I’ve been getting a number of enquiries, since press releases have started appearing about the movie production of OUTLANDER—excited folk asking “Is it true?” “When?” and (I hope you’ll pardon a brief roll of the eyes here), “Who would you cast?” (I couldn’t begin to guess how many thousands of times I’ve been asked that over the last twenty years.)
It’s very early days as yet, but I’ll answer what I can.
Yes, Essential Productions is developing OUTLANDER as a “major motion picture.” (What that means is that they want to make a two-to-two-and-a-half hour feature film.)
And yes, Randall Wallace (the talented gentleman who wrote both BRAVEHEART and PEARL HARBOR—hey, ancient Scots and WWII, how about that?) is writing the script.
No, I have absolutely nothing to say about the casting of the movie. The production people do occasionally ask me what I think of this or that person, but this is simple politeness on their part.
No, I have no control whatever regarding the script.
No, I really don’t want to have anything personal to do with the development of the movie.
Why not? Well, two major reasons (putting aside the fact that producers seldom want the original writer sticking his or her oar in and causing trouble):
1. I have books to write and a family to be with. I can’t be hopping planes every other week or dropping everything else at a moment’s notice to do script adjustments. (I do know that all movie scripts go through many (many, many) iterations, rewrites, etc. in the process of development and filming.) That kind of thing eats your time and sucks your soul, and to no good end.
2. For nearly twenty years now, people have been saying to me, “Oh! I’m dying to see the movie of your books! But I want it to be just like it is in the book!” To which the only possible reply is, “Yeah? Which forty pages do you want to see?”
Obviously, a book of the size and complexity of OUTLANDER won’t fit into a two-hour movie. But it might be possible for a good movie based on the book to exist.
Adaptations can be either good or bad—they’re seldom indifferent—but a skilful adaptation is just as much a feat of skill as is writing an original book or script.
Yes, I could adapt the book myself. With the net result that even if a) no one then messed with the script (and they would; that’s how film works), and b) the end result was wonderful (odds of about 900:1)—ten million people would still email me about, “But how could you leave out that scene?” Or “But why did you change this character?” Or “But you left out my favorite line in the whole book!“
I’d really rather write a new novel.
Now, do bear in mind a couple of things here:
1. Essential Productions have an option on the book. This means that they paid us a modest amount of money and we gave them a span of time, in which they can do anything they want to, in order to put together the necessary financing and logistics to make a movie (that includes hiring a scriptwriter).
We (my agents and I) get a lot of option requests. We decided to grant Essential Productions an option because we like them, we think they understand the book and its central characters, and insofar as such a thing is possible, we trust them to do their best to make it a great movie.
But it is an option.
2. Not all movies that are optioned actually get made. Even movies that have excellent scripts, A-list directors and recognizable stars don’t always get made. Naturally, we hope this one will, because we do like the EP people and think that of all the producers who’ve approached us about the film rights, they have the best chance of succeeding in making a great movie.
But we’ll all have to wait and see what happens next.
And that’s all I can tell you.
P.S. Well, I can also tell you that a) yes, Gerard Butler is a fine-looking specimen of Scottish manhood, even if he is a Lowlander, but b) I think he might have difficulty playing a 22-year-old virgin; c) Keira Knightley would probably make an excellent Claire (she has the accent and the capacity for sarcasm), if she gained forty pounds, but d) James McAvoy is probably a wonderful actor, but he’s only 5’7″, for heaven’s sake. (Mind, none of the production people has mentioned any of these actors to me as serious casting prospects, either.)