It was only a matter of time until Hollywood finally got around to “The Giver.”
After all, published in 1993, it is a major influence on the genre known now as “young adult literature,” and fans of “The Hunger Games” probably owe no small debt to the existence of Lois Lowry’s novel about a boy named Jonas and the way he alters the dystopian world in which he lives. I would also bet that M. Night Shyamalan was at least familiar with the book when he came up with “The Village.” It is a lovely piece of writing, a Newberry Award winner, and it has sold millions and millions of copies. Like I said, it was inevitable that Hollywood would get to it at some point, and with Lowry finally publishing “Son,” the final novel in the “Giver Quartet,” this year, it seems like the book is back on people’s radar again.
Earlier this year, there were reports that Jeff Bridges would star in the film for director David Yates, who has been reportedly attached to something like thirty-seven million different movies now that his work on the “Harry Potter” series is finished. Yates would certainly bring a very specific young adult-friendly weight to the table as a directorial choice, but now it appears he’s circling “Tarzan” for Warner Bros.
Philip Noyce is ready to take his place, though. And while earlier reports had Nikki Silver producing the film for Warner Bros, it now appears that The Weinstein Company and Walden Media will co-produce with Silver and Bridges, who is evidently co-producing the film.
Jeff Sneider reports that someone close to the film said Noyce’s involvement is likely but still early “as there are a lot of moving parts to this.” Seems like it. What I didn’t realize is that Bridges was the one who was driving the film forward and has been for much of the time it’s been in development. He optioned the rights twenty years ago. We’re talking about “Fisher King” era Jeff Bridges. He’s perfect for the role of The Giver now, but twenty years ago, he evidently thought it was something his father could do.
If you’re not familiar with the book, it is set in a grim, largely emotionless society where people are assigned their jobs, assigned their spouses, and carefully controlled in how many kids they can have and what gender they can be. The Community is all about maintaining a perfect balance, a constant Sameness. There is a Committee of Elders who make the decisions about who does what and who they do it with, and each child is given his assignment at the age of 12. The main character, Jonas, is curious about what exists Elsewhere, and he doesn’t feel comfortable with the way The Community works. When he goes through The Ceremony of Twelve, he is assigned the job of Receiver of Memory. It is one of the most important roles in The Community, but it also marks him as someone who will always be alone, burdened by the weight of the Memory that it is his task to receive. See, no one remembers the past. The Community always has been, and always will be according to those who live there. The Receiver must be trained by the previous person to hold that job, now known as The Giver. It is his job to hand down all of the knowledge which is purposefully kept from everyone in The Community. His is the burden of total understanding, of context. And to Jonas, it is a horrifying weight, one that hurts him deeply as he comes to understand just how much his people have lost and why they were willing to give it up.
Noyce is an interesting choice. I think he can be a gun for hire, but I also think there are times he brings a personal touch to his work and it becomes something more than passable programming. Vadim Perelman was the last writer working on the film, but there’s no word as to what condition the script is in now or if Noyce will be re-developing the material with a new writer.
One thing’s for sure… there will be very vocal and protective fans of “The Giver” paying close attention, and if The Weinstein Company and Walden pull this off, they’ll have even bigger challenges ahead in figuring out what to do with the other three loosely related books in the series.