The best TV series ever made? A Little Life script was ‘rejected by everyone’ | Hanya Yanagihara
Aa worldwide bestseller with rave reviews, located in New York and with a cult following, A little life seems to have all the ingredients for a hit TV show. But according to its author, Hanya Yanagihara, the scripts for a screen adaptation of the hit novel have been rejected by many networks, streaming services and studios, with some network executives even asking him to make the story heartbreaking.” more like sex and the city”.
Yanagihara said she started working on scripts for a 12-part show with three other co-writers four years ago. They created four different scripts for the first four episodes of the series and detailed plans for eight more episodes. But after receiving a commission from the Hulu streaming service, she was not picked up and, she told the Observer“Since then, it’s been pretty much rejected by everyone.”
Since its publication in 2015, A little life, which tells the story of college friends Jude, Malcolm, Willem and JB, and tackles trauma, abuse and suicide, has sold over a million copies, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize , declared a modern-day classic and adapted into a four-hour play by acclaimed director Ivo van Hove. But Yanagihara, whose last novel In Paradise was compared to Tolstoy, said her attempts to create a screen version led to rejections in the US and UK.
She blames its $60 million budget and requirement to have creative control, as well as “discomfort with the subject matter”. “I’ve heard a few people say they want it to be like sex and the city — the leaders of the network — which really worries me,” she said. “Because there are other ways to decipher this book, interpret it and bring it to the screen.”
In 2016, A Little Life was cast by producer Scott Rudin and theater manager Joe Mantello, but it mutually ended the following year.
Out of loyalty to her fans, she refuses to sell a version of the show that doesn’t have her approval.
“That instinct that sometimes happens in Hollywood where you buy something and then do something else with it, I feel like I owe the readers and the fans of this book something, and it wouldn’t be fair to sell it for the sake of selling it and turn it into something completely unrecognizable that would betray the themes and tone of the book,” she said.
While she wasn’t shocked by the TV industry’s response, she was surprised because while she may not have the mass appeal of game of thrones, she thinks it would attract a strong global following. “I think it has a real, won audience and it could find an international audience as well,” she said. “But yeah, it’s not going to be a show for everyone. And in America, we’re simultaneously at a point where there’s more content than ever needed and yet people are also more careful about what they’re investing in.
She worked on all 12 episodes with playwright-turned-TV writers in key roles. His aides recommended that he choose British actors, advising him that their classical training would keep them true to the script, that they were more approachable, and not valuable for nudity. “It was kind of a joke, but they meant it too,” she said. “They had worked with a lot of British actors and they knew they would have the kind of fearlessness to tackle the roles as we were writing them.”
The series would be shot in New York, use CGI to depict moments imagined by Jude, the title character, and draw inspiration from van Hove’s stage adaptation. “Instead of just being a literal translation, it should be an interpretation and an interpretation that uses the medium to its greatest investability. So we’ve thought a lot about that, how to to visualize it, to animate it and to make it deserve its place as a television program.
In addition to hair, makeup and costumes, he would use light and color to show the passage of time, she said. She also wants it to have the rhythm of a mystery or thriller. “So in the first part of the show, the question would be ‘what happened to Jude? ‘, and the second part would be ‘will he survive it? “”
She said the “spectacular” stage production, which had its world premiere in Amsterdam in 2018, will have its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August before heading to New York.
While Yanagihara was on tour in the UK last week to promote In Paradise, she said she was struck by the enthusiasm and youth of the readers. “Hearing people say in the signature line that they grew up with A little life makes me feel very old, but it’s also a reminder that once the book is published, it no longer belongs to you, it becomes the readers’.
“And if you’re very lucky, like I was, then another group of readers finds the book and takes it over and gives it a different life. And it was humbling to see and an honor and a real pleasant surprise too.