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David Fincher's Rendezvous with Rama Officially Dead

by
October 13, 2008

Rendezvous with Rama

I really don't think we'll ever see this adaptation get out of production hell. Our San Francisco correspondent Marco Cerritos caught up with David Fincher over the weekend at another Benjamin Button presentation. While his interview will be published in a few days, we were anxious to find out any updates on his Rendezvous with Rama project. As a recap, "Rendezvous with Rama" is a book written by sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke that has been on the production slate for years. David Fincher was the most recent director attached, which meant there was a potential that one of my very favorite directors would tackle a highly praised sci-fi epic. Unfortunately the project is officially dead in the water… again.

Fincher told Marco that, "It looks like it's not going to happen. There's no script and as you know, [Morgan Freeman's] not in the best of health right now. We've been trying to do it but it's probably not going to happen." Freeman has actually been the frontrunner on this adaptation from the start. He first took an interest back in 2000 and has been trying to get funding ever since. As everyone most likely knows, he was hurt in a car crash back in August. In an update from Freeman last year, he confessed that "it's a very intellectual science fiction film, a very difficult book to translate cinematically." And while Fincher said he was attached, he now confirms that a script never came together and that it's officially dead.

This is quite unfortunate news for those, like me, who were excited to see David Fincher finally explore the sci-fi genre again (after Alien 3). The book surrounds a 30-mile long hollow cylindrical alien spaceship that is found in our solar system and the crew that is sent to investigate this "thing from outer space to find out what it is [and] what its intentions are." Sounds like an awesome concept and I wish it could've made it to the big screen. But considering this has stuck in the development stage for over eight years, I'm not sure we'll ever see it make its way out of production hell. There are really only a few directors out there that I think could handle something like this anyway. If not Fincher, then who else?

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  • I'm not sure this isn't a good thing for scifi films, visually, I'm sure this could be quite stunning, just think Mega-Halo, but apart from a bunch of people wandering around an empty tube, not a great deal happens in Rama. It works very well as a book, but as a film, well... some things just don't translate.... but then .... Sunshine worked well...
  • I disagree. I grew up reading Rama and all directors I want to adapt it, Fincher is easily at the top. No person can give the darkness and claustrophobia that I had always thought was there in the book. The story is very dark and unsettling and I think Fincher could do it. It made my day when I read the news how ever many months ago but this saddens me.
  • I think Doc Duvel is right. This probably would be like Fincher's excellent "Zodiac", a fantastic film with a conclusion that feels somewhat empty. That film deserved all the accolades it got, but it didn't exactly light the box office on fire. And it doesn't help that weak films like "Independence Day" have ripped off so much from Rama and stolen a lot of its thunder. "Rama" would be a fantastic event for "film fans", but not such a big deal for "movie fans". It would probably be the "Ang Lee's Hulk" of today's sci-fi films.
  • Tom
    How exactly did "Independence Day" rip off Rama? ID4 was just "War of the Worlds" with a computer virus instead of a biological virus as the key plot point. If anything, they ripped off Wells since I don't recall ever seeing H.G. cited for inspiration during the movie's opening credit.
  • nef deppard
    #1 Yes The first book left more questions than answers, and it would be extremely difficult to faithfully translate it to the screen without boring viewers. Perhaps pulling ideas from all three novels would flesh out the storyline, but the final destination and purpose of the 3 Rama's was so grand that it would also pose problems. Remember Contact anyone?
  • ClarkeFan
    James Cameron. If there's anyone who can pull this off, it's him.
  • Well... Dr.Duvel might be right regarding the difficulty of taking such book to a movie... there's not much action involved... but if you think about it... there are actually 4 Rama books (by Clarke & Gently Lee). Maybe he could start with the first one and then delve into the others.
