Mission: Save The President

When I was offered the opportunity to write a book based on the screenplay for BIG GAME, the film was still in production and I had no idea what any of the characters or locations would look like on screen. Actually, that’s not quite true – I had a pretty good idea what the president would look like; Samuel L Jackson is unmistakeable. I tried not to picture him in my mind, though, because I wanted the book to be a separate entity from the film. As my publisher – the brilliant Barry Cunningham from Chicken House – said, the book needed to be able to stand on its own feet, without the film to prop it up. So I avoided anything to do with the film (other than the screenplay) when I sat down to write about Oskari, the not-very-good hunter who everyone laughs at; the not-very-good hunter who proves himself to be brave, tough, resilient, honourable, reliable, and resourceful.

Movie tie-in edition

Movie tie-in edition

I had such a blast writing the book. It’s a great story and I was allowed to change it in all kinds of ways so that it would suit the written form. You see, sometimes things look good on screen but wouldn’t work in a book, so I worked out a way to tell the story entirely from the point of view of 12 year old Oskari, altering some of the details, adjusting the order of some events, giving him a back story with hopes and fears. It took a while to get it just right, editing it for UK and US audiences, and then I had the excitement of watching the foreign rights sales come rolling in – so far the book is to be published in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain (Spanish and Catalan), Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Vietnam, and there is an audio book in many of those languages too!

Big Game Cover High ResAnd then the book was published in the UK in January and the film was moving closer. I saw stills from the set, a clip, a trailer . . . and then I was finally allowed to see the finished film. I went to Entertainment One in London and sat in a small private cinema, along with a group of publishers and literary scouts, to watch the final cut – although I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement to say that I wouldn’t talk about it.

Then, in May, the film finally hit the cinemas and I went to see it with my family and a big group of friends, and . . . it was fantastic! Onni Tommila is great as Oskari, Samuel L Jackson makes a superb president, and all the other actors portrayed the characters so well. There are some brilliant over-the-top action sequences, there are a lot of laughs, and the relationship between Oskari and the president is excellent.

The film isn’t a big budget movie with a vast sums of money available for advertising, but there was a TV campaign and a poster campaign, so it managed to get itself noticed. Neither did it have the recognition of a franchise like Marvel, so a May release meant it had to work hard against Avengers: Age of Ultron, but . . . well, while Age of Ultron was good, it didn’t look much different from Avengers Assemble or Winter Soldier and it felt empty. Big Game on the other hand is a film that has a huge heart. It knows how to have a good time, how to get you cheering for the good guys and booing the bad guys. It also knows how to make you laugh. If Age of Ultron was a person, it would be a car salesman with a smart suit and a friendly manner about him. If Big Game was a person, it would be your best friend, someone to take with you on an adventure.

If you missed it at the cinema, the DVD release will come in September, and don’t forget, the book is available AT. ALL. TIMES. And the book is different from the film, so if you want to know the whole story, you need to read and watch!

Oh, and if you’re in the USA, Big Game has its theatrical release on 26th June.

That’s all.

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Surviving The Thing

So I’ve been considering my favourite survival stories and I was thinking that, as it’s Friday 13th, maybe it’s time for a survival horror story? After all, I do have something of a soft spot for a good horror story, and there’s one that really stands out for me.

The Thing is based on a short story by John W Campbell, entitled ‘Who Goes There?’ and was first filmed as The Thing From Another World (1951) but was adapted once more in 1982 by John Carpenter. The 1982 film was adapted into a novel by Alan Dean Foster – which I read many years ago. The idea of the film being adapted into a novel is interesting to me because I have recently adapted a screenplay into a novel, so maybe it’s time for me to go back and re-read the novelisation of The Thing . . .

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Anyway, I’ve seen the film more times than I can remember and it has undoubtedly been an influence on my own story telling. Those of you who know my writing will know that I’m drawn to distant and isolated settings, and that’s where we find ourselves in The Thing. Outpost 31 is a small research base in the Antarctic where the researchers come under threat from a shape-shifting alien that assumes the guise of the people it kills. Realising their predicament, one of the researchers even takes measures to isolate them further. All communications are cut-off, and all means of escaping the base are destroyed, leaving them totally alone as their paranoia increases and they struggle to identify which of them is the threat.

Kurt Russel, as R J MacReady proves to be a resourceful and resilient protagonist – the kind of protagonist I love to root for. He doesn’t have any specialist training, unique abilities or powers. In fact, he’s fallible and afraid. He feels like a real person, not a pumped up Hollywood Hero, but he’s smart and he doesn’t give up – he keeps on pushing and he keeps on fighting despite the odds. Ultimately his only goal is to prevent the horror from escaping the base and finding its way to civilisation, but this is a survival story in which, perhaps, it is best if no one survives.

Oh, and on top of all that, there are some amazing squishy (pre-CGI days) effects by Rob Bottin, a perfectly stark soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter, a brilliant and under-stated performance from Kurt Russell, miles and miles of icy wastes, an overwhelming sense of isolation, and a long, hard fight to survive.

It’s not for the faint-hearted.

The Thing . . . Man is the warmest place to hide . . .

That’s all.

Big Game Movie Stuff!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will already have seen these, but if not . . . well, a few Big Game goodies have been coming in over the past few days.

Entertainment One (the distribution company bringing the film to UK screens) has finalised their artwork for the poster. It’s very different from the poster developed for the Finnish release . . . and it looks great!

Big Game UK Poster

 

There’s also a brand new UK trailer . . .

And . . . Chicken House has finalised the movie tie-in cover, which uses the imagery from the poster . . .

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They Drew First Blood

With the publication of my most recent book, the adventure/survival story BIG GAME, and the imminent release of the film, I’ve been looking back at books, films, and real life stories that have influenced my writing. In my last post, I talked about Deliverance, but the film in this post is one that you might not consider as seriously. Bear with me though, because although the sequels were over-the-top, and turned the main character into a violent cartoon, the first film to feature John J Rambo is a different thing altogether.

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In FIRST BLOOD, Rambo is an emotionally wounded Vietnam veteran who wanders into a small Oregon town to find an old friend. But his war buddy has succumbed to cancer, brought on by the effects of defoliants used in the jungle, so the despondent Rambo decides to have a bite to eat and move on. The local police don’t much like the look of him, though, and arrest him for vagrancy. They taunt and abuse him until he snaps and escapes into the nearby wilderness – which is where he is most at home – and he is forced to use all of his skills to evade the National Guardsmen sent in to find him. And he has considerable skills. He fashions make-shift clothes, becomes invisible among the trees, he hunts, makes fire, builds traps, climbs sheer rock faces, improvises, adapts and . . . and he even sews his wounds using thread from his survival knife.

And EVERY boy who saw First Blood wanted their own survival knife, complete with hollow handle containing fishing hooks, thread, needles, matches and compass.

I watched First Blood numerous times, all the boys crowded around the small screen in the tv room at boarding school. We watched until the VHS tape became worn, and messing about with the tracking no longer made any difference so, yeah, I’d say this film has had some influence on me. But not just on me. First Blood was a hugely influential action film, and was both a critical and a commercial success. I’m not making this up. Despite the reputation of subsequent films featuring the character, First Blood is a surprisingly good film.

There’s something else you need to know if you haven’t seen it. Only one person dies in First Blood. And their death is an accident. The point here is that Rambo does everything he can to avoid killing people. He is a war hero, shunned and betrayed by his own country, abused and let down, dragged into a fight he doesn’t want, and yet he holds back. When he could kill, he does not. This gives the film a special quality, and it gives the character a nobility that has been long forgotten, lost beneath the body count of its sequels. We see that Rambo could rain hell on those who would maltreat him, but all he wants to do is have something to eat and move on . . .

The film was based on the 1972 novel by David Morrell and was heavily influenced by Geoffrey Household’s classic survival story, Rogue Male.

 

That’s all.