Three-time Oscar nominee Todd Field is set to direct and co-write the adaptation of Jess Walter's bestselling book "Beautiful Ruins." Field will team up with Walter to write the screenplay.
Beginning in Italy in 1962, the story picks up with a few characters connected to the ill-fated production of "Cleopatra" before jumping forward to present-day Hollywood. The book's ambitious storytelling should present a particular challenge for Field and Walter in finding a way to bring it to the screen.
In the 2012 New York Times review of the novel, Helen Schulman wrote, “Walter is simply great on how we live now, and -- in this particular book -- on how we lived then and now, here and there. ‘Beautiful Ruins’ is his Hollywood novel, his Italian novel and his Pacific Northwestern novel all braided into one.”
"Ruins" may have a Hollywood setting and an eye for the industry's foibles, but Walter has said it is not a Hollywood novel per se.
"This is about Italy in the 1960s, Hollywood now, Hollywood then, the Seattle music scene, the Donner party, World War II," the Spokane, Wash.-based author told the L.A. Times last summer on a tour to promote the book. "Hollywood is like a giant mirror, I think, and I used it that way in the book, reflecting characters back to themselves."
Walter said he has been "simultaneously drawn to and repelled from Hollywood for years. I wanted to explore how we're all defining ourselves now. With Facebook and Twitter, we're all our own little publicists in a way. And the thing we think of as Hollywood is this kind of studio system, this thing that is sort of fractured and not what it was. The novel is full of shots at the vacuous banalities Hollywood turns out."
An example: One chapter is dedicated to "Donner!" -- a detailed movie pitch that describes a group of cannibals devouring the unfortunate hero's children.
"It's the least likely movie to ever be made," he said, "but it reads exactly like a guy pitching a movie."
Field is to produce "Beautiful Ruins" through Standard Film Company, with Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson of Cross Creek Pictures and Patrick Milling Smith and Brian Carmody of Smuggler Films.
Field was nominated for Oscars for the screenplay adaptations of “In the Bedroom” and “Little Children,” both of which he also directed. As a producer, Field received an Oscar nomination for best picture for “In the Bedroom.”
Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus