Charlie Kaufman set to script ‘Chaos Walking’ adaptation for Lionsgate

When you’re kicking off a new franchise, calling Charlie Kaufman seems to be as outside-the-box as Hollywood thinking could possibly be.

However, if you’re a studio looking for underlying material to support a new franchise, buying a young-adult series set in a dystopian future is pretty much as by-the-book as Hollywood thinking gets.

So when Lionsgate buys the “Chaos Walking” series of books by Patrick Ness, it makes perfect sense.  I’m sure as soon as they’re done with “The Hunger Games,” they’re going to want another series to be ready and waiting.  Now it looks like they’ve hired Kaufman to adapt at least the first book in the series, “The Knife Of Never Letting Go.”  While Kaufman doesn’t immediately leap to mind as the sort of guy who writes big studio mainstream films, this might actually turn out to be a very canny fit of filmmaker and material.

I doubt Kaufman’s being courted as a director, and his attention right now is on his upcoming film “Frank or Francis,” one of the flat-out weirdest scripts I’ve ever read, and anyone who goes to see that film is going to get what they expect from a Charlie Kaufman film.  He’s also been working on a closely-guarded secret project for Spike Jonze to direct, which is great news for fans of “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.”  But this sounds like a book that might well benefit from bringing someone as smart as Kaufman into the mix.

The books, which I really don’t know at all, have been highly acclaimed and they’ve won all sorts of awards.  They’re set in a world where there are no women and where all beings are able to hear each others’ thoughts in a nonstop barrage known as The Noise.  The first book deals with a boy named Todd who discovers a pocket of silence, leading to war and forcing him to leave the town where he grew up.  Over the course of the series, a civli war plays out and questions are raised about any number of serious issues like gender politics, privacy, identity, and more.

That’s hardly the sort of stuff we normally hear about when studios are looking for franchises, but maybe that’s a good thing.  I’m a fan of science-fiction as allegory, and I’m starting to think the “young adult” tag is just a marketing hook that can cover a pretty wide range of subject matter.

It should be interesting to see what he comes up with, and what Doug Davison and Alli Shearmur do with it as producers.  We’ll definitely keep this one on our radar, and we’ll also being excited to see the uber-bizarre “Frank or Francis” make its way to the screen.