In December of last year, Seth Grahame-Smith's genre-bending first novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was optioned by Natalie Portman with director David O. Russell (Three Kings) attached to direct.
Last month, Grahame-Smith's second mash-up novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, was optioned by the powerhouse team of Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted). Grahame-Smith appeared at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo where he shared his feelings on each of the films and his progress on the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter script.
During a panel discussion, I asked Grahame-Smith what his initial reaction was when he learned that Natalie Portman wanted to produce and star in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. To much laughter from the audience, he responded "I crapped my pants." Grahame-Smith elaborated, saying:
"It was a dream come true. And I had the same reaction when I found out that David O. Russell wanted to adapt it and direct it. That to me is such an inspired choice of directors... In some ways it's left field, but at the same time when you look at stuff he did in Three Kings, you know, it seems like now it really has a chance to be awesome."
When asked if he had a preference over which zombies would be used in the film (slow and shambling George Romero-style zombies or fast and freaky Danny Boyle-style zombies), Grahame-Smith opted for the former saying,
"I wrote the book purely with Romero zombies, because I like my zombies slow and stupid. They're funnier to me that way. I mean, zombies are confounded by concepts like door knobs, you know? That's what makes them so lovable to me... I hope they go with the spirit of the Romero zombies."
On the subject of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Grahame-Smith was equally enthusiastic, describing how he "crapped his pants again" when he found out Tim Burton was interested in the film and how thankful he is that both Burton and Bekmambetov are allowing him to keep the script "dark and gothic and awesome."
"I'm halfway done with the adaptation now, and we're playing it just like the book plays it. Straight down the middle. We're not going to wink at the audience. There's going to be nothing cutesy about it. It's going to be absolutely vicious and historically accurate as much as possible. We want this to feel like a bio-pic that just happens to have these amazing, gory sequences in it."
Grahame-Smith went on to describe how he envisions the action for the film, likening it to Wanted (though in a decidedly tongue-in-cheek fashion).
"We're going to make it cool... we're going to make it authentic and pretty incredibly action-packed. If you look at some of the sequences in Wanted, you know, cars flipping over sun roofs and bullets bending and people running around trains and all that stuff...and imagine that in the 1840s, you're on the path to understanding what we're trying to do with it."
Getting a chance to hear Seth Grahame-Smith talk about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in person was a lot of fun. For a guy who has gone from relative obscurity to being a best-selling author with two movies in the works in under a year, I was impressed by how personable and easygoing he was with the audience.
Personally, I think both projects sound very interesting and I know that I will be keeping a close eye on casting news for Honest Abe. (Maybe Liam Neeson could do Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and Grahame-Smith's Vampire Hunter at the same time. Seriously though, can you think of a more perfect ass-kicking Abe :-) ? )