Not long ago, Lost writer and producer Damon Lindelof announced he would return to television-based projects after venturing into big screen endeavors like this summer’s Prometheus along with lending his pen to the upcoming Star Trek 2 and the beleaguered World War Z. Now, Lindelof has announced that his televison project will be to adapt Tom Perrotta’s 2011 novel The Leftovers for HBO.
As long as you overlook Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, HBO has a history of successfully transforming best-selling novels into hit television shows, and now, with the help of Lindelof, the network is hoping to make the quasi-religious mystery of The Leftovers the next program eating up an hour of your Sunday evening.
Perrotta’s novel concerns a small town dealing with the aftermath of a Rapture-like event known as the Sudden Departure, which saw people from all over the globe vanish in an instant. The main story revolves around the town’s Mayor, Kevin Garvey, and his attempt to help his community – which saw 100 people disappear in the event – as his own family deteriorates around him. Garvey’s wife has taken up with a cult known as the Guilty Remnant and his son is now following a self-proclaimed prophet going by the name Holy Wayne. Only, his daughter remains with Kevin, but the event has left her changed, too.
The basic principle may be similar to the Left Behind series, but here, the idea isn’t leading to an eventual showdown between good and evil. Instead, The Leftovers is concerned with exploring the ramifications, and seemingly unanswerable questions of what the event actually was and how regular people are expected to carry on with their lives.
The metaphysical questions posed in the novel are clearly ones familiar to Lindelof, who dealt with similarly large themes in Lost and Prometheus, so it’s easy to understand why he was drawn to the material. In an interview with Vulture, Lindelof delves into the concepts that attracted him, and how they relate to his past work.
Lindelof says of The Leftovers:
“You can’t be an atheist anymore. It takes us back in time to a place in human history where everyone’s lives were dictated by the gods of Olympus or the gods of the heavens. [The book] tries to explain the purpose of it all, and that lined up with the meta level of Lost.”
“We all look at ourselves in the mirror and think, ‘Am I good?’ The fact that there’s this reaping which occurred, and you don’t make the cut, some of us don’t feel worthy, seemed very ripe territory for a cool character drama.”
According to Lindelof, though, the series needs to be expanded beyond the story of Mayor Garvey and his family, which means new characters and additional storylines will have to be created in order to keep the series going – perhaps by digging into the consequences of the event on a global scale.
“The pilot will introduce characters and storylines not in the book. It has to. The book is so rich in characters and details…and opens so many creative doors. But it probably only has enough content for two or three episodes.”
If it sounds like Lindelof is setting himself up for another round of potential backlash from fans craving hard and fast answers, the notion has crossed his mind. Because of his passion for the subject matter, though, it’s something he’s willing to bear.
“I guess I can’t help myself. I’m sure there’s a certain subset of viewers who watched Lost until the bitter end and will say, ‘I’m just not going to put myself through that again.’ But I’m so incredibly magnetized to this concept and the people in this story. It’s firing all my creative pistons in a way they haven’t been fired since Lost. I told Tom to brace himself for people asking [about the rapture mystery] as the first question. And then I told him, ‘I don’t know if you know this, but I sort of have a reputation for not answering things.”
Perrotta, whose other works include the acclaimed novels Little Children and Election is, by now, well-acquainted with the process of his work being adapted into other mediums, and will help write the series along with Lindelof, should HBO choose to pick it up.
Follow Screen Rant for more information on The Leftovers as it is made available.