As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to.
The end of the world is coming pretty soon, and the best way to be prepared for it is to read this book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Don’t be caught with your pants down during the end times. Know your future, gird your loins, avoid gorgeous red heads that make you angry for no apparent reason, and keep a close eye on that neighborhood gang of kids that seems totally harmless.
They’re probably hanging out with the Antichrist.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
By Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
“It was a nice day.”
Holy, hell. What a book. This may be the funniest book about the Apocalypse ever put down on ink and paper (and it makes a nice spiritual companion to earlier Print to Projector dream project, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal). Gaiman and Pratchett have a firm grasp of the dry humor that makes something as monumentally catastrophic as the end of all existence seem as simply bothersome as waiting to have your tires rotated.
The characters – from the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, to Adam the Antichrist, to Anathema Device (the descendant of the only witch to prophesy the end times correctly) – are all lovable and vibrant. Even the four horseman of the Apocalypse are slightly likable – even if they leave bystanders hungry, polluted, angry and/or dead.
Perfect absurdity, Gaiman and Pratchett have taken a very severe topic with very serious players and placed them in decidedly ridiculous situations. The result is earthquake-inducing comedy that could light the seas on fire.
Capturing the comedy on screen would take a steady hand that has an ear for this sort of thing. Plus, they’d also have to juggle a lot of characters. Other than that, and a few things trimmed for time, this thing could fly from book to script directly.
Directing: If only Charles Crichton were still around. The Fish Called Wanda director would be perfect for this sort of ensemble comedy with a bit of action involved. Fortunately, since this is a complete fantasy pick in the first place, there’s another (uncredited) director on that film: John Cleese. No, he doesn’t have a pile of directorial experience, but he’s got a metric (they use the metric system over there) ton of acting, writing and general film experience that would translate well. Plus, it would be Cleese’s feature length directorial debut. How cool would that be?
Terry Gilliam has been trying to get the movie made for a long time, so it might seem like a slight to dreamcast Cleese as director. It would also be fantastic to see Gilliam take the reigns. However, he would need to tone down his own fantastical nature to do it justice. There would be room for his creativity, but maybe not as much as he’s used to/seems to demand. Still. Seriously. Gilliam taking on a comedy about the end of the world. It’s brilliant.
Writing: As rarely as it is, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have made this pretend hiring decision an easy one. Both have film writing experience, and even if they didn’t, few would be able to capture the spirit of this hilarious book as well as the original authors.
Just hear me out.
Simon Pegg as Crowley: Johnny Depp was once barely attached to this role, which is understandable considering his fame (and connection to Gilliam). However, the idea of Pegg playing against type and resurrecting the stoic bad assery of his Hot Fuzz, Sgt. Angel character to play a Demon seems like it could end up delivering something unexpected and different.
Alan Rickman as Aziraphale: The age difference is a little strange, but both Crowley and Aziraphale are almost as eternal as you can get. Aziraphale is a mincing angel who runs a rare book store, is uncommonly pleasant, but also has just enough bastard in him to be likable. He’s incredibly effeminate, even though angels have no sex. There’s no doubt that watching Rickman take this on would be a thing of sheer joy.
Anna Friel as Anathema Device: Anathema is a witch. Her whole family is made up of witches, and the most famous is Agnes Nutter who wrote down her prophecies (which all turned out to be correct). Anathema is sweet but lives her life as if it’s already planned out, and leaves her a little empty. She’s also the closest thing the book has to a romantic lead. Clever, ahead of the game, and motivated to be there at the beginning of the end, she’s a strange character. Friel has played quirky before on Pushing Daisies, and it’s a shame that she doesn’t appear in more films (after Land of the Lost fell flat). She’d be perfect for this role because she’s got personality and spark.
Famke Janssen as Red: There’s no mistaking it. Red is War. She’s one of the four horseman of the Apocalypse (that finds herself on a very modern day horse). She’s insanely and insanely beautiful. Plus, she stirs up bar fights and civil wars wherever she goes.
Stephen Merchant as Newt: Newt is the newest member of a dedicated group of Witchfinders. Alongside the cranky, old Shadwell (who could be easily played by Ian Holm or Bernard Hill or Any Old British Guy Who Is Cranky) he is attempting to hunt down suspicious activity. He stumbles upon Anathema and becomes the closest thing the book has to a romantic lead – a gawky, awkward romantic lead. Merchant is incredibly funny and would do well in this supporting role.
And a cast of dozen…with roles for Cleese, Michael Palin, and whatever Pythons are still on speaking terms with Gilliam. Yes, basically I want to see Monty Python truly reunite.
Who Owns It:
The ownership is a little unclear at the moment. There have been attempts to bring it to the big screen before, and Pratchett is claiming that a television series is in the works. I swear this stuff just falls in my lap. I just discovered this two-decade-old book by randomly grabbing it from a used book store, and now news of it becoming a television series is dropping right around the time I finished it (and fell in love with it).
While Gilliam has been focused on making this a reality, it’s unclear where the rights lie right now – either with Gilliam personally, with a production group, or with the original authors.
This world demands to see its end mocked and derided. Let’s make it happen. With the right talent, this could be one of the funnier movies of any year its released simply because the writing is already so stellar.
The base is there, now it’s time for someone serious to realize the potential of this project and make it a reality. If Gilliam is the only director Gaiman and Pratchett like for it, so be it. No one in their right mind would turn down a Gilliam-directed version of Good Omens. Hopefully a producer out there realizes how amazing that partnership would be and has a spare $25 million lying around in financing to see this thing to the big screen. Fingers crossed.