Mon
May 17 2010 5:55pm
JordanCon: Interview with Red Eagle Entertainment

And now, for a change of pace. As many of you know, but I am guessing many of you don’t, Red Eagle Entertainment is the production company that acquired film production rights for The Wheel of Time and its affiliate company, Red Eagle Games, also holds rights pertaining to the production of video games. I had the great pleasure last year of meeting Larry Mondragon, one of the main brains behind the operation, and actually had several interesting casual conversations with him about the effort being made to present The Eye of the World as a live-action feature film. Well, Larry once again came to JordanCon, and this time, I got our conversations on my voice recorder. Below, I talk with Red Eagle Entertainment about The Eye of the World movie.

RF: So, tell me, what kind of projects do you have going on?

REE: Well Richard, we have two projects we are currently pursuing. The first is a live-action motion picture based on The Wheel of Time; more specifically, an adaptation of The Eye of the World. Our second project is a family of video games similarly based upon the themes, characters, and storylines of The Wheel of Time.

With respect to the movie, we’ve been working on this project for a very long time. Recently, we had the good fortune to set up our film with Universal Pictures. Universal is very excited about the prospects for this motion picture. In fact, the executive at the studio responsible for this project is himself a big Wheel of Time fan. It goes without saying that it is immensely helpful for us to work with a talented and accomplished studio executive who has a deep understanding of the story’s characters and plotlines as we undertake the difficult task of adapting The Eye of the World novel to a feature film. So, we’re very, very happy about where things stand.

We are presently engaged in the creative process of defining the story we want to tell in our film. It may seem like a simple task, but with the sheer number of events, concepts and characters that are introduced in The Eye of the World, it is proving to be a formidable job indeed. The novel is around eight hundred pages, and the script will probably be about a hundred and twenty pages in length. That means we have to find ways to compress some story elements, while perhaps cutting other things. We may introduce a collateral element or two, but I expect that the primary focus of our picture will be on the growth of the five key characters: Rand, Egwene, Perrin, Mat and Nynaeve.

We have the makings of a wonderful story as these characters are taken by Moiraine and Lan from the safe hamlet of the Two Rivers on a journey of self-discovery in which they each will uncover latent skills and talents to their utter terror and amazement. Yet, they each have to learn to embrace these abilities because they will be needed to fulfill some larger destiny in which everything is at stake. That is the character journey that I really want to capture in our picture.

RF: Well, while it is true that the central motion in The Wheel of Time is the characters and their journey, Robert Jordan was renowned for his level of description of the setting and what the characters are seeing. What challenges are you looking at as you try to bring “Randland” to life?

REE: We have an inherit advantage in telling a story in film that Robert Jordan did not enjoy in writing for the printed page. A book (sans illustrations) comes to life in the mind of the reader through the textual description provided by the author. In film however, we can in a single moment give a glimpse of a complex scene or setting in a way that would take many pages of dialogue or narrative to establish in a printed book.

That being said, in my view, one of the things that is really special about Robert Jordan’s writing is that it creates a genre of fantasy built upon a foundation of science-fiction. The Age of Legends is the vision of the future that we all aspire to. It is a blend of technology and the magic of the One Power fused together to create a society in which war has become unnecessary, in which the healing arts can cure today’s deadly diseases, and in which the world’s populations know no hunger. As we are being introduce to the story by Robert Jordan, we are given an intimate view of the final moments of the Age of Legends as mankind is about to lose everything. In our motion picture, with the death of Lews Therin, and the raging madness that leads to the breaking of the world, the audience can visually experience what has been lost at the hands of the Shadow. These remarkable events will give the audience a crucial insight into what is at stake as we begin the next part of our story with Rand and his friends, beginning in the throwback village of Emond’s Field and continuing as they begin to explore a world in which the relics of our distant future are found everywhere and serve as a stark reminder of what has been surrendered to the Shadow.

