It's been a long time since we've had an update on Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of the book Slaughterhouse-Five. I didn't think it would ever happen, but never say never! There's a chance that it might! The book is set in World War II and and centers on time jumping and an alien abduction. In a recent interview with The Hunffington Post the director revealed that Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malcovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) was working on developing it with him initially.
I will tell you, my idea was to get Charlie Kaufman to write it. And I spoke to Charlie Kaufman about it and we came up with an idea on how to approach it, which I thought was very, very interesting. But, it was right at the time I went and started "Pacific Rim." So the studio, they didn't want to invest in that project if it was not going to be my next movie. So, you know, it gradually cooled a little bit. But the exact take I proposed to Charlie Kaufman is the exact take I would do with the material.
It would have been so cool to see this team up for this movie. Slaughterhouse-Five wouldn't be an easy book to adapt, because it's kind of all over the place, but Del Toro gives a little insight on how he would do it saying,
How can I put it? The first "Slaughterhouse-Five" movie that was done was a really good movie, but it's about flashbacks and flash-forwards. And what is gorgeous about the book is that he becomes detached from time.
The Tralfamadorians say, "Like we can see a mountain range. We can see the alive, we can see the dead, we can see ourselves at age five and we can see ourselves ancient. It makes no difference." It makes no difference. And that was the idea that we were talking about. We were talking about how it was going to be very experimental. But, you know, if I had the money to pay for any of these movies, I would do it. I would do it in a second.
Now that I think about it, it sounds like something Terrence Malick would like to do! The director was then asked if the project is dead, and to that he replied...
No, no, no. It may still happen. But, I don't control the material. Let me put it this way: when I control the material, I never give up on a movie. I mean, "The Count of Monte Cristo" was 15 years. "Devil's Backbone" took me a decade or more. But, if I don't control the material, I have no say. It's a property of Universal.
Well let's hope Universal gets their shit together and moves this film into production! I'd love to see Del Toro and Kaufman's vision of it brought to the big screen. I have no doubt they would turn this story into an incredible movie.
Here's the plot summary for the book:
Slaughterhouse Five follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, optometrist and time traveler. The novel jumps through time with Billy as he lives the events of his life over and over again. In this dynamic framework, the reader sees the terrors of war, the quiet desperation of suburban life and the breakdown of the psyche through Billy's time jumping eyes. Just before he is captured as a prisoner of war, Billy experiences his first time jump. Here he sees his whole life, past, present and future, unfold. After the war, Billy returns from Europe to resume his civilian life, but does not cease moving randomly through time, witnessing his birth, his death and events in between. He is eventually abducted by aliens who experience time in much the same way as Billy except that they prefer to look only at life's more pleasant moments. Despite his family's objections, Billy tells the world of his time traveling and of his abduction, highlighting the story with a detailed account of his death.
Here's a character breakdown:
Billy Pilgrim: the protagonist of the novel, Billy Pilgrim is a WWII veteran who becomes a prisoner of war at the time of the fire bombing of Dresden. The reader also sees Billy as an optometrist and a family man who has become "unstuck in time". This phenomenon causes him to travel back and forth in time experiencing and re-experiencing the events of his life.
Roland Weary: a fellow prisoner of war who incorrectly imagines himself as a glorious hero and who blames his death on Billy.
Paul Lazarro: also a prisoner of war and friend to Roland Weary. Lazzaro makes it his mission to see Weary avenged by killing Billy Pilgrim.
Narrator: the author himself plays a small role in the novel interjecting facts about the war and his own experiences in it. The narrator's role serves to frame the events of Billy Pilgrim's life, giving the novel a cohesive thread.
Tralfamadorians: the aliens who abduct Billy Pilgrim as a specimen for their zoo. The Trafalmadorians perceive life and time in four dimensions and so understand Billy's tendencies to jump from time period to time period.