• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

TV Series, Movies and Musicals

Important note: This FAQ was written by Diana before the Outlander TV series on Starz was approved, funded and began production.

Please click here for Diana’s page with the latest news about the Starz Outlander TV series!

Has anyone ever thought of making a movie of your books?

You know, whenever someone asks this, I’m always tempted to strike my forehead theatrically and cry, “Why, NO! That would never have occurred to me. What a great idea!” But I mostly don’t.

Yes, the books have been optioned several times for their film rights, and Outlander is currently under option.  It’s the sort of situation where you don’t hold your breath, but just wait and see what happens.

Update: Click here for information about a possible Outlander series on the Starz cable network that is in development as of November, 2012.

So, who would you cast to play Jamie and Claire?

Well, on the one hand, I don’t watch television at all, and see movies only on DVD, so I know very few actors by name (I was actually obliged to subscribe to People magazine in order to know who the producers were talking about when they mentioned potential cast-ees). On the other hand, acting is an art, just like writing novels. An actor’s ability to embody a character is a lot more important than simple physical similarity, I think. And on the third hand…I know what Jamie and Claire actually look like, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen any actors who look strikingly like them.

There are, however, any number of readers who have Very Definite Ideas about who should be cast in an eventual movie, and some of these have been inspired to make their own mini-casting videos. We’ve collected as many of these as we could find on my YouTube Channel –all except the ones suggesting that Sandra Bullock play Claire; the nice person who does the YouTube Channel for me absolutely refused to include any of those, as a matter of personal principle.

I’ll refrain from comment on these suggestions myself {g}, other than noting that I think a few of you are not considering that if/when a film is made, it would presumably be of OUTLANDER, not the  later books.   And while I certainly think Kevin McKidd and Gerard Butler are both fine actors, there’s no way either one could possibly play a 22-year-old virgin.

Now, I have absolutely no say in the casting; that’s entirely up to the producers/director/casting director, etc.—though the producers are courteous enough now and then to ask me what I think of this or that possibility.   The chief producer did say he was considering the possibility of casting an unknown Scottish actor to play Jamie, and had an eye out, but had not so far seen anyone who looked at all like Jamie.  “Really?” I said.  “I have.”

This would be Allan Scott-Douglas, right, the young actor who sang the role of Jamie Fraser for OUTLANDER: The Musical. Since the writers of the musical cast it with an eye to an eventual stage production, they went to some trouble over physical appearance, as well as vocal talent; Mr. Scott-Douglas is in fact very tall, red-haired, and Scottish, as well as being in his twenties.  If anyone was asking me, I think he’d probably do it very well — I did see him act, in a play in Edinburgh, and he’s a fine actor — but as I said, it’s not my call.  Allan’s website is HERE, and there are a couple of shots of him from the OUTLANDER: The Musical production below, as well as a picture of him on my Photos page, on grounds that you can never have too many men in kilts to look at.

Have you considered making a mini-series of the OUTLANDER books?  I think that would…(offer more scope/allow more explicit sex/let you include more of the original books/etc.).

Well, yes.   I do think, though, that perhaps some of you are missing the Rather Important Point that I have nothing whatever to do with making a movie, a mini-series, or any other kind of theatrical production.   Doing such a thing takes a huge amount of money, a reasonable amount of experience and skill, and an ungodly amount of time and fuss.  I don’t have any of those.  I also have no desire to lose several years of my life and what remains of my sanity by being intimately involved in any such venture–which is why there’s No Way in Hell that I’d ever write a screenplay for such a venture.

The way that movies and mini-series and stage-plays and musical get made (usually) is that someone who either has money/experience/time or knows how to go about getting those things, comes to the author of a “property” (aka book, short story, poem, song, whatever) and offers said author an option, for a modest amount of money.

An option is a period of time.  During this time, the producer has the sole and exclusive right to do whatever they like in support of the project: hire a screenwriter and have a script prepared, send 500 copies of the book to people they think might be interested in the project, take actors or directors to Scotland for lunch…whatever they think might be effective in helping them to raise 60 million dollars, find a good director, and generally get the show on the road.

OK.  If they can’t get the show on the road within the time period specified by the option contract, that option lapses.  Now, at this point it can be renewed (some contracts specifically allow renewal at the discretion of the producer, some don’t), or not.  If not, the author can then  sell an option to another production company, or just choose to sit on the property and do nothing for awhile (or forever, as the case may be).

On the other hand, if the producer does manage to arouse interest and financing, the option contract then provides for the actual purchase of the film rights.   The purchase price is (if one has a decent film-rights agent) substantially less modest than the option price, but it’s still not likely to be huge money.  The thing is, once that price is paid, the production company Owns Everything, forever, in perpetuity, throughout the universe.  (Really.  That’s what film contracts say.  The first time I saw one, I said to my agent, “They’re kidding, aren’t they?”  “Oh, no,” he said.  “They aren’t kidding.”)   Which is why you’d like to sign option agreements only with people you more or less trust to do the best they can for your material.  This is why we’ve signed option agreements only four times since I wrote the books.

Presently, the option on the OUTLANDER series (when a series of books is involved, the deal is always made for the series as a whole, rather than one book at a time) is held by Essential Entertainment.  If you Google “Essential Entertainment Outlander”, you’ll see whatever news there is to be seen.  (I won’t try to provide links here, because they won’t stay current.)   That contract has expired and been renewed—and on the last renewal, we did agree on language that would allow Essential to explore the possibilities of doing a mini-series, either instead of a feature-film, or in addition to one.

Like I say, it’s not something where you hold your breath, but that’s what the situation is, right now.

Musicals and Stage-Plays

I do often get inquiries from people who want to do a stage production of OUTLANDER.  Now, stage-rights in a situation where there are also film-rights involved is a tricky thing.  The film option contract usually specifies strict limits (if allowing for such a thing at all) on stage productions, since film companies like to have control of All the Rights.

However, the option contract happened to expire just when Mike Gibb approached me about his projected musical adaptation, and we were able to negotiate language allowing that when the option was renewed.

The original song-cycle of OUTLANDER: The Musical has been amazingly well-received—thank you all!—and Mike’s written a complete libretto for the eventual stage production.  He’s presently talking with theater producers, and…well, we’ll see what happens, but prospects seem good.

Below are a couple of photos from the launch of  OUTLANDER: The Musical, in Aberdeen this last July.  (This was a showcase performance, using only two of the play’s characters, doing eight songs.)