Interview: Hot Property’s Janine Marmot

DogfightHot Property Films producer Janine Marmot is currently working on a number of movies in the SF field, including Identicals, which is released in the UK by Arrow on August 15th, as well as an adaptation of William Gibson and Michael Swanwick’s tale Dogfight. She chatted with Paul Simpson about the latter…

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The Gibson project soundsinteresing perhaps because he is an author who has proved so difficult to bring to the screen. I appreciate it’s based on a story Gibson co-wrote so I’m not sure how much Swanwick was involved with the plotting etc…

That’s an interesting question. I don’t know how they collaborated. Obviously we have acquired the rights with both sets, but all our negotiations have been with Gibson. He’s been incredibly generous in letting us option it and very supportive.

What’s interesting for us as filmmakers is there’s lots of interest and anticipation in an adaptation of a Gibson story and I think one of the challenges and why so few have been done, is his books are very operatic in scale, which is a real challenge to adapt. One of the beauties of this short story is it doesn’t have that operatic reach; it’s very strong storytelling. The core game in the story is a holographic VR game, but it’s very classic storytelling. It’s sort of The Hustler in the 21st century.

And there’s a moral to the end of it – he’s king of the world but friendless.

Winning is not everything – it’s a good lesson for life.

But not necessarily something you expect from Gibson – he’s normally more ambiguous.

The character is ambiguous – he has expectations of winning and he thinks winning is everything. You get the money and you get the girl and you’ll be happy, but unfortunately things are not like that.

Dogfight origina;Are you retaining the core beats of the story, or using it as a jumping off point?

I’d say a combination of the two. We’re taking it both as a jumping off point and using the core beats. Like all of Gibson’s works, he has an uncanny knack of seeing into the future and being a prophet and this story really dates now. We had to find a way of updating it.

The holographic games they were playing in that story were science fiction then but we’re way beyond that now. We’ve added a dimension of boxing in which the audience can really participate – we’ve maintained the holographic story and the key characters and we’ve just developed it and expanded it.

It goes back to what I was saying at the beginning – the challenge of adapting a lot of long form work, and particular Gibson, is that every paragraph is so rich and huge that there’s actually too much material for one film. Film is much more simplistic in its storytelling than books can be. It’s a strength that we started with a very rich short story that we can translate into a film.

And there’s a linear plot…

That’s why we can talk about The Hustler, and it’s why it’s interesting for us: it’s interesting to both the science fiction audience and those who like boxing films, sports films, gaming films. It envelops both.

Real people boxing?

Yes. Punching the shit out of each other.

IdenticalsI remember reading the story years back and feeling that it almost wasn’t a sci-fi tale; it’s almost one of Gibson’s ventures outside the genre…

One of the interesting things about science fiction is what a broad church it is. Definitely the kind of SF that I relate to is less people in green suits; what I like in Gibson’s work is that he explores the boundaries between the physical and technology and how we adapt and alter our bodies and the way that it impacts on the way we live. That’s got real interest in the world we live in as well as the fiction world.

One of the first SF films I fell in love with was Cronenberg’s The Fly. It’s that junction between the technology and the bodies we live in. It tapped into dreams and nightmares I’d always had – the anthropological idea that your body could transform into something else.

This film is going to be written and directed by Simon Pummell who’s just done Identicals, which explores that junction between technology and body. We made a film together, Evoliution, about the performance artist Stelarc: he developed a very beautiful prosthetic arm that can be operated by thought pulses and he does a performance art piece and we made a film with music from Queen. Simon’s also made films like Blinded by Light about people who’ve been blind all their life and developed vision. It’s an extension of that junction between the body and technology and where one starts and the other ends and the impact on how we live. The story explores that too.

There’s not been much Gibson done since Johnny Mnemonic – do you think that and The Matrix put people off tackling his sort of stories?

There are definitely people out there trying; people who the rights to things like Neuromancer. Most of his work is optioned. But one of the challenges is a novel like Neuromancer is very expensive, so it’s persuading people to part with all that money. That’s a challenge in any genre. I’m sure they will be made.

So where is the project at the moment?

We’ve completed a very detailed treatment and Simon is writing – hope to shoot next year.

Our interview with Simon Pummell about Identicals will be appearing on SFB shortly.

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