  • Prince Riley
    I must agree with several of the comments already posted here that adapting Rama to the tastes and preferences of today's FX focued, action oriented audiences would be daunting. The challenge is made more so by the sentiments of the books many fans that it remain true to Mr. Clarke's original text. It's also a great disappointment that Mr. Freeman's recent health problems and the economy have contributed to the financial challenges. I still hope this project is undertaken since the book remains one of the best examples of Clarke's persistent theme of mankind's awakening to the nature of the universe. In the forty years I have been a fan of Clarke's work, I continue to discover even more of its potential and its depth. The main problem in getting this project completed is to create a foundation for the script. I say "foundation" to mean a distilled set of theme's that the professional script writer and the director can then make a workable storyline from. Since RWR has obvious thematic problems in rendering the movie storyline from just the first RWR book then we have to try to draw from Clarke's other works. The the others RWR books that followed were more commercial ventures instead of addition work by Clarke to 'finish' the first RWR story. They add dimensions to the characters in the first RWR book, but they failed to make Clarke's overriding theme of how mankind's perception of the Universe (big "u") matures and is shaken by our 'First Contact' encounter. Clarke tried in 2001: and "A Childhood's End" to suggest that our First Contact experience could revel to us a very different destiny for the human race than the one we expect. In the end, the themetic roadblocks this project now faces will remain unless a better development strategy is used. I'm not suggesting I could design such a strategy alone, but the book does have a large fan base and most of these fans are hard sci-fi geeks like myself who have solved much greater probems I'm sure. What I am suggesting here is we follow an 'open source' strategy for building the foundation of ideas I mentioned earlier. I am a firm believer in the idea that "no problem is opaque if enough eyes are looking at it (all bugs are shallow ...). Clearly the RWR has enough fans to meet this criteria. I'll posts my initial thoughts here and later continue them in a blog which I am hoping others will contribute to. This idea of open source development of the script/storyline foundation has to have a structure and I'll be responsible for setting up a starting point. My first contribution is we don't expect that the official script writer and director will 'faithfully' follow the material we create. I accept that as a possibility. We all must recognize that if a bunch of amatuer Sci-Fi geeks help to write a commercially successful FC movie storyline it will generate a great deal of buzz, perhaps even more buzz than the picture itself. Another OSS (Open Source Software) idea: 'Good programmer's borrow, great programmer's steal and rewrite (the 'lazy programmer principle). I'd suggest the foundation of material draw from Clark's other works on the same First Contact theme like his novel "A Childhood's End'. Even though this work takes the opposite approach to FC and man is prohibited from leaving the Earth, (" the stars are not for man") it shares with RWR similar FC themes: the mystery of not knowing what the alien race we first meet looks like or what their intentions really are. ACE and other Clark stories hold several themes like this which can help bring the mystery and suspense of RWR to a level where the professionals can see the project it is both commercially viable and has a foundation for motion picture production. follows the same one as the books: a three part movie series that bridges across this book and Clarke's other work
  • Malcolm
    I've just read the second book in the series and can't wait to read 3 & 4. I think Rama could work as a film but probably taking books 1 & 2 together to make the first and then if it was a success make a sequal from 3 & 4. Krubrick would have been the best man for this job but surely Ridley Scott would do a great job too? It wouldn't need a lot of script, like Alien it's all about visuals and tension. The trip to New York in the second book would be amazing through Scott's "Blade Runner" eyes.
