As acclaimed and prolific as writer Harlan Ellison is, there haven’t been many recent adaptations of his work. For years, there was talk of Miramax adapting his novella Mephisto In Onyx with Samuel L. Jackson, but that went nowhere.
However, it looks like one of Ellison’s most famous stories might be seeing a movie adaptation, as Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski has optioned the rights to the Ellison story Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman. The story follows a man in a totalitarian future where everyone’s schedule is mandated by law as he disrupts society as a masked mischief maker.
As Straczynski wrote on his facebook page:
Since this has apparently leaked onto several film-oriented websites, I should probably confirm the information and preclude distortion: I have optioned, and adapted into screenplay form, Harlan Ellison’s “Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman.” It’s out to producers, studios and directors now. We hope to find a director who has always wanted to make this story into a movie. More as, if and when it develops.
Straczynski has been a prolific writer for decades… he famously wrote much of The Real Ghostbusters, the 80s Twilight Zone series and his creation, Babylon 5 . More recently, he’s been focusing on screenplays, having written the Angelina Jolie flick Changeling and the first draft of the upcoming film World War Z.
He’s also been friends with Ellison for almost as long. For years he’s told the story about how, as a young writer, he called up Ellison for advice about writing…only to have Ellison angrily tell him that the reason his stuff wasn’t selling was because he was writing crap and needed to stop writing crap. They both worked on the 1980’s Twilight Zone relaunch (Although Ellison had already quit by the time Straczynski was brought in as a story editor, Straczynski bought an Ellison story for the series, Crazy as a Soup Sandwich.) Straczynski later used Ellison as a “creative consultant” on Babylon 5 and Ellison did occasional cameos as a Psi Cop and as the voice of the B5 station.
Here’s hoping they actually find producers, directors and a studio for this thing.