2006-09-17

The White Hotel movie

Some weeks ago, I wrote about novels in which Freud appears as a major character. The most well-known one, and one which I like very much, is D. M. Thomas's The White Hotel.

According to the Variety, it will finally be adapted into a movie and production is expected to start later this year, 25 years after the novel was published (see White Hotel Makes Progress (CanMag) and White Hotel Gets a Start Date (Cinematical), both dated 18/8/06).

The copy of The White Hotel I have is a King Penguin paperback dated 1981 (the year the novel was first published). On its back cover, "soon to be a major film" was printed in all-capital and bold type.

As it turned out "soon" means 2007 at the earliest, assuming no further hiccups along the way.

So what happened? Jason Buchanan's All Movie Guide summarised the past quarter of a century in a paragraph:

After a number of false starts beginning with screen icon Barbra Streisand's efforts to star in a film adaptation in the early '80s, "The White Hotel" was shopped around to such high-profile filmmakers as Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, and David Cronenberg and at various points was set to star such screen heavyweights as Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Isabella Rossellini, and Anthony Hopkins.

Let D.M Thomas himself tells you his celluloid dreams (The Guardian, 28/8/04):

One thing is certain: the imagined film is wonderful. It's fully worthy of the combined, unified, unegotistical genius of its directors Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Hector Babenco, Emir Kusturica, Pedro Almodovar and David Cronenberg; employing the world's greatest cameramen and designers; the writing talent of Charles Mee, Dennis Potter, Joan Juliet Buck, Dusan Kovacevic, and even myself; the acting skills of Meryl Streep, Isabella Rossellini, Juliette Binoche, Nicole Kidman, Lena Olin, Emily Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, Ralph Fiennes and many other brilliant actors; making us thrill at astonishing virtual reality effects, Showscan landscapes and glass fibre optics - but never cheaply or meretriciously, rather always serving the truth of my novel. I am hugely grateful for it. I never tire of seeing Lisa in the train, a blue lake outside, and hearing the first crashing chords of Don Giovanni... Or perhaps clowns tumbling in a circus ring, with Nazi officers gazing up at Lisa, swinging through the air.

According to Susan Stewart Potter, the producer and a co-screenwriter for the soon-to-commence project:

The real story behind this long-awaited, often stalled or shut down project is actually quite simple. There were two scurrilous producers, John Roberdeau and Robert Geisler, who lost the rights early on, but who continued -- under a straw company -- to attach directors and stars to the project. Bertolucci was ready to roll camera when the rightful owner of the motion picture rights got wind of the production and shut it down -- with a court order. Kusterica, Cronenberg, and others all fell under this ax.

I came along at the right time... just as the rights were becoming legally clear and free... and did a deal with the atty, who held the rights.

Trivia - so many Potters: Susan Stewart Potter, who is instrumental in turning The White Hotel movie into reality, is known for her role as the librettist for the 1993 musical drama Joan of Arc. She, however, is not related to David Potter, composer for Joan of Arc. As far as I know, she is also not related to Dennis Potter, who was tasked to write the screenplay of The White Hotel for David Lynch in the early 1990s. D.M. Thomas says that "when I was sent Potter's screenplay, I was dismayed to find Freud and Vienna deleted, and my operatic heroine now a high-wire act in a Berlin circus. Don Giovanni and Eugene Onegin had given way to jaunty Potteresque tunes from the 30s." ("Potteresque" of course refers to yet another Potter - Cole Potter). Dennis Potter died in 1994.

(originally posted on 19/8/06, updated on 17/9/06)

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