  • Prince Riley
    Response to Malcolm I envy you Malcom. I first read RWR over 30 years ago and I still recall the experience with vivid detail. I picked it up at a trade book store in Chicago, started reading it on the train ride home, skipped my workout, skipped dinner, skipped going to bed, and even took it to the bathroom with me. When I finished it about 4am the next morning, I put it down and just sat there trying to take it all in. The early morning quiet added more impact to the book's ending ... "they always do things in threes." What makes RWR so different from every other First Contact book I have read since remains the challenge Clark makes, subtly at first and then a deafening roar at the end, to the stock ending of other FC novels: What if the grand destiny man thinks we will find out among the stars turns out to be that as a species we really don't matter? What if we discover that the grand design of the cosmos is built around another race? What if we are simply an interesting, but ultimately unimportant margin note in Creation's vast history book? Yes, I agree that a successful motion picture project of RWR would have to take themes from more than Clark's first book. However, neither Krubrick or Ridely Scott (whose work in the genre I do admire and respect) are suitable to direct RWR. Also while I agree that RWR gives any FX production house a wide canvas to work on, it's bot enough. You need a script and characterizations to give voice to the story's many theme about FC. Otherwise, the book's many fans, the motion picture's audiences, especially critics, will very likely pan it as just another eye candy movie with very little human drama or interest. Yes Malcolm, Alien and Blade Runner worked as films because they used the visuals and tension as a base for their appeal. Implicit in RWR this tension is invoked immediately when the 'object' is first detected and thought to be a meteor. The 'discovery' that Rama is this immense object; that it's not a natural phenomenon, and is transiting our solar system with a definite purpose; one that lies far beyond us is another source that has to be used to draw the audience into the film's plot. Also, remember the tension created by Rama transit time table, the investigation crew has to leave Rama well before they can make any extensive survey of the ship. As I've said before, Clark's second RWR book was not written by him as a sequel to 'answer' the questions raised by RWR 1. If my research is correct, the book's original publisher (Ballentine I believe), and Clark's literary agent pushed him into the deal after the first book's success became obvious. Clark resisted owing to his desire to write his autobiography, but he eventually caved in to the pressure. However, he wisely insisted that he only co-author the second RWR book. That said, the RWR 2 book is 'tainted' and you should carefully consider how the much of Clark's original theme about Rama and it's significance as a FC artifact remains undiluted in RWR 2. My own reading of RWR 2 is there is more focus on human civilization's "reaction" to the Rama engineers technical prowess. Yes the NYC trip could be a way of refocusing the audience on the human elements in the story, but it isn't much more than a pit stop. realizing
  • Prince Riley
    http:// RendezvouswithRama.blogspot.com I've started a blog at this web address to start the OSS script writing project for this book
  • Maybe this needs to be adapted into a miniseries rather than a full-length movie. I was going to say sci-fi channel, but then it'd probably be horribly done... the special effects would be horrible. :)
  • I think you're right Robert. Maybe someone like the people who did 24 or similar and make it a series that really pulls you in. The SFX are always going to be the problem because this is a huge project. Malcolm
  • Jay Cox
    I find it most disturbing that the film is not going to happen. I'll probably end up watching Star Trek 47 before someone is bright enough to produce such a great production as Rendezvous with Rama. It's a sad day in the SF realm when we not only lose Sir Arthur C. Clarke (he passed away in Sri Lanka last year), but we also lose a film adaption of one of the greatest Sf novels ever written. RWR would have been one the greatest SF films of all time...I have no doubt about it! I would have savored every second of it. God Bless you Sir Arthur C. Clarke...I will miss you. Guess I'm stuck with watching films like Vampire Lesbians from Gorema...sigh* Jay Cox
  • ClarkeFan
    Someone's just got to get James Cameron on the case I say!! I'm going to see if I can get an email to him. Don't fancy my luck though. I read somewhere way back that he may do Red Mars also, which is another amazing book. Author: Kim Stanley Robinson, who I met once and is great fellow. If you haven't read it, you're really missing out. By far the very best book about Mars so far in SciFi history.
  • Brad
    Mmmm.... mixed emotions about this. On one hand I was very excited about the prospect of a Clarke Klassic going to the big screen again (would have prefered S.O.D.E), but now that Clarke has, alas, taken the ultimate journey, I am glad this project has stalled. No Directory/Screen Writer could have mastered this story without consultation with it's creator... it would be destined to fail as a simple parody of the original otherwise. I agree though that Ridley Scott would be best choice to Direct - one of the few Directors who could master the scope of this story.
