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.