Unrealised Project: Good Omens


An episodic guide to the development of Good Omens, which may be Gilliam’s next film.  In backwards chronological order…

22 March 2002
Over to Neil Gaiman at his website for clarification: “Someone asked me whether I knew anything about the rumours that the Good Omens film had collapsed.  Not that I know of. They’ve been having trouble putting together the money (65 million plus) for some time, and the last time I saw Terry Gilliam he mentioned that if it didn’t happen soon, he’d go off and do Tideland, which will cost infinitely less, because if he didn’t make a film soon (given what happened to Quixote) he’d go crazy.  As far as I know, if that happens, it means that Good Omens simply goes down to next-on-the-list while the producers spend the intervening time trying to nail down the financing.

“The script is good, the cast seem committed, and the producers have the foreign financing in place. What they need is a US studio to commit some money (I think it’s about $15 million) to the project, and no US studio seems ready to take the plunge yet.  My attitude on all Hollywood things is not to expect any of them to happen until I’m sitting at the premiere eating my popcorn. Worrying about the ups and downs of getting a film made could drive anyone to drink.”

20 March 2002 – RUMOUR
Andrea posts on the Dreams MessageBoard – who claims to have just interviewed Gilliam in Italy, and has 25 minutes on video. “He talks of everything… Good Omens collapsed and on Monday he met the producer who owns the rights for The Defective Detective.  Good Omens collapsed because there was no money to do it.  He said also that if he doesn’t do a movie this year he’ll go crazy.”

17 February 2002
Justin posted the following to the Dreams Messageboard: “I just met Neil Gaiman at a convention yesterday and got a chance to talk with him about the Good Omens project.  He told me that he had lunch with Gilliam last week, and there are major developments afoot, but Neil was sworn to secrecy.  He did imply, however, that casting was nearly finished, and explained that Renaissance Films is very eager to put this film out.  He said that what we are basically looking at is that in about two weeks time, one of two things will happen: funding will finally be in place, and the shooting schedule and cast list will be released, -or- the whole project will be put on that already crowded shelf, and Terry will begin filming Tideland.”

14 February 2002
Variety reports that the two leading roles in Gilliam’s Good Omens have been offered to Johnny Depp and Robin Williams.  From the journal,
“Gilliam has exited the United Talent Agency and signed with Endeavor, which will try to heighten his Hollywood profile. He’s also got two promising films he wants to do back-to-back. Gilliam is in talks with Johnny Depp and Robin Williams to star in Good Omens, which he and long-time writing partner Tony Grisoni adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, about the battle between heaven and hell to track down the newborn antichrist after it is misplaced at the hospital.  Gilliam and Grisoni then will do another novel adaptation they’ve already scripted of Mitch Cullin’s Tideland, which is set with producer Jeremy Thomas.”

25 January 2002
Neil Gaiman’s web site today: “And the Good Omens movie news sounds good as well.  They’re gathering together the last of the money and hope to be shooting by summer. I shall keep my fingers crossed. (‘It’ll never happen’ points out a phantom Terry Pratchett, very sensibly, in my ear.)”

7 January 2002
John Nefastis sent a report to Aint It Cool News.  He had spoken to both Gilliam and Gaiman in the previous couple of weeks.  Gilliam said that he planned to start filming Good Omens in April, and that they’ve been sorting out the final script re-writes and the budget.  Nefastis states that Gilliam said reducing the book into a two hour film has been a tough process, and some more work was needed on the script to bring the budget down.  “It’s a tricky thing when you take a book like that that’s so dense, so full of wonderfully funny, smart writing, and you try to reduce it to a two-hour-plus movie.  And some of my favourite stuff from the book is not in there. It’s like cutting limbs and arms off of this child, and hoping there’ll still be something left of it at the end.  It’s such a big special effects film it’s ridiculous. Every scene has got something in it. And I’ve got to create heaven and hell.”

Nefastis commented that Neil Gaiman was looking forward to the movie.  Gaiman said, “The last thing I’ve heard he has figured out a way to put the footnotes in. He’s very proud of the footnotes. He told me there will be pointy arrows, during scenes like the baby swap. In the scene where we have three babies moving round he wants signs with ‘Baby A’, ‘Baby B’ and ‘Baby C’. And I thought ‘Good, he understands the book, he understands how to do it more than I ever did.’

Gaiman continued: “I remember Terry Pratchett and I went out to Hollywood together and had one of those great awful, aborted film experiences which everyone should have, that was magnificently dreadful. After that we said ‘We’re done on anything to do with Good Omens films, forever’. And we spent years saying no to anyone who wanted to buy it. Then Terry Gilliam came along and it was like ‘Not only can you buy it, we’ll happily pay your cab fare home.’ We liked him. People say are you involved in the film, and we say ‘no’.”

