In November last year we heard of the sad passing of the great novelist and screenwriter (amongst other things), Michael Crichton, who was responsible for such works as Jurassic Park (both the novel and screenplay), The 13th Warrior (novel) and Twister (screenplay). He wrote 27 fiction novels in his 40-plus years of writing, two of them unpublished.

And so, it seems fitting that Crichton’s long-time collaborator, Steven Spielberg, is going to develop one of those yet-unpublished novels into a movie: Pirate Latitudes.

USAToday reports that Spielberg has already tapped writer David Koepp – who co-wrote Jurassic Park‘s screenplay with Crichton – to pen the script for Pirate Latitudes. Spielberg is planning on producing the adaptation, and will possibly direct as well. The acclaimed director has called the story a, “real page-turner that already seems suited for the big screen.” Check out the full quote from him:

“Michael wrote a real page-turner that already seems suited for the big screen… Michael and I have had almost two decades of solid collaborations. Whenever I made a film from a Michael Crichton book or screenplay, I knew I was in good hands. Michael felt the same, and we like to think he still does.”

Apparently Spielberg has always wanted to make a pirate movie, and I say what better way to delve into that genere than by basing it on the work of a long-time friend and collaborator? Comparisons are already being drawn to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (probably because Spielberg has done his fair share of blockbusters and he’s now doing a pirate movie), but word is that Pirate Latitudes will be a lot more grounded in reality, and that Spielberg’s Dreamworks partner, Stacey Snider, says they don’t want to “interfere” with the Pirates franchise.

So what is Pirate Latitudes about? Well, Dreamworks has described it as, “a daring plan to infiltrate Port Royal, one of the world’s richest and most notorious cities, and raid a Spanish galleon filled with treasure… It’s a mission movie, and we see it through the prism of what it might have been like to live on the island during that time.” Here is the official synopsis from the book itself:

“The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Devoid of London’s luxuries, Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses. In this steamy climate, life can end swiftly by dysentery – or dagger. But for a daring soul like Captain Edward Hunter, this wild outpost in the New World can also lead to great fortune, if he abides by the island’s code.

In the name of His Majesty King Charles II of England, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it. Word in port is that the Spanish galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in nearby Matanceros. Heavily fortified, the impregnable Spanish harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of King Philip IV. With the Jamaican governor’s backing, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy island and commandeer the galleon and its fortune in Spanish gold.

The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of Matanceros legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he makes it onto the island’s shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure.With the help of his cunning band, Hunter hijacks El Trinidad and escapes the deadly clutches of Cazalla, leaving plenty of carnage in his wake. But the danger – and adventure – are only just beginning…”

Wow. Sounds like there’s A LOT of stuff in that story that has some great potential to make for a compelling movie. Going by the synopsis, I’d say Spielberg was correct in saying it seems well-suited for the big-screen. I’d personally like to see Spielberg direct the adaptation as well as produce; he’s never made a pirate movie before, and I’d like to see him apply his talents to the genre.

I’m also interested in seeing how Latitudes will be more grounded in reality than the Pirates movies. Spielberg has always been a director who can easily flip back and forth from big blockbusters (Jaws, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds) to smaller, more intimate films (Munich, The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can), and I’m gonna’ guess that if he directs, Pirate Latitudes will mix those two extremes, but lean more towards the smaller type of movie.

What do you think of Spielberg developing one of Crichton’s yet-to-be-published novels? Would you like to see Spielberg direct as well as produce?

The Pirate Latitudes is set to be published by HarperCollins on November 24th, 2009, and you can pre-order your copy now from Amazon.

The film adaptation is currently in the development stages – the studio is planning to wait on Koepp’s script before they set any sort of formal schedule for the movie.

Source: USAToday (thanks to /Film)