Lois Lowry’s dystopian young adult novel The Giver was published back in 1993, won the Newbery Medal a year later, and has sold more than 8 million copies since its initial publication. A film adaptation has been an on-again/off-again venture for the past 15 years. That can largely be attributed to the matter of how Lowry’s book is more introspective than action-driven (literally, since a good chunk of the story takes place in shared memories – more on that later).
David Yates (Harry Potter 5-8) was loosely attached to direct a couple years ago, but we just learned he’ll be directing the new Tarzan movie instead. Jeff Bridges purchased the Giver book rights back in the 1990s and originally wanted his father Lloyd (who passed away in 1998) to portray the titular character. The Oscar-winning actor now plans to headline and produce the film on his own.
The Giver is told from the perspective of Jonas, a 12-year old boy who lives in a peaceful and (literally) colorless community that thrives on ‘Sameness,’ a practice where emotion and feelings have been removed from citizens of the population – save for an elderly individual known as the ‘Receiver of Memory,’ the one person with recollections of life before ‘Sameness’. When Jonas is selected to being the next Receiver, he begins sessions with his predecessor: a man able to physically transfer memories of sensations and experiences (pain, happiness, war) to young Jonas, with world-changing results.
It should come as little surprise to learn that Lowry’s novel has been compared to famous titles such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Brave New World, with regards to its subject matter and plot elements. However, here that basic story is recounted through the eyes of an adolescent, so that it may resonate better with younger readers; moreover, philosophical themes are emphasized over the socio-political elements of other installments in the dystopia sub-genre.
Lowry was interviewed by EW last month, where she mentioned her having read some four different Giver scripts over the years. As it were, her favorite draft is the one penned by writer-director Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog), which is currently being used to attract a director to the project. However, the author also admitted that she is not actively involved with development on the adaptation. The last update she received was that Perelman’s draft is either going to be rewritten or abandoned (which may or may not still be the case).
By all accounts, this is a passion project for Bridges and it seems unlikely that he’ll allow it to slip through the cracks yet again (even if Noyce ultimately does not sign on as director). A Giver movie would certainly offer an intriguing alternative to the comparatively action-packed Hunger Games series, as it’s a much quieter piece of thought-provoking sci-fi fare geared towards a young adult audience – though, that could also mean it makes for a less-engaging filmgoing experience.
As far as franchise potential (which, obviously, is always the rage in Hollywood): Lowry has written three other books that take place in the same futuristic era as The Giver – with the most recent, Son, having been published just this year. Giver is foremost a standalone story, but we’ll see if that changes in the movie version (once it fully comes together, that is).
More on The Giver as the story develops.
Sources: Variety, EW