July 12, 2013

Charlie Kaufman and Guillermo Del Toro might adapt Slaughterhouse-Five (but they probably won’t)


Guillermo Del Toro would like to adapt Slaughterhouse-Five with Charlie Kaufman.

The moment fans of Kurt Vonnegut heard the news, they likely exhaled in relief: Guillermo Del Toro and Charlie Kaufman joining up for an adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five? Nothing but good can result of this partnership. Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most prolific directors in the film industry and his work has greatly shown a sensibility for the fantastical (Pan’s Labyrinth) and the odd (The Orphanage), two essential ingredients for getting the film adaptation correct. Charlie Kaufman is widely known for the inventive and the absurd be it Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, or Synecdoche, New York.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Del Toro seemed confident that he and Kaufman had found a particularly apt way of adapting the book. “I love the idea of the Trafalmadorians—to be ‘unstuck in time,’ where everything is happening at the same time. And that’s what I want to do.”

Good, great, perfect. Fans can rest easy. Del Toro and Kaufman know the inner workings of the fourth dimension. And yet…  just under the surface you can’t get past the fact that one of Del Toro’s best traits—his prolific nature—may be the reason why the adaptation might fail to come to fruition, at least not in a timely manner. As The A.V. Club reported earlier this week, Del Toro has a lot on his plate already: “Del Toro has already committed to making Crimson Peak as well as his FX series The Strain in the next year”

Del Toro was quick to point out that “[it’s] what I want to do. It’s just a catch-22. The studio will make it when it’s my next movie.” Let’s put the word “when” in bold, underlined twice. Del Toro reasons that it has to do with the price of having Kaufman on board. “How can I commit to it being my next movie until there’s a screenplay? Charlie Kaufman is a very expensive writer!”

But it might not even be up to Del Toro, even if Kaufman delivers the script in a timely manner. The unfortunate reality is that many projects end up development hell. They fail to find financing or the studio simply loses faith in its ability to gross enough of those dollar signs to make the project financially worthwhile. In their article about the Slaughterhouse-Five adaptation, The Playlist made a good point: “Del Toro’s initial experience at Universal hasn’t exactly been roses. They kiboshed his R-rated At the Mountains of Madness.” Fingers crossed that the same won’t happen to Slaughterhouse-Five. It comes down to a slight tinge of doubt and a whole lot of “don’t keep your hopes up.”

Del Toro’s confident: “I’ll work it out.” The project seems to exist in a dimension of eventuality. Maybe in the right dimension, Del Toro and Kaufman have already finished the adaptation and it’s on Netflix for lazy late night viewing.

Michael Seidlinger is a Melville House intern.