Though the COVID-19 pandemic briefly brought film production to a halt, the wheels of development never stopped turning. From METROPOLIS to THE SOCIAL NETWORK, adaptations have been a perennial source of successful projects for Hollywood. We have rounded up five science or technology-themed adaptations of books currently in the works. Most are in the earlier stages of development, so there’s ample time to check out the books before they hit the screen.
Few will be surprised to see Pulitzer-Prize winner Richard Powers on this list, twice. Nine months before his thirteenth book Bewilderment was published in September 2021, the sale of its film rights to Black Bear Pictures (THE IMITATION GAME) and Plan B (MOONLIGHT) was announced in Variety. An instant best seller, the novel follows a recently-widowed astrobiologist who—in the hopes of aiding his nine-year-old son through the emotional turmoil of grief—turns to an experimental neurofeedback treatment. No talent attachments have been announced yet but the pedigree of those involved thus far is promising.
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY
The career challenges female scientists face may not sound like the basis of a book praised for its humor, but this best-selling,book-club-favorite from debut author Bonnie Garmus is just that. Set in the 1960’s, Lessons in Chemistry follows Elizabeth, a single mother whose dreams of becoming a chemist are derailed by misogynistic ideas of ‘a woman’s place.’ Forced to pivot from the laboratory to the kitchen, her chemist’s approach to cookery makes Elizabeth a beloved TV cooking show star. Oscar-winner Brie Larson (CAPTAIN MARVEL) will star as Elizabeth in the limited series adapted and executive produced by Susannah Grant (ERIN BROCKOVICH), set to premiere on AppleTV+ in 2023.
While rights to Bewilderment were sold prior to the book’s publication, Richard Powers’s previous book The Overstory, did not receive the same early attention from the film industry, despite literary acclaim. The 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction citation reads: “An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.” Yet, no adaptation materialized. Fortunately, the novel (inspired by ecologist Suzanne Simard’s research about the communication between trees) would go on to spend over a year on The New York Times bestseller list and garner remarkably sustained praise from readers in the years following its release. (Over three years after its publication, Barack Obama told Ezra Klein “...it’s not something I would have immediately thought of, but a friend gave it to me. And I started reading it, and it changed how I thought about the earth. And it changed how I see things, and that’s always, for me, a mark of a book worth reading.”) Somewhere between the Pulitzers and the former president, GAME OF THRONES creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss became fans as well; in 2021 it was announced that they had partnered with Hugh Jackman (PRISONERS) to executive produce a series adaptation for Netflix. Richard E. Robbins (THE DIVIDE) has penned the pilot script, but no production dates have been announced yet.
THE FIRST SHOTS
It seems Adam McKay’s Sloan-recognized DON’T LOOK UP will not be the last of his timely, STEM-forward projects. In July 2020, it was announced that HBO had optioned Brendan Borrell’s The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine on McKay’s behalf. Harpercollins published the book over a year later in October 2021, to a very changed world. We’re eager to see just what a series developed during the very pandemic it addresses will look like.
A more retrospective look at vaccine development, Jeffrey Kluger’s Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and The Conquest of Polio is also headed to the big screen. Jeremy Strong (SUCCESSION) will play the titular Dr. Salk, an American virologist and medical researcher who—after more than seven years of devoted research and fundraising—developed the first successful polio vaccine in 1955. Salk was also known to be a charming personality whose success made him a famous public figure, something he openly expressed discomfort with. While the stories of overlooked scientists must continue to be told, an exploration of Salk’s work and legacy could prove to be a refreshing one. (The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, founded by Salk in 1963, remains active in several areas of research.) Sloan grantee Gillian Weeks (whose script OH THE HUMANITY was included in the recently announced 2022 Black List) is adapting the book for 21 Laps Entertainment (ARRIVAL) and TO DUST producers Bron Media Corp.