12 November 2001
The Chicago Sun-Times exclusively reveals that Joseph Fiennes and Christopher Lambert would be playing the two angels Crowley and Aziraphale in the film. Soon afterwards, Gaiman’s website refuted the item.

November 2001
Speaking to Reel.com, Gilliam said, “We’re in the process of trying to get the money. We want to be shooting next Spring. I’ve got a couple of big actors in two of the parts, and we’re trying to see if somebody’s now going to give us all the money we need to try and do it. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive, this one, the most expensive thing I’ve ever done. And that’s exactly the process we’re in; I can’t tell you who’s in it yet, or any of those things.”

August 2001
Neil Gaiman posts to his website the response Gilliam gave when asked how the project was going. Gilliam said, “I’ll warn you in advance that we created a very different climax. And we dropped favorite characters. We added some scenes involving cattle drives in the Old West and song and dance sequences from our favorite Bollywood films. We also tried to make the Metatron more Jewish for the sake of the financiers. Woody Allen would be perfect…or maybe Mel Brooks. Then there is the snuff movie that Crowley is producing which we get to see in utterly graphic detail…we thought it would make him more active in believable evil. And we eliminated most of the comedy. I felt it held the book back from being the ‘great and profound work’, which we hope the film will be.”

3 July 2001
Gilliam reports to Dreams the following: “Tony [Grisoni] and I have finished what I hope is the final draft of Good Omens.  Now we start casting and bringing on a few heads of key departments to try to work out what the thing is going to cost.”  Look out for casting news here in the future.

6 May 2001
Looks like the script is nearly finished and pre-production can commence. According to Gilliam, “Tony and I may have actually finished a sufficiently good enough draft of Good Omens to start moving forward with the business of making it.”

20 March 2001
“You can report that Good Omens is proving to be FUCKING difficult to reduce to the FUCKING SHIT ASS limitations of a two FUCKING hour film.”

25 January 2001
Another report from Gilliam: “Tony and I have finished the first draft of Good Omens – 150 pages. The knives are being sharpened for the carving up/down. Still a lot of work to do on it.”

22 October 2000
Screen International reports on the slate of projects that UK-based Renaissance Films is working on.  This includes the Good Omens project which Gilliam is set to write and direct.  The report says “Terry Gilliam has for the second time this year secured financing out of Europe for a large-scale production, partnering with the UK’s Renaissance Films to direct $50m comic fantasy Good Omens.  The Gilliam picture is being adapted by the director and Tony Grisoni from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s best-selling book.  UK and US-based Marc and Peter Samuelson are co-producing with Charles Roven’s US-based Atlas Entertainment.  The picture, which is to shoot in the UK late 2001, tells the story of an angel and a demon sent to Earth to track down the Antichrist.  Renaissance’s involvement in Good Omens comes after Gilliam this year secured financing from European sources including UK National Lottery franchise Pathe Pictures and France’s StudioCanal for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

29 August 2000
IGN Filmforce spoke to Terry Gilliam a few days ago, and have determined that a deal has been signed for him to develop a script for Good Omens, which he is scheduled now to direct after Quixote is finished.  “A British company, Renaissance Films, are handing over some money to us to write it and hopefully make it after this one,” Gilliam told FilmForce’s Kenneth Plume on 25 August.

For more information, click on their website, FilmForce.  What do you think?  Put your comments to the Dreams MessageBoard.  (Thanks to TotalNerd for the link)

20 February 2000
According to reliable sources, Gilliam and Tony Grisoni have stopped working on the adaptation of Good Omens to the big screen. In early December, it was announced that Gilliam would direct a film of the novel Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Charles Roven was named as producer, and also it was stated that Gilliam would set to work with Fear and Loathing co-writer Tony Grisoni on a script. However, in the absence of a firm deal on a prospective Good Omens film, Gilliam and Grisoni have decided not to proceed at this stage on script development.

10 December 1999
Terry Gilliam is all set to start adapting Good Omens, a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  Following a scoop at Aint-It-Cool-News, a source revealed to me that a Good Omens deal is imminent that will allow development to begin and for Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni to begin adapting the book for the big screen. If all goes well, it should begin shooting, with Gilliam at the helm, after The Man Who Killed Quixote is complete.

The novel is summarised on the back page thus: “According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter – the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future – the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…”  Regarding the deal, co-author Neil Gaiman said, “I think Terry Gilliam is the perfect director for Good Omens in every way, and I’ve been an enormous fan of his since Jabberwocky.”

Further, JayG. posted a note at alt.movies.terry-gilliam, “Terry Gilliam is attached to Good Omens. He will direct it, and write it with Tony Grisoni, for producers Peter Samuelson, Marc Samuelson and Charles Roven. A studio deal for development is pending – there are talks and negotiations ongoing with several studios”

More to explore

Films in depth

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
The Zero Theorem
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
The Brothers Grimm
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
12 Monkeys
The Fisher King
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Time Bandits