How do you make a movie about Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone series? That’s the intention of Bureau of Moving Pictures’ Andrew Meieran and screenwriter Stanley Weiser (W, Wall Street), according to Deadline’s Mike Fleming. But you can’t just make one of those “this happens and then that happens” biopics. You need a thematic through-line and a compelling psychological undercurrent.
I thought about the project this morning and wrote Weiser (whom I’ve gotten to know a little bit over the years) the following:
“It strikes me that the only way to write a movie about Rod Serling is to portray him in a sense as the odd guy who sees weirdness and fantasy and unsettling nightmares in real life. And a guy who, until he hits it big with The Twilight Zone in ’59, is regarded by many as a bit of oddball (and a very short oddball at that, at only 5′ 4′) who doesn’t have the skills or resolve to fit into the button-down culture of the 1940s and ’50s.
“I’m not saying Serling literally resembled, let’s say, the perspiring and hysterical William Shatner character in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, but he was partly that guy along with every other character on that series who saw past the tidy veneer and into the inner weirdness and oddness of things as they actually are. But that tension of being the oddball in a world of straight-arrows led to stress and anxiety and the relentless smoking of cigarettes, and finally an early death from cancer at age 50.
“I remember Serling saying that you’re initially delighted and over-the-moon from making $10,000 a week as a hotshot producer-screenwriter, and then you get used to it, and then you start living in terror that they’re going to take that away from you.”
I honestly this kind of biopic will work better as a made-for-cable drama. It sounds very intriguing but it’s not big-screen material.
Serling’s widow Carol Serling will be a producer along with Meieran, Fleming reports.