Bringing Classic SF to the Silver Screen (

By:Chris Wyatt
Date: Sunday, September 15, 2002

Peter Jackson's film version of THE LORD OF THE RINGS seems to have opened the flood gates. No one in Hollywood really believed that it was possible to make an adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece in a way that would both satisfy fans of the books, and yet still be profitable at the box office. Yet, not only did Jackson's version do those things, it also wound up being nominated for Oscars. And were talking major Oscars, not the technical ones for which genre films often wind up being nominated.

So, the "sainted classics" are now touchable. Hollywood production plans now read almost like a top ten list of classic genre fiction. In either the scripting or pre-production phases are films based on Isaac Asimov's FOUNDATION and I, ROBOT, as well as Usula K Le Guin's EARTHSEA series, Philip K Dick's FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMEN SAID, Arthur Clarke's RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA and Alfred Bestor's THE STARS MY DESTINATION.

RINGWORLD by Larry Niven

Here's one of the big questions about adapting these and other classic SF novels: What actors would bring these genre heroes to life?

Here are CINESCAPE'S picks for which Hollywood actors would be right for our favorite literary characters...

CHARACTER: Harry Seldon PROFILE: From FOUNDATION, the original "heroic scientist" archetype upon which all other's are based. ACTOR: The version of FOUNDATION which is being considered would actually come largely from the second book in the original trilogy FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE, so Seldon only appears as a hologram of his older self. It would be expected to give the "wise old man" role to Ian McKellen, Ian Holm or even Patrick Stewart, but we pick Terence Stamp because of his ability to blend pomposity with leadership (see ALIEN NATION).


CHARACTER: Elijah Baley PROFILE: The Human detective from Isaac Asimov's ROBOT series, starting with THE CAVES OF STEEL. ACTOR: Jason Statham's unusual combination of looks, skills and subtlety could serve this thinking man's action hero well.

CHARACTER: Tom Parker PROFILE: The erstwhile adventurer of Larry Niven's RINGWORLD. ACTOR: He might seem like a dark horse candidate, but Hugo Weaving has the unique look that could serve the character.

CHARACTER: Renie Sulaweyo PROFILE: The computer science teacher who gets trapped in Tad William's OTHERLAND. ACTOR: There can be no discussion on the subject, Angela Bassett is the only choice for this role. She'd be perfect at pulling off Renie's emotional roller coaster between self-doubt and self-confidence.


CHARACTER: Henry Anthony Wilcox PROFILE: The doomed artist from H.P. Lovecraft's CALL OF CTHULHU. ACTOR: Guy Pierce would play this tortured soul well.

CHARACTER: Commander Bill Norton PROFILE: The Captain of the vessel that makes a RANDEXVOUS WITH RAMA. ACTOR: We're cheating on this one, because Morgan Freeman's company has a version of RENDEZVOUS already on the boards with him to star. But that's great, because damn if he isn't the perfect choice!

Tell of some of your picks at: