[Milton-L] PL, the movie

Nancy Charlton pluscachange at comcast.net
Sun Mar 4 06:30:31 EST 2007


tinyurl went right to the printable version. I copy & paste the article here.

Milton as Mafioso? God the Godfather?

Nancy Charlton


At 11:01 AM 3/4/2007 +0000, you wrote:
>Is it just me or do neither of these links manage to reach the article? Any
>chance you could copy and paste?
>
>Thanks,
>
>Corinna Turner
>
>In message <200703040951.l249pKan030070 at polyester.richmond.edu> John Milton
>Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> writes:
> > Yes, it's apparently almost a fait accompli (my oxymoron of the day).
> > Here's the NYTimes report:
> >
> > http://select.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?
>tntget=2007/03/04/movies/04gross.html&tntemail0=y&emc=tnt&pagewanted=print
> >
> > Or:  http://tinyurl.com/32zp6z
> >

<http://www.nytimes.com/>
The New York Times

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[]



March 4, 2007
Film


It’s God vs. Satan. But What About the Nudity?

By MICHAEL JOSEPH GROSS

LOS ANGELES

"AS soon as you started talking about a battle in 
Heaven, he just couldn’t relate,” the screenwriter Philip de Blasi recalled.

It was a particularly demoralizing pitch meeting, 
explained his writing partner, Byron Willinger, 
because the producer, “this guy who has made some 
of the most successful blockbusters ever, started 
looking at his nails, and I don’t think he looked 
away from his nails for the whole 15 minutes.”

Then there was the studio executive who, halfway 
through the pitch, blurted: “Wait a minute. You mean God is God?”

Such were the travails of the writers who 
traveled from New York to Hollywood in 2004 to 
hawk their adaptation of 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/titlelist.html?v_idlist=255135;260026;146866;306734;141152&inline=nyt_ttl>“Paradise 
Lost.”

For two novice screenwriters John Milton’s 
17th-century epic poem, which tells the story of 
Lucifer’s fall and the temptation of Adam and 
Eve, was an audacious choice of material. “We 
figured someone’s going to make a movie of it 
someday, and it might as well be us,” Mr. 
Willinger said in a telephone interview.

They persevered and finally made a rendezvous 
with fate years in the making. Almost three 
decades before, a little boy named Vincent Newman 
was skimming through the Bible, desperate for 
something to relieve the boredom that was Sunday 
school in Fresno, Calif. Finding mention of a 
fight between angels and devils, he jolted awake, 
and thus began a lifelong fascination with battles between good and evil.

Mr. Newman, now 39, is an independent producer of 
medium-size movies with midrange male stars (most 
recently 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=276387&inline=nyt_ttl>“A 
Man Apart” with 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=221690&inline=nyt-per>Vin 
Diesel) who has long dreamed of exploring his 
boyhood curiosity by making a “Paradise Lost” 
movie. Then, after stumbling upon mention of the 
poem in a Christian inspirational book called 
“Epic: The Story God Is Telling and the Role That 
Is Yours to Play,” his dream turned to resolve. 
At lunch one day, Mr. Newman said, an agent asked 
him “out of the blue if I’d ever heard of ‘Paradise Lost.’ ”

“He said, ‘I’ve got these clients, these guys are 
crazy enough that they wrote this thing on spec.’ ”

Mr. Newman bought the script and arranged 
co-financing with Legendary Pictures, which, with 
Warner Brothers, produced “Superman Begins” and 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=4281&inline=nyt_ttl>“Batman 
Returns.” Legendary’s chairman and chief 
executive, Thomas Tull, said his first response 
to the idea was, “Well, that’s going to make a 
lot of older folks relive bad college 
experiences.” Later he realized that “if you get 
past the Milton of it all, and think about the 
greatest war that’s ever been fought, the story 
itself is pretty compelling,” he said.

As with any Hollywood development project, things 
are changing along the way. The original script 
hewed a bit too closely to Milton for the 
producer’s taste, for instance. Mr. Newman, by 
his own account, told the writers he wanted “less 
Adam and Eve and more about what’s happening with 
the archangels,” the battle in Heaven between God’s and Satan’s armies.

“In Eden there’s the nudity problem,” he pointed 
out, “which would be a big problem for a big studio movie.”

Mr. Newman also knows that some might see this 
project as a fool’s errand. “It’s a 
400-some-odd-page poem written in Old English,” 
he said, laughing. “How do you find the movie in 
that?” But he speaks of the project with 
unflagging enthusiasm, though it may seem his 
passion is more for the idea of the poem than for 
the poem itself. (It’s in blank verse, not Old English.)

“This could be like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ or 
bigger,” he said. Daniel Craig and 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=268296&inline=nyt-per>Heath 
Ledger are two of his top choices for Lucifer.

