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Print to Projector: Chuck Palahniuk Birthday Bash

By  · Published on February 21st, 2011

Today is Chuck Palahniuk’s 49th birthday, which means that the writer and member of the Lost Generation gets to blow out some candle, eat some cake, and mail a few plastic lobsters to people. It also means that we get to take a look at the novels he’s written that still need to be made into movies.

For those that don’t read our site on the weekends at all (because kites don’t fly themselves), we normally run this column every Saturday, but seeing how it’s a special occasion and seeing as how we don’t care much for rules, we figured it was a great time to comb through the Fight Club and Choke author’s stuff to celebrate it a bit.

To that end, here are 9 Chuck Palahniuk books that are ripe for the movie picking.


The Pitch: A former death cult member spends his days training a family how to eat lobster, running a fake crisis hotline, and becoming a national icon for millions and millions of people. Tender Branson retells his rise to unwanted fame while on a hijacked plane heading for its final destination – a fatal crash landing in the Australian outback.

This book is one of my favorites, and it’s one of the very first entries I did for Print to Projector (so you can read who I foolishly dreamcast). The project itself was hijacked by the 9/11 attacks (for understandably good and bad reasons), and the latest news saw I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence developing it, but that was back in 2008. It’s high time this brilliant book got the cinematic treatment it deserves (from a director it deserves).

Invisible Monsters

The Pitch: A pill-loving fashion model who’s been shot in the face hits the road pretending to look at homes for sale with her transsexual best friend. It’s a story of revenge, burning down houses, and shaping your own identity.

This is a tough one, and it’s a book I never fell in love with, but fan support seems to be rampant for it. At last look, MacLaren Productions still owns the rights and plans to move forward with a film adaptation. They’ve set up a site to garner public support for it. This would be a hell of a difficult adaptation because it’s basically Thelma and Louise meets Hunter S. Thompson’s most hellish fever dream.


The Pitch: Carl Streator becomes an unwilling serial killer when he memorizes a poem that has the power to end the life of anyone who hears it. He teams up with a realtor who knows its power to destroy every copy of the book (that’s been the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), her assistant, and an eco-terrorist named Oyster who wants the poem for all the wrong reasons.

When I interviewed Palahniuk for the release of Choke, he mentioned that he might like to see Treat Williams in the starring role, which is kind of a cool pick. We reported the project being under the attention of a Swedish director who was already casting back in 2008, but that clearly didn’t pan out.


The Pitch: A once-promising young artist now works her fingers to the bone in a hotel on a coastal island where the wealthy used to live in harmony before the tourists took over and started killing the place. Misty Marie Wilmot soon starts painting again, investigating incidents where her husband (who now lies in a coma) wrote horrible things on the walls of sealed-off rooms in summer homes, and struggles to raise a child who seems to be pulling away.

This is one of the best books Palahniuk has written to date, and even though it would be tricky, it’s got a lot of cinematic elements that would make its trip to the big screen a bit easier than his other work. The climax and revelation of the truth is a brutal one with huge consequences, and it would take a vision that was excited to buck the product placement culture in a subversive way.


The Pitch: Buster Casey has a heightened sense of smell and taste, is obsessed with being bitten by rabid and poisonous animals, and becomes a Nighttimer in a Dystopian future where people are separated in large cities by a caste/time system. Nighttimers are only allowed out after sundown, and a select group of them take to Party Crashing – a demolition derby event that takes place on city streets and leaves a lot of damage in its wake. The book is told as an oral history with hundreds of statements from those who knew Casey or those who knew of him.

So, yes, a documentary-style, talking head, found footage version of this film directed by Banksy would rock.

Haunted and Stranger Than Fiction

The Pitches: In “Haunted,” Palahniuk borrows from “The Canterbury Tales” to create a band of misfits that are carried away to a writer’s retreat that turns into an exercise in sadism. The passions that led these individuals to take up the pen soon transform into the desire to be the closest to death when the ordeal is over so that they can each get huge book deals. Irony abounds.

In “Stranger Than Fiction,” Palahniuk compiles essays, stories and interviews from real life that focus on topics as diverse as the castle building community to a testicle festival.

I group them together because, despite this feature’s title, they would both make great mini-series, but probably terrible movies. Haunted could be put together like an adult version of Lost (because of its character focus, not content) done by HBO. Stranger Than Fiction, on the other hand, would work like a twisted This American Life hosted by the author himself.


The Pitch: A porn star in her waning years decides to go out with 600 bangs in an attempt to break the world record for consecutive sex acts filmed. The book focuses on three of those men – Mr. 600, Mr. 72, and Mr. 137 – and the female assistant who brings them in for the fornication. Through their interactions in the waiting area, a back story and formal plot are revealed, and one of the men isn’t who he claims to be.

There has been some recent talk about an adaptation with Daryl Hannah in the lead role. That talk was mostly BS despite being straight from the horse’s mouth of French director Fabien Martorell (who wrote and will be directing the adaptation). Tom Sizemore is still attached apparently, but it’s still up in the air whether this will get off the ground.


The Pitch: A teenager from an unnamed, probably fictional Communist state that plays out like North Korea got invaded by Nazis comes to America as an exchange student and a secret agent of chaos. He renders that chaos on an unsuspecting town and continues to plot the ominous Operation Havoc.

It’s difficult to figure out who in their right mind would direct this thing. It might be the most difficult of all of the novels to bring to the big screen. It’s told from a hilariously biased perspective that turns all Americans into Wal-Mart-loving, McDonald’s addicts, there’s a graphic scene of child-on-child sodomy, and a school shooting rips through the plot. Gaspar Noe’s available right?

Happy Birthday!

As you can tell, I’ve left out Fight Club and Choke (since they’re already movies (and since we won’t see people talking about remakes until either 2019 or never)), and I’ve left off “Tell-All” because I haven’t read it yet and can’t speak to its merits. Since every other novel he wrote is on this list, it stands to reason that it belongs on here, though.

Now is as good a time as any to rediscover these books and dream about what they might look like as movies. Who would make the best aging porn goddess? The best death cult celebrity? The best jawless fashion model? If you said Jessica Biel for two out of three, you’re probably right.

Anyway, enjoy the cake, Mr. Palahniuk.

Print to Projector is the column where we take un-adapted books, comics, and other written words, then dreamcast them into existence as movies

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.