‘Merlin’ hopes to fill Harry Potter’s hole

Senior Editor
05.18.11 14 Comments

Blah blah origin story mouthfart reimagining of the classic fairy tale something something dark and gritty (*dismissive wank*)

Ed Whitworth, a script reader for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Prods., has seemingly come out of nowhere to land the plum gig to write The Lost Years of Merlin, Warner Bros.’ big-budget adaptation of the first book of the fantasy series by T.A. Barron.

It’s the screenwriting equivalent of pulling the sword out of the stone.

More like the screenwriting equivalent of pulling a news lede out of your ass, am I right?  Also?  The sword and the stone thing was King Arthur.  Also?  Shut up.

Donald De Line (Green Lantern) is producing what is basically an origin story of the mythical wizard.

An origin story, you don’t say.

The film will trace Merlin’s journey from being a boy washed on the shores of Wales with no memory and no home…

Ooh, and an amnesia story too?  I hope he gets paid by the cliché.

…to him becoming a young man learning to use his powers and ultimately defender of the natural world and eventual mentor to King Arthur.
The project previously had been at Paramount, where Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes) was taking a crack at it. But the option ran out and Warners, looking for a suitable replacement for its billion-dollar Harry Potter franchise, picked it up with De Line attached.
The studio then set upon a quest for a scribe to tackle what it hopes will be a new spell-binding tentpole.

Did someone say “spell-binding tentpole?”  (*puts on wizard hat, pulls out limp wiener, booed off stage*)

Whitworth had studied at Oxford and worked as a journalist at the Times of London before heading west and enrolling in UCLA’s screenwriting program. He worked as a reader for ICM and, for the past year, for Harpo, which afforded him time to write in his spare moments.
Although Whitworth found representation at management outfit Circle of Confusion, none of his spec scripts seemed to take. Still, he continued to write. “If it didn’t work out, I’d move on to the next one,” he tells THR/Heat Vision of his 10-year journey: “I would just try to persevere. It’s something I really wanted to do, even when it got hard.”
Last year, Whitworth wrote a spec titled Powell, a biopic about now-retired General Colin Powell that mixed fact and fiction to tell the behind-the-scene dealings leading up to Powell’s United Nations speech making the case for the war in Iraq.
The script made the rounds this spring, generating notice in the development community, and six weeks ago Whitworth signed with WME. That led to a series of general meet-and-greets with execs (“generals,” in the industry shorthand), including one with execs from Warners and De Line Productions.
The two companies took to the up-and-comer, and when he pitched them a take that saw the first two Merlin books combined to make one movie, the gig was all but sewn up.  On top of that, Whitworth bonded with Barron, also an Oxford grad now living in Colorado, who flew out for the final meeting.
As might be expected, Whitworth has informed his Harpo bosses he is going “on hiatus.” He is still taking generals and is now at work writing the script.
“Everyone tells me it’ll never happen this easily again,” he says. [THR]

I know, right?  All you had to do was spend a decade going to graduate school, manning the Oprah script reject pile, and toiling away at scripts all night; then write a script good enough to get peoples’ attention, then squeeze your creativity and ambition through the preposterously narrow window that is the current market for movie pitches, and finally, because you happened to have gone to college with the exec in charge, find yourself on easy street, landing a thankless job as the tentpole screenwriter Warner Brothers will probably micromanage to death before replacing in six months.  Why, it’s almost (*narrows eyes, looks over shoulder*)… too easy.

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