The film, which will make extensive use of 
digital effects, is still waiting for a definite 
go-ahead from a studio. Mr. Tull said its budget 
would likely be in the range of $100 million.

<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=277846&inline=nyt-per>Scott 
Derrickson, who declined to be interviewed for 
this article, is known for his horror films 
exploring supernatural themes of good and evil 
(<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=316830&inline=nyt_ttl>“The 
Exorcism of Emily Rose,” 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=210961&inline=nyt_ttl>“Hellraiser: 
Inferno”) and is likely to direct. The script’s 
second draft was written by Stuart Hazeldine, 
whose sole previous credit is a science-fiction 
TV movie called 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=284089&inline=nyt_ttl>“Riverworld.” 
(Mr. Hazeldine is also adapting the popular DC 
comic “Battle Chasers” for 20th Century Fox.)

The filmmakers hope that “Paradise Lost” will 
prove enticing to Christian audiences. Mr. 
Hazeldine said he read “several theological 
tomes” because “I’m adapting Milton, and then 
Milton’s kind of adapting Genesis, and I wanted 
to make sure that for the faith audience, I 
guess, that they will see it more as ‘The Passion 
of the Christ’ than ‘The Last Temptation of 
Christ’ ” ­ that is, more a reverent treatment of 
Biblical material than a reconsideration. Both he 
and Mr. Derrickson said they are Christians, as 
are Mr. Newman and the script’s original writers. 
Even so, Mr. Newman said the film is not “a 
Christian endeavor or Christian movie.”

But he added that it would be “made with total 
adherence and respect to any of the three 
religions’ involvement in the story of God, the 
Devil and the archangels,” referring to 
Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But “it’s a war 
movie at the end of the day,” Mr. Newman said.

As a Christian, Mr. Hazeldine said, the project 
poses “a challenge for people like Scott and I, 
who have a faith, but we just love movies.” He 
added, “We often find that we are wondering, are 
we too worldly for the church and too churchy for the world?”

But jabs are likely, if not from the faithful, 
then almost certainly from Milton scholars. 
“Miltonists have not traditionally been 
interested in popularizing, in the way 
Shakespeareans have,” said Gregory Colón Semenza, 
assistant professor of English at the 
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_connecticut/index.html?inline=nyt-org>University 
of Connecticut and co-editor, with Laura Lunger 
Knoppers, of “Milton in Popular Culture.”

Mr. Semenza pointed out that many films have been 
influenced by the epic, some obviously 
(<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=93022&inline=nyt-per>Taylor 
Hackford’s 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=125034&inline=nyt_ttl>“Devil’s 
Advocate,” in which 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=54596&inline=nyt-per>Al 
Pacino’s Satan character is named John Milton), 
others less so (the light sabers 
in<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=46636&inline=nyt_ttl>” 
Star Wars,” some contend, must have been inspired 
by Milton’s angels’ “flaming swords”).

Still, he said, “there’s the sense that Milton is 
the last figure that can be protected from the 
tentacles of pop culture, so there is some 
resistance to this movie,” and to the film 
adaptation currently in production for New Line 
of 
<http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=290504&inline=nyt_ttl>“The 
Golden Compass,” the first of Philip Pullman’s 
best-selling “His Dark Materials” trilogy of 
young adult novels based on “Paradise Lost.”

The depiction of Satan may be a polarizing one 
among scholars. Some, in line with Romantic poets 
like William Blake, will want the dark prince to 
be the hero; others won’t be happy unless Satan 
is a self-deceiving hypocrite, and the story an 
education in virtue and obedience.

Yet 
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/stanley_fish/index.html?inline=nyt-per>Stanley 
Fish, author of “Surprised by Sin: The Reader in 
‘Paradise Lost,’ ” said in a telephone interview 
that the filmmakers “could use these two readings 
of ‘Paradise Lost’ in a dramatic fashion, as Milton does.”

“In the introductory books,” he added, “the 
figure of Satan is presented with a certain kind 
of heroic glaze surrounding him, but then, as the 
poem proceeds, Milton quite deliberately, and for 
some readers unforgivably, insists that you see 
the terrible emptiness and self-aggrandizing 
narcissism at the heart of this character. You 
could pull the audience in by giving them the 
kind of romantic rebel that is so easy to respond 
to, and then pull them up short and ask them to 
re-think the matter and ask them to think about 
why this figure has such appeal to them.”

As for Mr. Hazeldine’s answer to the Satan 
question: “Milton was trying to achieve with 
‘Paradise Lost’ what Scorsese was trying to 
achieve with Henry Hill in ‘Goodfellas.’ You 
can’t understand the nature of the fall until 
you’ve tasted some of the exhilaration of sin and 
crime. Scorsese makes you feel the rush of being 
in the Mafia ­ what it’s like to be special, get 
the best table at a restaurant, kill anyone and 
get away with it. Milton was after something like 
that, and that’s what we’re trying to convey.”

  _ 
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