James Ellroy adaptations, for the most part (of what’s not a large pool), don’t exactly “work.” The big, big exception to this rule is Curtis Hanson‘s L.A. Confidential, a remarkable film of great craft and even larger entertainment value that, in its own existence, possibly set unfair expectations for later works. And the only other notable spin is Brian De Palma‘s The Black Dahlia, a film I happen to be one of the six fans of — if only because it takes a complex crime novel and turns it into an intentionally opaque two-hour feature. Above all else, though, it shows that his books are both too long and too specific in their writing to truly function as movies. (There is a 1987 James Woods vehicle, Cop, which I doubt anyone reading this has even seen. Nobody seems to like it, anyhow.)
Buried in a Deadline story (via ThePlaylist) is the news that Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) will adapt Ellroy‘s 1988 crime novel, The Big Nowhere, itself the second of his famed L.A. Quartet — preceded by The Black Dahlia and followed by L.A. Confidential. This would technically make it a sequel to one and prequel to the other, though a) De Palma wasn’t working in the same world as Hanson, and b) nothing has been said to actually support the notion.
As it were, The Big Nowhere follows what are (initially) two separate stories: a Deputy named Danny Upshaw is looking into a series of gay-based murders that are “unleashing some frightening personal demons,” as Mal Considine, an investigator, has been assigned to investigate some assumed pinkos working in Hollywood. These two converge when the latter takes up the former “to use him as a decoy to seduce a powerful woman nicknamed the ‘Red Queen.'” In ways that will go unsaid for now, things tie together in a fashion only James Ellroy could really manage.
Still, the book featured encounters with Russell Crowe‘s Confidential character, Turner “Buzz” Meeks, in addition to appearances by Guy Pearce‘s Dudley Smith — so the opportunity is there. But do you recast those parts? Both actors have probably passed a point where you can believe them as being younger or, even, around the same age, which ultimately means you should just let them go.
Guadagnino will first be doing a remake of The Swimming Pool, rolling cameras around the beginning of 2013, so I’m hoping we can see what happens with The Big Nowhere rather soon. A success, though not entirely likely, could even lead to a little Ellroy reconsideration on Hollywood’s part.
Have you read the original novel, and do you think it could work on the screen? How does Guadagnino strike you as a directorial choice?
Latest posts from The Film Stage