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.
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!
And 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.