by: Madison Barnes
MAGIC KINGDOM FOR SALE – SOLD, the first of six books in the fantasy series by Terry Brooks, has received its share of hype following news that Steve Carell will star and produce through his company, Carousel. The project has been in development for almost 15 years, though, and gone through 2 major studios before it landed at its current home – Warner Brothers. The question remains – will the movie actually get made?
Carell’s attachment seems to make it inevitable, as it now completes the irresistible producing trifecta; a major star, studio distribution, and a successful book series on which the story is based. The project is still far from a guarantee, however, as much needs to be agreed upon before the cameras start rolling. Let’s break down the history of the project and see if we can shed some light onto what’s happened previously and what we can expect from a potential film.
Way back in May of 2000, Fox paid seven figures for the rights to the first novel, and had Eric Blakeney write a draft of the script. It didn’t seem like a good fit, as much of Blakeney’s work includes writing and producing for television, including the TV version of “21 Jump Street” and other miscellaneous credits on “Baywatch” and “Wiseguy.” Perhaps his film “Gun Shy” in 2000 convinced the studio to give him a shot, but he never seemed to be the writer to adapt a high-concept fantasy series for the big screen.
The project was picked up by Universal in 2005, where Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel were brought on to pen the adaptation. These guys seemed like better picks for the light-hearted fantasy, with credits like “Tooth Fairy,” “Fever Pitch,””Parenthood,””Robots,” and “City Slickers” under their belts. Stephen Sommers was even attached to direct and produce while the film was there, but upon his exit from the project, development stalled indefinitely.
The project made its second studio hop in 2012 when it went to Warner Brothers, which apparently saw huge potential in the series despite it’s long bouts in development. They went big when deciding to acquire the project, buying the rights to all six books in the series, in addition the first one. Sometime soon after this, Carell’s attachment was rumored, though it’s unclear exactly when he became attached. He most likely gained interest upon hearing the book rights were for sale, and came aboard shortly after (or just as) the project was sold to Weed Road Pictures and Warner Brothers. He eventually attached his company, Carousel, to produce, and made it official that he wanted to star.
Craig Wright is writing the adaptation for Warners, and he seems like a pretty good choice given his expansive film and television background across a multitude of genres. He recently wrote “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” for Dreamworks, and wrote a previous version of “The Flash” for Warner Brothers, showing his versatility between the family friendly and superhero genres. His more dramatic writing resulted from his involvement in big television shows, where he worked as a writer and producer on the likes of “Six Feet Under,” “Lost,” “Brothers & Sisters,” and “Dirty Sexy Money.” His combined experience seems like it will have the weight necessary to adapt a fantastical story with a deeper message, the likes of which Steve Carell can knock out of the park.
Reports currently indicate Warners likes the first act of “Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold” but wants Wright to help create the remainder of the story, lending to some originality in the final product. This could be a reason the film is still in development, as original ideas in the context of an already written story can create havoc amongst key decision makers. Again, this kind of dissatisfaction with the storyline already written in the book is a huge red flag, and may be a reason the other studios eventually passed on the project.The storyline does seem pretty simple – as it revolves around a man who buys a “magical kingdom” but then finds it is in much disarray and ruling over it is a lot harder than he thought. In my opinion, there’s a lot of room there to just sit back and let Steve Carell entertain us as a fish-out-of-water type character, and hopefully he has a vision for the film which will push it through development.
Currently, Akiva Goldsman of Weed Road Pictures is producing, along with Vance DeGeneres and Charlie Hartsock (Carousel Co-Presidents), and Andy Cohen of Grade A Entertainment. Goldsman is a Hollywood titan, with the Paranormal Activity franchise under his belt, along with very successful one-off movies like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “I am Legend,” “Hancock,” “Lone Survivor” and “Winter’s Tale.” He definitely has the ability to make a big blockbuster film, and with Warners and Carell teaming up with him, I can’t imagine that lack of funds or investor interest is going to be the problem.
Overall, it seems to be the actual story that’s in contention here, not the excitement or commitment from the studio or producers. It’s my hope that we get to see the film (which, if successful, will start a franchise) because the idea of Steve Carell trying to run an unruly fantasy world sounds like something I could genuinely laugh at, and it would appeal to a huge audience of all ages. If I had to guess, I’d say it will eventually hit theaters, I just hope what we end up seeing still maintains the core aspects of the story, and hasn’t been too watered down by over-development. Stay glued to the Tracking Board for all future developments on the project, as we’ll be sure to keep you updated!