The Bone Season is the latest fantasy book franchise to be tapped for a film adaptation, and Total Film recently had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the process with Andy Serkis (whose Imaginarium Studios is overseeing the production) and author Samantha Shannon.
Serkis is fast becoming one of the busiest people in movies – juggling the rejuvenated Planet Of The Apes series, second-unit directing The Hobbit trilogy, directing a new take on The Jungle Book and a nabbing a role in Star Wars: Episode VII . And that’s all on top of being a general all-round motion-capture pioneer.
Aged 22, Shannon is no slacker either. Rising to fame with The Bone Season , her first published novel, she’s currently working on the next installment in her dystopian fantasy series, which follows a teenage clairvoyant in a grim alternate-future Oxford.
Here’s what Serkis and Shannon had to say about the movie adaptation of the hit book, which is in the early stages of production…
Andy, what was it about The Bone Season that made you want to snap it up for the Imaginarium Studios?
Andy Serkis: "The expanded universe that I know Samantha has in her head is just extraordinary, and this is only the very first part of it. The level of forensic detail about it for all of the characters and all of the world is so impressive and thrilling, and it's just a really fantastic story with a great lead character."
Samantha, did you have any idea about film potential when you were writing it?
Samantha Shannon: "I think it is in the mind of every aspiring writer, you think, ‘What would it be like if you made it into a film?' and you think about which actors could play which characters, but I never really thought of it seriously, because when I started writing The Bone Season , I'd just come from a novel I'd written when I was 15, which was a failure. I guess I was a little but disheartened by that, so when I started writing The Bone Season , I was trying not to go into it with massive expectations."
Were you aware of Andy's work with the Imaginarium?
Shannon: "I was aware of Andy's work as an actor, but I hadn't heard of the Imaginarium, and my agent approached me with a couple of different offers from film companies. They mentioned the Imaginarium, and that Andy was a co-founder, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh yes, let's go and see them straight away!' and I love the whole idea of the Imaginarium."
So what do you think performance capture will bring to The Bone Season ?
Serkis: "The Imaginarium, as a company, has two different remits really. There's the performance-capture studio itself which is the laboratory for furthering the art and craft of performance capture, and then there's the production arm. We service other people’s films and videogames and interactive movies and so on. And then we also have a development side and a script development side. So this actually sits right in the middle, because obviously it is a live-action movie - we do live-action movies without any performance capture - but in this case there are certain characters which are absolutely perfect for the use of the technology. It's almost like they're made for performance capture in a way."
Are you going to have a role in it, Andy?
Serkis: "Who knows... I've not been asked, I'll have to see, I'll have to talk to Samantha... There are some amazing characters, they're really so rich. I've got my eye on at least two of them actually, but I'll talk to [ Samantha ] about that later on. There are no plans at the moment for me to be in it."
Samantha, do you think you'll be quite ‘hands on’ when it comes to the film?
Shannon: "I really hope to be, I have consultation rights and it really love working with Andy and the team on it, and so far they've just been amazing. The team members all know the book really, really well. They've really got the characters, I felt that as soon as I met them all, I felt they really understood the book. So yeah, I really hope to be quite hands on, and the studio's only about half an hour from my house which is helpful, so it's lovely to go and visit and chat about the books."
Serkis: "I mean, it is very rare to really be hand-in-glove with the author at this stage really, and it's been an extraordinary experience. It feels absolutely right and, the thing is, when you're starting off on a project like this, to have the source material, and to work with editing the book alongside Samantha, was a real boon."
The Bone Season is out now in paperback. The film is currently in the early stages of production, and as yet no release date has been confirmed.