To summarize, both the artistic “style” that pervades a motion picture, and the power of an image to quickly convey complex concepts and events, are two of the inherent advantages we have in telling a story through film.

RF: So, sounds like this a “screenwriting undertaking.”

REE: Getting the screenplay done right is going to be quite the challenge. Many people believe that adapting a novel to film is a straightforward task because the characters, setting and plotlines are already established, and therefore, there should not be much creative thinking or invention required as you go along. Rather, I think it is quite the opposite, especially when working with a novel that has such a loyal and far-flung global fan base with high expectations for our end product. I know we need to be faithful to the spirit of Jordan’s original writings. But much as film has certain advantages over written text, it also has its limitations. One of these important limitations is length. Therefore, I know at the outset that I am not going to be able satisfy the fan that wants to see every event, minor plotline and character from the novel fully portrayed in the movie. This is a goal that no filmmaker could possibly meet. However, I think what is important is that we know who the main characters are, how they develop from humble, but happy beginnings, how they are tested by events outside of their control, and how they develop the inchoate talents that will eventually make each one them powerful opponents of The Dark One.

The challenge we face is to make a film that will meet the high expectations of the many devotees of the novels, while at the same time opening up Robert Jordan’s world to a whole new generation of fans who may have never read The Wheel of Time. If we are successful, in the future we may find events such as JordanCon filled beyond capacity, and see an influx of new participants to the many online websites that are so important in maintaining the vitality of The Wheel of Time community.

But to be successful, we have to strike a balance—we need to make a movie that anyone can walk into and immediately relate to the main characters, their fears and conflicts, while at the same time, not losing the essence of the beloved story that Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson have given us.

RF: So, can you give me any names of people on the project with you?

REE: Of course. Together with my partner Rick Selvage, we are producing the picture for our production company, Red Eagle Entertainment. In addition, Jason Denzel and Brad Kane have been consulting with us and are making substantial contributions to the project. For Universal, Jeff Kirschenbaum is the executive heading up studio team. He has long been a big fan of the series. And we have been very fortunate to have brought in another creative mind to the project, Chris Morgan, who is a very experienced screenwriter. Chris has a keen understanding of the series and has read all the books. I am quite confident that Chris could hold his own in a Wheel of Time trivia contest. I hope that he will have the opportunity to experience JordanCon one day and meet many of the fans who make this event something special.

Above all else, the one thing I want to impress on you is that the team working on the project fervently wants to do the best job possible. We really care about the quality of this project. It is not about getting something done fast, or we would have been finished long, long ago. Rather, it is about doing something that meets an exacting standard that I think would make Robert Jordan, and certainly Harriet, Brandon, and most importantly, all the fans around the world, proud of our effort.

RF: Speaking of a good deal of time, how long have you been working on the project, and when can I expect to be buying movie tickets?

REE: Well, I’ve personally been working on this project for more than seven years. With any luck, I am hopeful that we can have our picture released in the 2013-2014 timeframe. A lot of things could interrupt it, maybe some things can accelerate it, but that is my best guess right now.

We are now working on what I have always believed would be the most important, yet difficult, part of making this movie: drilling down to the essence of the story we want to tell. We want it to flow naturally. We don’t want it to be confusing to new initiates, and we really want the audience to care about the fate of each of our main characters.

RF: Now, I know it might still be too early in production to ask this, but in terms of casting, are you looking at trying to get known actors with bigger names, or will you be looking for unknowns?

REE: That is a good question. I would like to see an ensemble cast for the main roles consisting of youthful and unknown actors, preferably aged a couple of years younger than each role would call for. They would then be able to play up to the age of their characters with the hope that, if we are fortunate enough to make any sequels, they will be able to grow into their respective roles over time.

That being said, I think it is also quite possible that we may select some seasoned actors who are recognizable to the audience to play some of the main supporting roles. Personally, I don’t believe our movie will need a highly-paid movie star in order to be successful. Instead, I think people will want to see our film because of they love a good fantasy tale filled with adventure, danger and valor, timeless themes about strong, relatable characters who each confront a compelling individual crisis, and they will be drawn to the epic scale of the visuals that we will present in Robert Jordan’s world. So I don’t believe that the attachment of a high-priced movie star will be essential for people put this film on their “must-see” list.

Richard, thanks for your interest in our movie project. I look forward to updating you on our progress in the months ahead.

RF: Tune in next time, where we discuss The Wheel of Time video games.


Richard Fife is a blogger, writer, and already in line for his movie ticket. You can read more of his rambling and some of his short stories at http://RichardFife.com.

37 comments
Denari6
1. Denari6
Sounds exciting. ALthough I wish HBO would have chosen WoT over fire and ice. Then I would be assured at least a solid attempt at the story

/shrug
Tricia Irish
2. Tektonica
Mr. Mondragon is certainly saying all the right things.....WAFO, I guess. Very exciting.

His name alone qualifies him to run this project.
Bobby Stubbs
3. Valan
I'm pretty excited about this. The fact that REE knows that they can't do the whole plot and are working toward capturing the spirit of the writing is a very good sign we could get a decent movie. I also approve of getting unknown actors so we get fresh faces for the characters.
Sam Mickel
4. Samadai
This would be the movie that has the highest chance of getting me out to stand in line for hours or days to be the first one to see it.
Denari6
5. Elanya Rodillia
I think Emma Thompson would be perfect for Verin. Beyond that, I have very few suggestions.
Sharon E.
6. Sulin
Another great interview. I echo Sam's (@4)comment above. Just thinking about seeing EotW on the big screen gets me all giddy!
j p
7. sps49
Does REE have a lot of moviemaking experience? I'd like to, but I'm not going to get my hopes up for this.
Tess Laird
8. thewindrose
Richard - another interesting interview! Any chance you will make a guest appreance in the movie, if it comes to be?

tempest™
Denari6
9. Lisa-Maree
Can't wait to see how good or bad they've interpreted such an epic story....so excited
Denari6
10. bct16
it sounds good, but i'm really worried about having the guy who wrote fast and the Furious writing anything that has to do with the wheel of time. there are actually deep seeded literary devices used like symbolism, foreshadowing, illusions, and deep references to Norse and Christian mythology that needs to be understood. maybe i'm wrong and he's been doing things just to get some money and a name for himself. from what i have seen this is not the right man for the job. i hope i'm wrong and he blows my mind but this is not a thing you can just through together and hope the action and special affects will get you a great reviews. there is a standard that is expected and needs to be reached for this to be the epic film it should be ps please find a good director and film crew that can mold the actors into the characters that they are not some soap opera bs i'm glad that you are doing this
T C
11. Freelancer
Agreeing with Tektonica@2, Mr. Mondragon (is that your REAL name, sir, or are you just that big a fan of Lan Mandragoran?) is saying the things I'd hope to hear in preparation for a movie production of TEoTW. Faithfulness to Jordan's vision would be foremost in the minds of the majority of serious WoT fans. He is also correct that there is no way to make everyone happy, since any adaptation will require the excision of story elements which some segment of the fandom would demand be included.

The one bit from the interview which raises a small flag for me is this:
As we are being introduce to the story by Robert Jordan, we are given an intimate view of the final moments of the Age of Legends as mankind is about to lose everything. In our motion picture, with the death of Lews Therin, and the raging madness that leads to the breaking of the world, the audience can visually experience what has been lost at the hands of the Shadow.
This seems to suggest that the screenplay will include visuals intended to portray the technology, tranquility, and superiority of life in the AOL. For the purpose of introducing the WoT universe to a new audience, I can understand the desire to lead with a demonstration of the past/future nature of events along the Wheel. However, a large part of me would cringe at the thought of an "artistic" expansion of the Prologue, Dragonmount.

