Alex Proyas Tackling Robert Heinlein's Unpleasant Profession
by Alex Billington
August 20, 2008
Filmmaker Alex Proyas has directed an adaptation of an Isaac Asimov story before, but now he's tackling sci-fi author Robert Heinlein. Proyas will write and direct an adaptation of Heinlein's novella "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" for Phoenix Pictures. The story centers on a man who becomes increasingly disturbed when he realizes he cannot account for his activities during the day or even what he does for a living. He explains his problem to a private detective agency and their investigation leads to a series of revelations they could never have fathomed. Sounds an awful lot like Dark City, which was Proyas' own creation from 1998, and a huge cult sci-fi hit itself. The film is described as a complex psychological thriller with plenty of action and is expected to start production in 2010.
"I read this story as a kid, and it really stayed with me," Proyas explains. "It's part of my creative DNA." The novella was originally published in 1942 (pick up a copy here) and has been called some of "Heinlein's best short fiction." Delving deeper into the story, Mr. Hoag, the main character, finds a curious reddish residue under his fingernails but has no memory of how he got it. His investigation leads to non-existent 13th floors, some very shadowy characters who are part of the Order of the Bird, and a conclusion that reality really isn't what we think it is. Phoenix Pictures' Brad Fischer described the project as "cool and original" and includes that the budget is expected to be $40 to $50 million.
I know I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this project, although the title is expected to change. The way I envision this project is a melding of Proyas, who directed one of my sci-fi favorites I, Robot, and Heinlein, who wrote the original "Starship Troopers" book, which is also one of my favorite sci-fi movies. These two ideas coming together can only mean great things. And as for Hollywood's so called "sci-fi saturation", I've got no problem with it. I'm always up for more sci-fi and could literally watch a new sci-fi film every day, so bring it on! "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" definitely sounds very interesting and I'm tempted to pick it up, but I'd rather wait for the big screen version to find out what's going on before I read the book.