Then there was the studio executive who, halfway through the pitch, blurted: “Wait a minute. You mean God is God?”
Such were the travails of the writers who traveled from New York to Hollywood in 2004 to hawk their adaptation of “Paradise Lost.”
For two novice screenwriters John Milton’s 17th-century epic poem, which tells the story of Lucifer’s fall and the temptation of Adam and Eve, was an audacious choice of material. “We figured someone’s going to make a movie of it someday, and it might as well be us,” Mr. Willinger said in a telephone interview.
Yeah, may as well. It gets better:
Legendary’s chairman and chief executive, Thomas Tull, said his first response to the idea was, “Well, that’s going to make a lot of older folks relive bad college experiences.” Later he realized that “if you get past the Milton of it all, and think about the greatest war that’s ever been fought, the story itself is pretty compelling,” he said.
As with any Hollywood development project, things are changing along the way. The original script hewed a bit too closely to Milton for the producer’s taste, for instance. Mr. Newman, by his own account, told the writers he wanted “less Adam and Eve and more about what’s happening with the archangels,” the battle in Heaven between God’s and Satan’s armies.
“In Eden there’s the nudity problem,” he pointed out, “which would be a big problem for a big studio movie.”
Mr. Newman also knows that some might see this project as a fool’s errand. “It’s a 400-some-odd-page poem written in Old English,” he said, laughing. “How do you find the movie in that?” But he speaks of the project with unflagging enthusiasm, though it may seem his passion is more for the idea of the poem than for the poem itself. (It’s in blank verse, not Old English.)
“This could be like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ or bigger,” he said. Daniel Craig and Heath Ledger are two of his top choices for Lucifer.
Well, at least it sounds like a disaster of truly epic proportions.