Nicely done, Richard. Thanks.
Denari6
12. jpwasnt
Somehow, i'm scared of this project. Call it crazy, but that Sword of Truth adaptation just traumatized me of future book to film adaptations...
Alice Arneson
13. Wetlandernw
I've never been a huge fan of book-to-film adaptations, because as Freelancer says, they have to take some things out; inevitably some things that I thought were important end up in the recycle bin. That said, the fact that so many of the people working on it are big fans gives me some hope that they at least might not alter it beyond all recognition. If they ever get it done, I'll watch it, with the usual mental preparation of reminding myself that it won't match my own visualizations. Glad to see they aren't planning to do the big "all-star cast" approach, anyway!
YouDont NeedToKnow
14. necrosage2005
I, for one, can't wait to see this awesome book done as a movie. From the looks of this great interview, it appears that we actually seem to actually be getting FANS involved in the making of the movie. Beyond all reason this gives me hope that it will be another LotR or even Harry Potter, NOT Golden CompASS or Master and CommanDUR.

I'm putting all those involved on notice, though, that if this movie IS made, and ISN'T made well I will be personally leading the mobs with the pitchforks and torches to scrawl a Dragon's Fang ont he doors of each and every one of their houses and offices. DON'T let us down!
Denari6
15. boquaz
Has there ever been a case where a studio has claimed the screen adapter *isn't* a big fan of the original work?

I'm sorry. I trust movie guys about as far as I can throw them.

I would rather see WoT used in a miniseries before we try for a feature film. This is slow material, it would be much more forgiving (plot and character wise) to keep it slow developing.
Janet Hopkins
16. JanDSedai
I'm just afraid that any movie based on WOT will not have the depth of experience that the books have. If you boil it down enough, you're left with the Wheel of Time parodies by ISAM on the Atari forum!
Denari6
17. alreadymadwithmondragon
Larry Mondragon, you say? Am i the only one seeing the Dragon motif?
a a-p
18. lostinshadow
It's hard to imagine how the entire series could successfully be translated onto the big screen but perhaps something could be envisioned where if tEoWT is made into a successful movie, the others could follow as series with occasional movies being made, ie definitely dumai wells and the final chapter should also be made into movies.

of course regardless it's probably unrealistic because of how long the project would have to go on.
Dorothy Johnston
19. CloudMist
Freelancer, I think showing "the last moments of the AOL" bit will boil down to this: 10-30 seconds showing Lews Therin's undamaged palace, full of people celebrating the victory at SG, congratulating Elyena on her husband's bravery, etc. Maybe this will be intercut with short bits of Ishy whispering to Lews Therin. Cheers erupt when LT Travels in, with the cheers immediately turning to screams as he starts his rampage. Then we cut to the prologue from the book, with the opening credits running over the creation of Dragonmount. The whole movie prologue would run about the same amount of time as the prologue for FOTR.
Richard Fife
20. R.Fife
RE: The last moments of the AoL

From my first, lost interview and other discussions with Larry, I always got the feeling that they just plan to have a couple pan-arounds of the AoL on fire. Perhaps seeing Sho-wings crashing from the sky, or giant space-age skyscrapers collapsing in earthquakes and fires. Even in the moment of something's destruction you can get an idea for what it was like while whole.
Denari6
21. Planeswalker
Maybe it's just me. But imagining now, somehow i feel jealous once Wheel of Time gets mainstream fame... But RJ's got a story to tell... Still...

It used to be only just us. ;p haha
Denari6
22. BigD
First, I'd like to take issue with the statemnt regarding the length of the movie. You would pack movie houses even with a four hour film. Break it up with 2 or 3 intermissions and charge triple the ticket price.

I really like most of the responses and remain hopeful that this effort will not turn into a milquetoast effort designed for "mass appeal". It is the story itself and adherence to it that will deliver the goods. Look at the popularity of LOTR, a shadow compared to Jordan's creation. (Sorry LOTR die hards).