  • Jay cox
    The major point I want to make is that there is a lot of junk out there, but then theres this book. A classic by the master! It is a major science fiction novel that screams out that someone needs to put in to film! Why hesitate like this? I don't understand, especially when there is a serious draught in the science fiction realm. A major motion picture adaption of Clarke's masterpiece could and should revive a dying dry scifi market. Theres has been nothing but junk since the Hobbit hit theatres and then Director David Fincher has to put salt on an open wound. His latest film Mr. Buttons has been a dissapointment as far as I am concerned. If Mr. Fincher will deny us scifi fans such a great film as RWR, then someone needs to bloody step up and take over such a great project! There is alot of great talent out there who would just jump at an opportunity to produce this.
  • ClarkeFan
    Brad, (and Malcolm) you're darn right about that actually, Mr Scott would absolutely be another director capable of tackling such a feat. Maybe James Cameron and him should team up 😉 This film would have to be heavily CGI'd too so a top notch group to do that is important. And whoever does it...no noise in space! PLEASE!!! The only sci-fi production I've seen who adheres to this rule of late is Serenity/Firefly. Cheers Joss! Sometimes I block my ears when there's a space scene unless there's dialog over it, and it's usually accompanied by rolling eyes.
  • ezeqdb
    WE NEED MORE FANS OF RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA ON FACEBOOK!!! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rendezvous-with-Rama/24022873772 I NEED THAT MOVIEEEEEEEEEEE PLEEASEEEE FREEMAN GET BETTER!!
  • ijones
    How About Greg Bears EON insteas
  • ClarkeFan
    Ha! IJones that's so funny you said that, I'm reading that book now and was thinking the same thing and that it'd make a great feature film. Both stories are great but Rama IMHO is better, more realistic and grander. However I love EON, I've read it before a long time ago and think it's one of Greg Bear's best, along with Hegira, although quite short it's a great read. I hope someone picks up Red Mars but (and forgive me Mr Robinson if this is untrue) but I seem to remember reading a quote of Kim Stanley Robinson's saying that his opinion was that you couldn't really make a film of Red Mars, however I beg to differ. The first book alone spans about 200 years so that'd make it difficult to start with. Miniseries I hear some say? Perhaps the only way. But big screen feature film is always better methinks so several feature films, maybe 2 for each book at 2 hours long. Anyway back to Rama, ezeqdb I just joined the facebook RWR fan thing thanks :) Someone will do it some time I just hope it's in my lifetime 😉
  • ijones
    Hi clarkefan, I agree with your comments, KSR has a brilliant mind, The Mars books would be a massive undertaking, and would require a dedicated fan base, however he has written some pretty good, shorter one off tales, Antarctica for example. Another off beat idea- "Star Trek" is being revisited, No Leonard Nimmoy or William Shatner or any originals come to that how, so about a fresh look at 2001 and the subsequent sequels. I am an avid fan of fifties SciFi, how about someone paying homage to the genre by making any of the early ACC novels come to life on the big screen, they were years ahead of thier time, and all fairly do-able, as long as they were`nt too kitsch. What do you think?
  • Danail Geshev
    what a shame/
  • Looks like it is NOT dead after all. Fincher paid a visit to the AVATAR set and seems to be ramping up performance capture 3D tips for RWR.
  • ClarkeFan
    I think it's inevitable this film will be made because of 2 things. 1) the idea has been thought of and has been mulled over for many years now. 2) There are people who WANT it to be made. Judging by the last post it seems James Cameron might possibly have something to do with it, at the very least, his Avatar project helping Mr Fincher with the technology to make it more likely to happen. I really hope Mr Cameron gets more involved. I'll say it again, if there's anyone that can pull this off it is he. You just need to look at the ground breaking films he's made already. I'm not saying that Mr Fincher shouldn't be involved of course, as he is a fine director, but James Cameron just "has it" as far as being a visionary director goes, so being involved in some way is sure to give this project a huge push forward. Some may disagree but that's just my opinion. I can't wait to see Avatar. Here's to post number 25, it is very good news indeed! However that all being said...wasn't it the actual script they were having trouble with and not the technology? And just another reminder fine film making people....NO NOISE IN SPACE!!!! (except inside your spaceship where there is air of course) 😛
  • ClarkeFan
    Oh, I forgot theres actually a 3rd reason this film will be made. 3) IT'S AN AMAZING AND PROFOUND STORY THAT STANDS OUT ABOVE SO MUCH ELSE!
