Monday, June 9, 2014

Guest Post: After 20 Years, The Giver is Finally a Film by Spencer Blohm

Spencer Blohm is back with another guest post, guys. This time it's about the upcoming film The Giver and some of the ins and outs of the process that's occurred from book to film.

After 20 Years, The Giver is Finally a Film

Lois Lowry’s The Giver has been a mainstay on most teenagers reading lists since its release in 1993. Whether you read it in school or on your own time, the story of Jonas, the Community and, of course, the Giver, holds a spot in many reader’s hearts today. The book took shape when author Lowry asked herself what a world would be like with no war, no poverty, no unhappiness, and no disharmony at all. She told the Washington Post that after establishing this peaceful world, “then I introduce the idea that something is not quite right in this lovely place.”

The resulting story was considered by some to be too dark and controversial for teens or older children to read, and there were even attempts to ban the book. This took Lowry by surprise; she was actually “astonished” when she heard of this controversy and in the same interview went on to explain, “I think The Giver is such a moral book, so filled with important truths, that I couldn’t believe anyone would want to suppress it, to keep it from kids.”

Now, 20 years after it first simultaneously won accolades and condemnation, the book will be (finally) making its way into theaters this coming August. The novel no longer stirs up the controversy that it once did, considering the radical changes in society since its release, but it’s central theme is something that is timeless, and will surely be extended to a new generation thanks to the film. While not much is know about the film itself, here are a few things that we know regarding its creation...

The film rights to the book were originally purchased in 1994 by Bill Cosby and his production company, ASIS Productions, who formed an agreement with Lancit Media Production to create a film adaptation of the book. As the years went by, multiple screenwriters were brought into and subsequently left the project, and Walden Media eventually became the central production company.
One constant through the film’s journey to the big screen was the interest of Jeff Bridges. After being introduced to the book by his daughter, he became interested in optioning the rights to the film, but not for himself, telling Variety,“I originally thought of the role of the Giver as a vehicle for my father, the late Lloyd Bridges.” Thanks to the many years spent in pre-production, Bridges now will assume the role, saying, “at 61 years old, I feel the time is right for me to do it.” He also serves as a producer of the film.

Joining Bridges on the production side of the picture is director Phillip Noyce. It’s worth noting that among Noyce’s best known works are the action/thriller films Salt, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger (all of which you can catch through streaming and on demand services online or from your cable provider). This means we can likely expect the film to be more fast-paced than the book, and to really milk those suspenseful moments. While Lowry didn’t have a role in the screenplay itself (which was eventually written by Michael Mitnick), she told the Washington Post that she read it and offered suggestions but understood that “a movie can’t ever be the same as the book.” Producer Nikki Silver echoed Lowry’s sentiments, citing a concern in trying to translate Jonas’ heavy internal dialogue to the screen, and saying that the film took so long to be made because they needed the right screenplay, which would be able to do just that.

Of course, it was quite a process to find Jonas himself as well. Rumors swirled for months as to who would get the part after the casting process was announced, and the part eventually went to a relatively unknown Australian actor, Brenton Thwaites. Joining him and Bridges in the cast is the legendary Meryl Streep as Chief Elder, much to the delight of, well, everyone. Rounding out the cast are Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard as Jonas’s parents, and Taylor Swift, who appears in a few brief moments as Rosemary, the former Receiver of Memories.

As you may have previously seen on this site, a trailer was recently released for the film. Of course, fans of the book were quick to react to the fact that the film is not in black and white like the book, but the studio assures us that parts of the film will be shown as written. The Giver will make its debut in American theaters on August 15th, so be on the lookout for more information and sneak peeks about this highly anticipated film.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment blogger who lives and works in Chicago. When he’s not busy working he can be found catching up on all his favorite TV shows or checking out the newest movies. His sadly neglected Twitter is @bspencerblohm.


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