A new adaptation of ‘Gormenghast’ could easily become the next ‘Game of Thrones.’
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This motto for reboots is being chanted once more for Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast” novels. The first two books in the popular fantasy adventure saga were previously adapted by the BBC in 2000, and while that iteration caught some attention, FremantleMedia is hoping to make a major splash with their own interpretation.
As reported by Deadline, the company won a massive bidding war to adapt all five books in the series. To assist in this venture, Neil Gaiman and Akiva Goldsman have been brought on board to shape the project. Gaiman is listed as a “non-writing executive producer” overseeing the endeavor in a similar manner to how he’s marshaling the Starz Channel adaptation of his “American Gods.”
Gaiman explains why we should all be excited to see these books return to the small screen:
“There is nothing in literature like Mervyn Peake’s remarkable ‘Gormenghast’ novels. They were crafted by a master, who was also an artist, and they take us to an ancient castle as big as a city, with heroes and villains and people larger than life that are impossible to forget. There is a reason why there were two trilogies that lovers of the fantasy genre embraced in the sixties: ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and the ‘Gormenghast’ books. It’s an honor to have been given the opportunity to help shepherd Peake’s brilliant and singular vision to the screen.”
Big bold words from the mind that birthed “Sandman” and “Neverwhere.” Comparing “Gormenghast” to “The Lord of the Rings” is not that much of stretch. Maybe not as overtly fantastical as Tolkein’s environment, Peake’s novels are a rich mythology exploring the honor and dishonor of man. Focusing on the inhabitants of Castle Gormenghast, the young hero at the center of it all shares a lot of emotional resonance with Frodo Baggins.
The protagonist, Titus Groan, does not choose heroism. He is born into it. After his father unexpectedly perishes, and while Titus was only an infant, a mischievous servant attempts to rise in the ranks of power. When Titus reaches maturity, the teenager must battle the conspiracy of evil that has taken root in his home. The novels are as engaged in the minutia of daily life as they are villainous collusion. Similar to Tolkein, Peake easily loses himself in the joys of adding texture to his world.
When they brought American Gods to Starz, FremantleMedia signed Gaiman to an exclusive multi-year deal. They are putting a lot of faith in the author to produce, and in turn, Gaiman is looking to his influences to stake his claim in mass media entertainment. Gormenghast is only the second of several concepts we are expected to see from this partnership.
Akiva Goldsman has been busy attaching himself to several longterm projects as well. On top of digging into the Hasbro-verse writer’s room, Goldsman has sided with Netflix’s new Extreme Studios deal, Star Trek: Discovery, and the upcoming Shining sequel. The dude likes to work.
I am curious to see how Gaiman and Goldsman blend into each other. In a pop culture setting desperate to discover the next Game of Thrones, Gormenghast has potential for stealing our attention. Gaiman has certainly proven himself an eye for adaptation with his own work, and hopefully he can extend that success to a story he adores.