  • Malcolm
    I've just finished reading all four books. My last post was written after reading the first book. I have to say that reading all four changes the way I see the project but the bottom line is that if done properly this could be a massive success on a par with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My main change of view is that the main narrative through the whole story is not Rama or the robots but is the incredible life experience of an amazing woman (Nicole) and the film should be told through her eyes and center aound her journey. Eveything else like the immense landscapes and wierd and wonderful robots should be the visual balance to her deep and moving story. I even think the first film (It probaly needs three) should start with her at training school or even with her escapdes with her mother in Africa and then once grounded should flashback to the first journey picking her up towards the end of the first film just before her flight to Rama 2 which will whete the appetite for the second film. If done right watching these films and living every moment of Nicole's journey should pull the audience right into the story and leave them breathless! and that's without even mentioning all the mind blowing visuals!
  • ClarkeFan
    I agree Malcolm :) Hey, I can act, have you got a camera? My brother can paint the backdrops and my girlfriend can play Nicole 😉
  • princeriley
    Malcolm, So glad to read you finally drank all the RWR kool-aide. Welcome to our passion! Two points first: Making a movie on the scale that would be required is an undertaking that few studios, let alone Mr. Freeman's, are willing to undertake without a great deal of the 'Hollywood Shuffle" Aside from the script and casting issues, which are very thorny ones, there remains the technical and market issues (investors and collaborators). As I am sure many of the readers of this blog have noticed during the opening credits of current films, the list of 'partners' seems to get longer and longer on each new film. Risk sharing and keeping the film world ecology health has required the industry to specialize with firms taking specific roles and sticking to them. What this means is the project has a few more hands to pass through before the collective wisdom and gut in Hollywood decides the film 'can' be done (profitable). We are about half-way through that process now by the looks of things. Yes, the technical side appears to be forming up, but we still don't have a script, a casting profile, and a director. More critical at this juncture -- we don't have a producer. As to the producer -- like many of us, Mr. Freeman was struck by the book's potential as a film and certainly he wanted to get this adaption done in the 'right' way to satisfy the books huge fan base. No offense to Mr. Freeman's production company or his other work, but it's very clear his production company is over matched and it has neither the experience nor the muscle to pull this kind of project off. The surest sign that this is the case are the reported delays, false starts and stalls reported here. Now LOTR went through a very similar process. But it did so at a time when the "climate" was much more welcoming and conducive. At this moment, the industry isn't taking on any big bets with book material like RWR. In Hollywood biz this kind of thrashing back and forth are sure signs Mr. Freeman and others working on the project know that as well. What I am waiting for is for Mr. Freeman to bite the bullet, admit his mistakes, find a 'buyer' for the book's film rights and move on to film projects more suited for his company's scope and resources. Looking back at what happened with LOTR, if RWR follows a similar path going from book to screen, then we should all buckle up for a very long and bumpy ride. My recollection is it took almost five years for LOTR to make it to the screen from its official 'GO' point. The director (Jackson) took up a tremendous challenge and worked the material into a series of films, which was not considered a good move at the time. Also the film's financing was, to say the least, unusual. I know that few of you are that familiar with the financing process for major films. If not, then but just remember the age old adage, "follow the money. " At this point, nothing is going to move ahead on RWR with any degree of certainty unless and until the "money" comes into this process. I know this might dampen everyone's understandable excitement of RWR coming back to life its more realistic to expect not much will happen soon or quickly. What with the mess of the financial markets, the slump in the economy, and the other industry factors, the production, not the release, of a RWR film is very likely at least three or four years away ...