And really, every book owned the NYT best seller list. You already HAVE mass appeal, don't screw it up.
R B
23. MasterAlThor
Where is the fastforward button on life when you need one???

I simply will have to wait like everyone else. Drat, drat, and double drat.

Dragon™
Marcus W
24. toryx
Well, good luck to them. They've got a tough job in front of them.

Personally, I don't want to see the movie made. I don't think they can possibily pull it off in a manner that would please the fans. So even if it did make it to the movies, I'd probably not watch it. I've been burned too many times before by a novel to movie translation that wasn't even a tenth as complicated as this one would be.

I do look forward to hearing more about the video games though.
Eric Stapler
25. estapler
It always seemed to me that New Spring was written as more of a screenplay somehow. I would think that would be a much better movie to start with, it always seemed to flow much more like a movie than any of the other books.
Kurt Lorey
27. Shimrod
I still have the sour taste in my mouth from the never finished (or at least, never all delivered) serialization of New Spring.

Not impressed. Should have rickrolled him, Richard.
Birgit
28. birgit
If they want to show more about the AOL, they could include the Ravens prologue where Tam tells about the sealing of the Bore.
Denari6
29. Branwhin
Cloudmist@19:

**shivers** Wow. I really want to see that.

All right, as a total LTT fangirl, I'll likely be bawling while the rest of the moviegoers would be wondering what the Hell is up with me, but...

Good one! I do hope Mr. Mondragon (and I chuckle every time I read that) reads that comment.

Branwhin

(word verification - betrays cattle??? Amusing)
Denari6
30. Bigmac
jpwasnt@12: Um totally agree with you although I somehow got sucked into watching it despite all of the plot conveniences, etc.

There are definitely a lot of mixed feelings about it but I think the excitement of seeing it all culminate into such a complex project outweighs all of the doubts... maybe. Just sayin.
Denari6
31. goshien
I am so excited about a movie!!! I am with all of the other fans wishing that HBO, Showtime or Starz had picked it up instead. Would have made for better plots and more action; and would have had an easier time involving all of the sub-plots. I dont know how they will handle that as the story progresses.
samuli
32. kalma
Whoever said that he/she wished HBO had picked it up instead, I totally agree. Or Starz, 'coz judging from Spartacus they also seriously lack in the censorship-department and know how to make compelling and intriguing TV entertainment
Denari6
33. Aelis
I guess what is really importaint is that you get a really good director and great music. I really hope you put a lot of effort into this! This movie should hold Harry potter and LOTR class!

I like the idea of casting unknown actors for the lead characters, Both Harry Potter and LOTR would not be such good movies if any of the young main characters were known from before.

I am really looking forward to this movie! It will be released some year after Harry Potter ends and hopefully continue for many years just as Harry Potter has done. I am so happy to be living in this time!
Denari6
34. Aelis
Oh and btw.. part of what makes these two movies so great is the great scenery! Harry Potter has great digital sceneries of around the school and LOTR has great scenery from the nature in New Zealand..
Denari6
35. ShadarHaran
i must say that i really hope they pick some good actors and actresses....otherwise this thing is going to bomb......Bid fan of the books btw :) just finished ToM
Denari6
36. Rose__
Not sure if a TV series would be such a good idea, especially for the later books, where you have all these different subplots and it's hard to keep track of everything within a single book. Imagine having to wait for 5 one hour-long episodes to see what happened to Perrin! And then not see him again for another 4 episodes. It wouldn't work.
Denari6
37. Jonathan Fraser Sim
Well, it's now Aug 2012 and all Red Eagle have done since this article was written is announce their hopes for an iphone game. Poor show Red Eagle. Poor show. Give up the rights to the Wheel of Time and give someone else, that knows more about the industry, a chance.
Denari6
38. Dilirah
August 2013. What's happening with this?

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