Nearly two years have passed since we last had any substantial new information to share about HBO’s plans for an American Gods TV series, based on the multiple award-winning magical realism novel written by Neil Gaiman. The source material follows Shadow, a man who’s just been released from prison when he’s approached by a mysterious figure who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.
It turns out the latter is an incarnation of an Old God (Odin, to be exact – get it?), who Shadow accompanies while he travels across the modern United States. Along the way, the two met up with a number of Wednesday’s longtime acquaintances (like Anasi and Chernobog), in an attempt to rally the troops for a war against the new-age deities that’ve steadily begun to replace them over the past century (i.e. the “gods” of media, technology, drugs…).
Gaiman was a guest on Empire‘s podcast, where the celebrated writer discussed his upcoming book “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and broached topics like filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s (The Zero Theorem) undying interest in making a Good Omens movie.
In addition, Gaiman provided the following status update on his script for the American Gods TV show pilot:
“That seems to be chugging along very, very well. I did the third draft script recently and I think the biggest problem [with the first draft] was completely my fault.”
The American Gods television show, last we heard, was being planned as a six-season story arc on HBO, featuring 10-12 episodes per season at an estimated cost of $40 million per season due to the relatively-large amount of CGI required (for comparison’s sake, each individual episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones may cost upwards of $6 million on average). Tom Hank’s Playtone Productions banner is reported to be backing the series, after having previously collaborated with HBO on such projects as The Pacific and the award-winning Sarah Palin movie Game Change.
Interestingly, according to Gaiman, the reason his first script for the American Gods pilot caused problems was because of the new story material that the author had incorporated – which had not been present in his original novel – and how that deviated from the more purist adaptation that HBO executives had in mind:
“I wrote this first draft script that I loved. One of the reasons I loved it was because I go to do all this new stuff that wasn’t in the book. I got to open it up. Look, the book begins with Shadow in prison, about to get out of prison, so I opened the [pilot episode so] you got to see the bank robbery that went wrong, you got to see all the things that wound up with him in prison you got to see his entire three-year stretch in prison… you’re half an hour into this thing before he’s getting out of prison – stuff like that – and it was definitely the sort of awkward, embarrassed notes from HBO where they’re going ‘Um, can you make it more like the book?’”
He later admitted his personal motivation for adding so much new narrative substance to the American Gods pilot was because “I just love the idea of giving fans of the book stuff where they don’t know what’s going to happen.” However, the current script draft is closer to what HBO had in mind from the get-go, while still including some of the new stuff that Gaiman has cooked up specifically for the show:
“Draft 3 was me basically going ‘So here is the draft that’s an awful lot like the book’ and we’re throwing in a little more stuff just to put people up… I got a phone call the other day, it was ridiculously positive and [the show] seems to be happening… [I’ve been told] there are flashbacks, nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.”
Personally, I’m excited to see what new material Gaiman has added to the series, all the more so after his recent script work on the Doctor Who episodes “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver.” Here’s to hoping that we don’t go another two years before getting the next significant progress update for the American Gods TV show.
We’ll keep you posted on the American Gods TV series as more information is made available.