Kurt Busiek’s Astro City Movie – Midnight Movies, Coen Bros. and Opening Titles of Angel

UK based production company Working Title have revealed that they’re in development on a big-screen adaptation of Astro City. Over on his blog, the comic’s creator, Kurt Busiek, gives us a detailed account of how this deal came to be, and what sort of shape the film might take. Here are some of my most favourite bits.

First up, I was amazed to hear that Busiek has been working on the film with Ben Barenholtz. He’s the film producer and exhibitor who created the notion of “midnight movies” when he played Jodorowsky’s El Topo at New York’s Elgin Cinema every night at 12, for months on end.

Here’s how he became involved:

It was in 2002 or maybe even earlier that a young screenwriter named Jonathan Alpers contacted me about turning Astro City into a movie. I told him what I’d told everyone else who’d called: I wasn’t interested… He kept calling, talking me into the idea, getting me to see how Astro City might work as a movie after all. And he introduced me to legendary producer Ben Barenholtz—who, among other things, produced the Coen brothers film Miller’s Crossing, distributed Eraserhead and Return of the Secaucus Seven, brought John Woo’s The Killer to the US and even appeared in Night of the Living Dead (as “Cowboy Hat Zombie Hit by Sledge”). And Ben did the rest of the convincing.

But years passed and the project, while always being developed, was yet to be given a greenlight. Let’s skip along to last year:

In the wake of Watchmen underperforming and studios suddenly getting skittish about superhero movies (right up until an Iron Man or Spider-Man movie changed their minds again), I was thinking maybe I’d been right the first time and was perfectly content to go back to the idea that Astro City is a comic book, and that’s what it should stay. And that’s when Ben, on the advice of the Coens, showed Astro City to Working Title Films, and they liked it a lot.

A deal was made. Busiek is cautious in revealing too much about the terms of that deal – he notes that “the contracts I’ve signed seem to value confidentiality a lot” – but he’s not shy in coming forward with some teases about what happens next:

The next step is to work out what the story will be and how best to realize Astro City up on the big screen. And that falls to me, at least to begin with—I’m starting work on the initial treatment, and as I type this, am scheduled to have my first serious creative meetings on the matter next week.

That’s this week now. Best of luck, Kurt.

Scattered throughout the rest of the blog post, Busiek names a few reference points that seem to reflect his current thinking on the project. Here’s a quick list of them all, like a tease of his creative state of mind and what kind of Astro City he’s dreaming of at the moment. Of course, the finished film may end up nothing at all like any of them.

Pulp Fiction.

The films of John Sayles.

The films of Marc Foster.

The Roches.

Breaking Away.

The Lord of the Rings.

The opening credits of Angel.

Well, I’m absolutely hooked. I can’t wait to see more.

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