AUGUST 2006 UPDATE: The most frequent question that I'm asked via e-mail is, "What's the status of 'The Sirens of Titan?' " Well, I'm sorry to say that the news is not joyous. After pedaling my script around for years, and finding no takers, Kurt Vonnegut's agent/lawyer finally optioned the book rights to another producer. I have no idea whether this producer will have any more success than I did, I only know that he was in a position to write a substantial check for the rights. Who knows? Maybe a great film will still come out of all this. I only know that my name won't be on it.
Despite all this, I have decided to maintain this webpage for nostalgic reasons. Consider it backstory for an inconclusive tale.
I discovered Kurt Vonnegut in high school and as related elsewhere in these cyber pages, I was hooked for life. I read his entire canon in record time, then read it again, while always looking forward to his next publication. (Somewhat atypical of me to idolize an artist who was still alive and producing. Woody Allen would also allow me that same thrill of anticipating his next work. Almost everyone else I admired was dead.)
I never felt that all of Vonnegut's books were meant to be movies; in fact, I believe that only a few of them are crying out to be put on film. Mother Night was one and I crossed that off the list in 1996.
Since first reading Sirens of Titan in the late 70's, I was convinced that it had all the earmarks for an incredible screen adaptation... if done right.
Even before Keith Gordon and I made Mother Night, I had been asking Vonnegut about the rights to Sirens of Titan. His answer through the years was always the same: "I don't own it any more. Jerry Garcia bought the rights from me years ago." (Yes, that Jerry Garcia.) Unfortunately, it wasn't a typical "option" deal where the rights would automatically revert back to Vonnegut after a fixed period of time -- it was an outright purchase, so ownership presumably remained with Garcia indefinitely.
I had continually heard through the years that different people, at different times, had been working on different versions of the script. Occasionally, someone would offer to procure one for me but I always refused such offers, not wanting to be influenced or corrupted by anyone else's version of the movie. Somehow, against all logic, I felt I'd still have my turn at bat.
On August 9, 1995 Jerry Garcia joined that other group known as the Dead. I waited a respectable period of time (not wanting to seem too vulture-like in my self interests), then asked Kurt what effect Garcia's death had on the rights to Sirens. He said, "that's a good question. I'll have to find out."
Two weeks later, Kurt called me and declared, "Sirens is yours if you still want it." Kurt had discovered there was a clause in the Garcia contract stating that if Garcia had not put the film into production by a certain period of time (which had long since come and gone), Vonnegut was able to buy it back for the original purchase price. From what I understood, Kurt wrote a check and reclaimed the rights. As with Mother Night, he passed them along to me on a "verbal handshake."
I immediately re-read the book for the first time in maybe ten years. Soon, a question was echoing through my head: "What the hell I have I gotten myself into?" As readers of the book will know, it's not a very long book -- less than 300 pages -- but it's a very dense book. It's adequate source material for a mini-series, so the primary challenge is "what to lose" and "what to keep."
So I hack away. Like my Vonnegut documentary, I'm doing this on spec (meaning "no pay until it's sold"), so I can only put time into it between gigs that pay the bills. As I write this (January, 2001), I have made great progress on the script in the past few weeks as I'm between Season 1 and Season 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. My hope against hope is to have a first draft finished before returning to work on the series in another month or so. It shouldn't be too difficult to deal with re-writes and revisions while I'm working on the show. It's that first draft that's always a bitch.
So, all you fans of Malachi Constant, Winston Niles Rumfoord, Beatrice Rumfoord, Kazak, Boaz, Chrono, Unk and Salo... I say to you what the Great Wall of China says in Tralfamadorian when viewed from above: Be patient. We haven't forgotten about you.