Since you’ve probably already hit Booker Prize news saturation point, today we’ll instead bring you news that apparently we’ve hit that point in the decade where someone thinks trying to adapt a Martin Amis novel for the cinema is a good idea, 10-15 years seemingly being the amount of time that needs to pass between efforts for everyone to forget that such endeavours have, to date, proven fools’ errands. Following the less than enthusiastically-received big screen versions of The Rachel Papers (1989) and Dead Babies (2000), filming started this week in London on London Fields – one of Amis’ most consistently popular works – with a screenplay penned by the author himself, a cast including Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton and Jim Sturgess and, in Mathew Cullen, a debuting director with years of experience making music videos.
Amis’ 1989 murder mystery is set in the then-futuristic, dystopian London of 1999, putting the film in the curious position of potentially turning prophesy into a period piece. That’s just one hurdle in the way of adapting a book whose Wikipedia page has a whole section entitled “Unreliable Narrators” (or… does it?) Several prominent filmmakers who seem to have a way with novels regarded as unfilmable have abandoned previous attempts: David Mackenzie (who adapted Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam in 2003), Michael Winterbottom (who adapted Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy as A Cock and Bull Story in 2006) and, most famously, David Cronenberg (who, prior to his 2001 attempt at London Fields, had already made films out of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and JG Ballard’s Crash, and would go on to make his own spectacular version of Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis).
It remains to be seen, then, whether Cullen can succeed where at least one of the greatest directors of the past 40 years could not. Your optimism levels may or may not be related to knowing that he is the auteur behind the video for Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”. Yes, yes, the one where she shoots whipped cream from her chests. Literature!
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.