Is Dennis Lehane the new Jane Austen?

Posted by · 5:28 am · June 17th, 2008

Okay, perhaps not. Maybe more like the new Elmore Leonard. But the quintessential Boston writer is clearly Hollywood’s favourite author du jour. After the adaptations of “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” reignited the careers of Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck, respectively, it seems the studios are snapping up his titles faster than he can write them.

I hardly need to remind you about a little film coming up next year called “Shutter Island,” based on Lehane’s 1950’s-set suspenser. With Scorsese hoping for lightning to strike twice for him in Beantown, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow and Michelle Williams just some of the names on board, who isn’t excited about that?

With less fanfare, but interesting nonetheless, we also have an upcoming adaptation of Lehane’s brilliant short story “Until Gwen,” with Josh Olson, the Oscar-nominated writer of “A History of Violence,” taking both scripting and directing duties on the project.

Now Variety reports that the latest filmmaker to take on Lehane is Sam Raimi. Columbia has got in early and nabbed the author’s yet-to-be-published “The Given Day” for Raimi to direct.

The novel, out in September, sounds like an interesting change in direction for Lehane – and, come to that, for Raimi:

“The Given Day” is set in 1919 Boston, with the city in turmoil as soldiers are returning home from WWI, having brought back an epidemic of Spanish influenza. Attempts to unionize the police department have set the stage for a historic strike and two cops take center stage. “While it deals with many of the same themes as (Lehane’s) earlier work, it is also his most ambitious book, tying events of a century ago to the subjects we struggle with today,” Raimi said.

Well, I’m intrigued. No word yet on who’s doing the screenplay, though I’d love to see Lehane himself doing the honours for a change. I mean, the guy’s written for “The Wire,” after all.




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5 responses so far

  • 1 6-17-2008 at 8:32 am

    limeymcfrog said...

    I love Lehane and am glad that he’s being put on film. His ear for dialogue and gritty storytelling make him ideal for cinematic interpretations.

    However, I’m decidedly NOT excited about Shutter Island. It’ll take a hell of a lot of craft to get over the stinker of an ending that story has. I figured it out about 50 pages before I was supposed to and threw my book at the wall. It’s not the kind you can change either, it’s the fundamental subject of the story. It’s a great cast, but if they can make it work I’d be shocked.

    I have no idea how “Until Gwen” can be made into a feature length film. I don’t even know how “Coronado” (the largely expanded play based on “Until Gwen”) can be turned into a feature length film without sacrificing the thematic simplicity that made the story so effective.

    Great as “Gone Baby Gone” was, I think we need a Kenzie/Genarro reboot. It was a good movie, but it wasn’t a true Kenzie/Genarro story with the barely present Michelle Monaghan playing an entirely compromised version of Angie. “Darkness Take My Hand” with a different cast and director would be really interesting to see.

    I think Cormac McCarthy is another author that is acheiving Elmore Leonard/Larry McMurtry heights. The Road is a high profile release this year and Ridley Scott is taking on Blood Meridian, and Outer Dark has already been filmed.

  • 2 6-17-2008 at 9:04 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I agree with much of what you say, Limey, including your reservations about the “Shutter” denouement… but I have a feeling the pacing of the revelation might be covered better on film.

    I wish Scott wasn’t taking on Blood Meridian though – I think the novel begs a lighter touch than his.

  • 3 6-17-2008 at 10:41 am

    limeymcfrog said...

    If only they could make the ending seem less… cheap? Once the ending was revealed, Lehane did a good job of justifying it, but it still made me feel cheated and manipulated… It’ll take alot to make it work. I suppose we just have to have faith in Marty.

    Yeah, Ridley is about as subtle as a Tuba at an Art Auction (as is William Monahan for that matter), but I still have hope for Blood Meridian. You never know when a certain approach will make a certain novel jump off the screen. We’ll have to see who he casts (and if he’ll even end up doing it).