jordan, speaks on the mechanisms and specific nature of 21st Century warfare.
In any case, Mr. Jordan's opinion about the past, present and future of the warfare seems to be very relevant and rather interesting.
What about movies or mini-series related to the Wheel of Time?
Harriet said that a contract had been signed giving Universal movie/mini-series rights for a seven-year period; that contract is due to expire soon. She said that a screen play of The Eye of the World had been written; Harriet had not read it, but she said she had heard from reliable sources (probably Jason Denzel) that it was horrible. She feels that it may be that the contract will expire before anything is ever produced; at that point, the rights would revert to Harriet.
The year after my husband's death, I signed a big, fat contract with Universal giving them the movie rights. They have the rights by contract to make a miniseries or movies of the Wheel of Time books, and they have seven years to get the first movie into theaters. And I've forgotten what the timing is on the miniseries. Somebody here in the room has seen a first draft of a movie script and said it is..."execrable" would perhaps be the correct word. Just no—no, no, no, no. I have not seen this, but the clock is ticking. I would...does anybody remember the Ralph Bakshi movie of Lord of the Rings?
Yeah, was that the pits or what? Just awful. And it didn't kill the Lord of the Rings, because now there's the wonderful Jackson. It may be that this will happen with the Wheel of Time. I don't control it; I do have a little....if they sat down to make a triple-X movie out of The Eye of the World, I think I would be able to stop them legally. I don't have...I can't say "You have just really messed up this character." They would say, "Thank you, we've consulted you, now go away." It's pretty much how it works. The chances are that it may be shelved and never made at all under this contract; I get the rights back if they do that, after seven years...which is so peculiarly Biblical. (laughter) I think about the Pharaohs and the kine, and the lean kine and the fat kine, every time I say that. You know, why do they do that? They're obsessed with [permits?] maybe.
So, chances are it will never be made—it will not be made under this contract. The next likely chance is that something awful will be made, and the third possibility is that they'll do it right and something wonderful will happen. I think it's about 50-50 that they're gonna shelve it. It's been very slow so far, and I don't think they'll make the deadline. But I hope they're all sitting out there going very broody about the Game of Thrones. They should be, little dollar signs flicking through their eyeballs like saa. (laughter) Because this would be bigger, if they did it right. It would be wonderful if they did it right, but there's no way to even expect that. The wisdom among writers and publishers is, "Oh, you're offered money for a movie? Take the money and run, and never, never go to see what they do with it." But of course I will. (laughter)
With HBO having recently turned George RR Martin's A Song Of Fire And Ice into a hit TV series—Game of Thrones—do you think The Wheel Of Time would also be home on the small screen?
"I would dearly hope so, as I dream of seeing a great Wheel Of Time adaptation like that. Television is the perfect medium for these long form stories that we have in epic fantasy. There are certain differences but The Wheel Of Time and Game Of Thrones also have a lot in common and George RR Martin and Robert Jordan were good friends and contemporaries. The first A Song Of Fire And Ice book came out not long after The Wheel Of Time and Robert Jordan gave it a nice cover blurb. They're both really human stories set in a fantasy world and are more like historical dramas than adventure fiction, which is not what people expect when they read the genre. They're these great sweeping family dramas that just happen to take place in a world that doesn't exist."
My name is Chris Capelin, from Los Angeles. I had a question for Harriet. It's for me, and for my really good friend Andrew who is without a doubt the biggest Wheel of Time fan in this room. [boos, jeers] Really, really. You're wrong; you're all wrong!
But the question is, if money wasn't an issue, and you had any budget that you wanted, what in your opinion would be the best way to put the Wheel of Time on the screen?
Well, I think that it's so big, and so rich, that its most wonderful appearance on film would be as a television series. [cheers, applause] It really would.
Then I'm personally pleading with you to never let it be made into movies, because that'll absolutely ruin it.
No. And also, I should say that the film rights to the Wheel of Time are at present being developed at Universal, and not—I'm sorry to say—as a series, but it's another medium, and what—que sera, que sera, as Doris Day and Alfred Hitchcock taught us all those years ago.
Thank you very much.
So, since we usually only interview filmmakers, is there any big-screen news to share?
I wish I had more film news. The Mistborn trilogy's been optioned, and I really like the producers and they have a screenplay, but that's the big step, you know, going from producers with a screenplay to getting a studio. Wheel Of Time has also been bought, not optioned, by Universal Pictures, so they're in the screenwriting stage right now.
Wheel of Time for me feels like an example of something that absolutely shouldn't be made into a film, it's so sprawling.
I think it's do-able, but boy it's going to be tough! I do envy George RR Martin with HBO. I think that's a perfect medium for the story that he told.
The response to that has been fantastic; do you see that helping to make fantasy a bit more mainstream? In the same way that the Lord of the Rings films or even Harry Potter books were a sort of gateway drug to the genre, do you think A Game Of Thrones will have the same effect?
As an outsider to the film industry, I find it very interesting that they seem to focus on what's hot right now rather than what's well done. The thing about A Game Of Thrones is that it's an exceptional story, done really well, which is what happened with the Lord Of The Rings films as well. Those came out, and everyone said, "Oh, fantasy is hot". And fantasy, well, it's been opened up, but it's more that really great stories told really well are hot and always will be. It was really disappointing to me to see them snatch up a bunch of fantasy rights and make films out of them that didn't really work, because fantasy was hot.
The Golden Compass film was heartbreaking, because my perspective on that is that they actually got fantastic casting, the visuals were beautiful and they tried really hard to stay close to the story. I think what happened there was that they didn't adapt it enough, they were too faithful and filmed it almost scene-by-scene. They were too attached to the source material. I talked to the Mistborn producers and we all agree that it needs to be more heavily adapted. It's a different medium. If you can keep the soul of the story but change the story that's what you want to do. If I can armchair it, the Harry Potter films where they were forced to adapt more strongly are the best. The third one is beautiful.
Harriet arrived shortly and Thom got the distinct honor of offering his arm to escort her inside. Once inside, he quickly got lost and Harriet was kind enough to point out the way to go ("that door, the one that says 'Employee's only?'"). She was still kinder to make a point to mention that she'd been inside many book stores in her time.
Once in the back she joined Brandon signing some book stock and the Memory Keepers were called in to spend some time, ask questions and get signatures. They were both very gracious with the little amount of time they had and we were joined by Jason and his writing group, so many were able to get Jason's signature on Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. There were a couple of those present who hadn't read the book, so we kept it spoiler-free. Brandon mentioned during this time that the pacing of the final book was the most difficult part to get right and was behind most of the revision work. He said he wrote the POVs separately for the first part of the book but as the pacing picked up he had to abandon that approach. Harriet was asked about the movie/series with NBC Universal and said it is a movie that's in development, not a series, but she hasn't been involved. They retain the right to consult with her, which means they could ask her out to consult and subsequently ignore whatever she says (paraphrased). Brandon was also asked if he knew how Stormlight would end, which he said he did, that he hadn't written it yet but he knew how it would end. When asked he said he had about a page outline for each of the books after four, that he adds and modifies them as events in the first books get fleshed out.
Oh, excellent question. I should have put this during the frequently asked ones at the beginning. Are there any more plans to do anything else with the Wheel of Time universe?
No, there are not. The encyclopedia was put under contract in my husband's lifetime. He did enter into a contract for a trilogy of novels that are not part of the series but set in the world. He left either one or two sentences about that trilogy, which is not enough for anyone to work with so that it would very much still be his. He also said that—in the trade, it's called sharecropping in somebody's universe—and he said if anybody tries to sharecrop in my universe, I'll take out the hard disk, and I'll rent a semi—or a big rig, you might say, since his name was Rigney—and I will drive it backwards and forwards over the hard drive three or four times to be sure that no one will be able to do it. He really didn't want it done. And since he made it clear in his last months and weeks that he really did want the series finished, you have the end of the series, but there won't be any more done in the Wheel of Time world. [applause]
Along those lines, though, I will mention—people ask a lot—the film rights are held by Universal Pictures, and they're working toward feature films, one film per book. We don't know how far along they are. They have a second draft of a screenplay, which I have not seen. They're on a second draft.
And I haven't either.
Yeah, and Harriet hasn't either. There is one other little tidbit—there's an anthology coming out called Unfettered. It's a charity anthology for a member of our community, in the science fiction and fantasy community, who had huge medical bills. And in order to help pay those off, we donated a deleted sequence from A Memory of Light. It's something that was written, but we decided for pacing reasons did not fit in the book. And so we donated that to Unfettered and so you can read that to see something behind the scenes. I will admit it's much more me than Robert Jordan, but it is something that we cut from A Memory of Light, just it didn't fit, pacing-wise, in the book.
Given how George R.R. Martin got Game of Thrones to come out on a TV format, if you had to choose one of your series to receive a similar exposure to television, which would you choose and why?
(For fanboy's sake I'll also include the option for Wheel of Time, R.I.P. Robert Jordan)
I would most certainly pick the Wheel of Time. I've been very straightforward with Universal in stating my preference that WoT be adapted for television, as opposed to the big screen. Both could be awesome, but I think the long form of a season would be better for the books.
After WoT, I'd pick Legion, which I envisioned as a show even as I wrote it.
I see having the WOT becoming a series would be awesome if it is taken care of, for example the The song of Fire and Ice series on HBO. It would be unfair to Robert Jordan if it turns out like The Sword of Truth series did in the form of Legend of the Seeker.
Yeah, that's the danger with the TV series route. I certainly wouldn't want to see that happen.
So, we'll do these two last questions, and then I'll talk a little bit more about books that we have for sale, and then we will bid you farewell.
Okay. I'll be quick. Just first, thanks both of you all again. This has been an amazing adventure. The other question is: So, is there any chance, or is the door open for the Wheel of Time story to be told in other forms of media, so like movie or television some time in the future?
The motion picture rights have been sold to Universal, and they are working on development of The Eye of the World as a first movie. I am told that they're working on a second draft of the script. I haven't seen word one.
Awesome. Thank you.
The movie/TV rights situation is beginning to become clearer. Red Eagle sold the film rights on to Universal and it now looks like the rights could return to the Jordan Estate at some point. There is apparently interest from other companies in the rights given the success of other fantasy projects on TV and in film at the moment.