  • Ellis
    This may be a bit naive, but Jonathan Frakes would make a great director for this. For most of his known career he has been involved with if not directing Sci-Fi. Being a part of the Star Trek saga, he should know about the exploration of new thing. The beauty of Rama is not that it is an exploration of an alien species, but an alien species' exploration of us. I think he could pull this off. When it comes to actors for this film, hell, I know plenty of local actors, in Huntsville, including myself, who would do a great job with this project. The sad thing is, the movie industry is so focused on hiring big names to act and direct, that they overlook people who are actually good actors and directors. If I were wrong, Ben Affleck and Nicholas Cage would not have made more than one film a piece.
  • xcelsiorx2000
    RWR is worthy of all accoldes it has received. Truly the "Alice in Wounderland" of science fiction novels. The idea of James Cameron doing the film adaptation is awesome!
  • Sigfred Cid
    I´ll try to write in english, but i´m afraid that my redaction will not so clean for all of you, dear fellows. I´m a mexican fan of the master Clarke since a couple of dozen years ago, and I ever believe that the first book is a truly masterpiece. I need to accept that I´m not read the other three novels (is very dificult find them in Mexico, but I realize that that´s not a reason enough), but I think that the very first one is a brilliant story and enough to make a great movie. I´m suprised: I read intelligent and bright comments about the idea of make a movie about RWR (either I think that the comments in this blog are made by very intelligent and sensitive minds, which is explained by the kind of SF that writed Arthur C. Clarke and his readers). However, I think that theres al least one possible movie director that is not considered, but is mentionated: Peter Jackson. PJ has shown what he can make with a very dificut book to translate in a very decent group of movies. His capabilities of make great scenes and situations are clear for me; translate the complexity of LOTR (the book) in three very profitable and commercial films is there; the care of the visuals and effects; and the making of spectaculars scenes make me to believe that he could be another possibility to direct RWR. Of course, I´m totaly agree with the directors suggested above... but what do you think about my reflections? And I´m agree: WE NEED RENDESVOUZ WITH RAMA TRANSLATE IN A GREAT MOVIE!!
  • ClarkeFan
    Sigfred, yes I'd have to agree PJ would be another good candidate. He did a damn good job with those Tolkein books. (I hope they're all reading this heheh). I have to say I'm not a huge fantasy fan, I prefer hard science fiction but enjoyed LOTR all the same. I would so love to find you a Spanish translation of the other three books, I hope you find a copy some day. I really think they have so much more depth than the first one. I see the first book as an introduction to the whole story, but incredible even within itself. You've got a lot to look forward to!
  • Alvin
    I have to admit that I would not be disappointed if this movie never got made. Very few books easily translate to good movies if they are followed faithfully, and RWR is certainly not one of those. How many classic SF books have been made into great movies? Even when the writers try to remain faithful to the plot line the result usually cannot compare to the visual story I have visualized when reading the book. Most of the time the writers don't even try that hard to follow the original storyline because it is so difficult (I never saw a Heinlein movie that resembled the book's plot more than superficially). It is not fair to criticize the script writers- if the book is very good and lights a fire under your imagination (as RWR does), how could a script writer compare to the intricate visual storyline the novel engenders in your mind? RWR is primarily an introspective psychological drama with a lot of open questions and I am sure it would need to be jazzed up with more action to be commercially viable. The sequels, which Clarke co-wrote, seem to bear this out in that, for me, they lack the lyrical pace and sense of wonder that the original had. If it is made, I will go watch it, of course.
  • fastflame
    First. as an old guy who has been reading SiFi stories since I was a youngster, RWR was by far the most profound, exciting, and goose-bump raising story I ever read...and reread, and reread, and reread... Unfortunately, the three stories that followed did a great injustice to the original story and its profound potential as a prediction of how we might face the reality that we are not alone. The idea of god polluting the universe with nodes and prime monitors was less than entertaining and outright disappointing. I guess some might find a story where god decides a man in his 60's should marry a 14 year old novel. Not me. As for making it a movie, done properly, RWR could be a truly memorable experience, but only if the movie stayed with the original story line. Not only were the follow up stories crap, but it would put too much story into one movie. A classic example of trying to put too much story into one movie was Battlefield Earth, which could only have done the story justice if it had been done as a trilogy. But if they can find the money, I say go for it.

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