Writers — serious writers of books and plays as opposed to, say, journalists — are not very interesting people to make films about. They’re almost as bad as painters. Morose, self-destructive depressives…terrific. Unless the film follows the writer on an intense real-life adventure of some kind, as Fred Zinneman‘s Julia did with an episode in the life of the young Lillian Hellman. Or better yet, if the movie somehow injects its writer character into a surreal realm of his/her own devising, like Joel and Ethan Coen did with John Turturro‘s gloom-head screenwriter in Barton Fink, or like David Cronenberg did with a William S. Burroughs-like character in his adaptation of Naked Lunch.
The latter approach, apparently, is the idea behind Paul Giamatti‘s untitled, just-announced film about Blade Runner author Phillip K. Dick movie, which Giamatti’s Touchy Feely Films will produce with Anonymous Content. The screenplay, to be written by Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), will use elements from Dick’s unfinished novel “The Owl in Daylight.” The visually surreal aspects of Tery Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing mixed with an “Owl” synopsis (found on Wikipedia) offer clues about what Giamatti’s film will be up to. In fact, it sounds like it may contain similarities to Lady in the Water as well as an echo or two from Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slaughterhouse Five and Spike Jonze‘s Being John Malkovich.
Giamatti will play Ed Firmley, a composer of music scores for second-tier horror and sci-fi films who gets mugged by a squad of deaf alien humanoids — emissaries of a species that can’t hear but enjoys amazing visual abilities — who implant a micro-chip in Firmley’s head so their brethren back home can monitor and experience his life. The aliens soon become disinterested in the idea when they realize what a cheeseball-level composer Firmley is, and from this point is where the story truly takes flight. The meaning of the “The Owl in Daylight” title is presumably self-explanatory.