Neil Gaiman’s American Gods heads for the big screen

Books, Screen

American GodsIn a recent interview with Digital Spy, Neil Gaiman revealed that American Gods is to be adapted for the big screen. Published in 2001, American Gods is Gaiman’s second novel and is said to be one of the most highly honoured works of modern fiction having won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stoker. The rights to this masterpiece of modern fantasy were only sold in the last week after years of discussion, so it’s early days and there are few details as yet, but Gaiman has indicated that “There is one cinematographer and director on board who has many, many Oscars and is I think a genius, and I love the fact that he fell in love with this about six or seven years ago and has not given up and just kept coming back and kept coming back.”

Who the multiple Oscar winning director / cinematographer might be is anyone’s guess. Empire took a run at it but concluded that “We could say names all day … and not get anywhere near the truth”. But it’s fun to speculate, so here are Empire’s thoughts:

“Neil Jordan is a good fit for Gaiman’s universe, but he’s already involved with The Graveyard Book, and only has the one Oscar. Ridley Scott doesn’t have any. James Cameron seems unlikely. Ron Howard is somewhat busy with The Dark Tower. Ditto Peter Jackson with The Hobbit. An Oliver Stone American Gods would be something to behold, but would you call him a cinematographer? Steven Soderbergh is retiring from filmmaking. We can’t imagine Steven Spielberg would have taken seven years to convince Gaiman. Clint Eastwood? Nah. Danny Boyle? Hmm, Danny Boyle… Now if we were talking multiple Oscars for single films, and including nominations…”

Time will tell.

With its signature blend of fantasy, horror and mythology, American Gods tells the story of Shadow, an ex-convict who is offered a job as a body guard by the mysterious Mr Wednesday. Together they travel through the American heartland meeting up with a succession of peculiar characters and slowly but surely Shadow understands who his strange employer is and what he is up to. Shadow’s employment by Wednesday was no random event and he comes to realise that he has an unimaginable role to play in Wednesday’s plans.

A masterful critique of modern America, the premise of American Gods is that deities exist because people believe in them. The old gods and other mythological beings (from leprechauns to elves) have been brought to the US on waves of belief with immigrants from the old world, but their power has diminished as belief in them has waned. New and increasingly powerful gods have arisen fuelled by a contemporary obsession with media, sex, technology, celebrity and so on, and the scene has been set for a showdown between the old and new gods fighting for dominance. Mr Wednesday, an incarnation of the All-Father Odin, intends to win at any cost.

Even though it’s early days and too many exciting adaptations we’ve written about in recent years are languishing in development hell (Hyperion, Neuromancer, Elric to name but a few), colour me very excited by this news: American Gods truly is a masterpiece of modern fantasy and given the right director an adaptation for the big screen will be a highly anticipated cinematic event.

American Gods is a very loose prequel to Anansi Boys (both novels share the character of Mr Nancy, aka Anansi, the African Spider God) and Shadow’s adventures are continued in the short story, Monarch of the Glen, which his collected in Fragile Things.

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