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Films
by Alan Dean Foster

ON NOVELIZING NOAH


ONE THING you learn early: there's no point in trying to run away from things that can run faster than you. So I do novelizations.

Big film, Noah. Starring Russell Crowe, directed by Darren Aronofsky. $125 million budget. Doing well both with critics and the audience. Sure to get the novelization treatment. Whenever I do a novelization, I'm always first and foremost respectful of the original writer. Which brings up the following possibility.

(phone rings)

Foster: "Hello?"

VoG: "Is this Alan Dean Foster?"

Foster: "Unless my mother lied to me."

VoG: "This is God."

Foster (significant pause): "God who?"

VoG: "Don't be funny. Save it for convention speeches. You know. Jehovah. Jeshua. Pick one of nine billion. Here, I'll prove it to you."

(chorus of angels, firmament briefly opens, phone sends out an electric shock)

Foster: "Ow! Don't do that! Uh, what can I do for you? If that's not being impertinent."

VoG: "I'm told you may be doing the book version of one of my books."

Foster (with great wariness): "Um—all things are possible. Why?"

VoG: "I've seen the film."

Foster: "You've seen the film?"

VoG: "I see all and everything, simultaneously. I don't need to wait for Netflix. If you're going to do a rewrite of…"

Foster (hastily): "I wouldn't presume to…"

VoG: "Don't equivocate. I hate equivocation. Look what it did to Pharaoh. If you're going to do a rewrite of one of my books, I have some questions."

Foster: "I thought you knew everything."

VoG: "Don't be snide or I'll do the phone thing again. As I say, I have seen the film and I have some questions."

Foster (sotto voce): "I bet."

VoG: "This Russell Crowe, who plays Noah. He is not an ancient Hebrew."

Foster: "I believe he's Australian, though he was born in New Zealand."

VoG: "Noah was an ancient Hebrew. He should be portrayed by an ancient Hebrew."

Foster: "I can do that in the book, but it will conflict with the portrayal in the film. Also, my ancient Aramaic is kind of flaky."

VoG: "Why did they cast an 'Australian' instead of an ancient Hebrew?"

Foster: "You'd have to ask the producers, but I imagine Central Casting is a tad short on ancient Hebrews."

VoG: "I thought Hollywood was founded by ancient Hebrews?"

Foster: "Priorities have changed. And the Commandments have been modified. You should have included 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's private jet' and such. It's all about box office these days, not biblical accuracy."

VoG: "I know." (magisterial sigh) "It's my own fault, I suppose."

Foster: "Sooo…what do you want me to change, specifically? In the novelization, I mean. Not the original."

VoG: "I don't come off very well in the film version. I'm really not like that, most of the time. I was having an off-day. Can you polish my image up a bit? You know—kind, loving, compassionate. Emphasize those characteristics of my Immenseness a bit more?"

Foster: "In the story you drown almost everybody on the planet."

VoG: "What, you never began a story that got so bad you didn't go back and start all over again?"

Foster: "Well, sure, but not with an all-consuming flood. Hey, what did you think of the movie's special effects? They got especially good reviews."

VoG: "Amateur hour. You want special effects? I'll give you special effects!

Foster (ducks slightly as thunder rumbles overhead): "Maybe another time? I had the car washed today (rumbling subsides). Okay, then. More compassion, more understanding. Got it. Anything else?"

VoG: "Noah was five hundred years old, more or less, when he built the Ark. This Russell Crowe doesn't look five hundred."

Foster: "You haven't seen him after he's spent a night out on the town. But I see what you're saying. In the film I think he's channeling Gladiator a bit. But I take your point. Noah's more about hewing than slewing. I'll age him appropriately in the book."

VoG: "I see that you understand my point of view. Now about Noah's wife, Nammeh: she doesn't look the appropriate age, either."

Foster: "Who cares? If Jennifer Connelly isn't proof of your brilliance, then nothing is."

VoG: "You flatter me."

Foster: "Isn't that my job?"

VoG: "Not really. Your job is to think. All this interminable, banal worshipping gets old, and sometimes I can't tell the honest folk from the suck-ups."

Foster: "Don't you have an assistant for that sort of thing?"

VoG: "I do, but he's usually too busy in Hollywood to pay much attention to anyplace else. Listen, I've got a couple of galaxies to attend to. I just wanted to make my position known and I'm glad we had this little chat. I'm sure you'll do a fine job and I won't have to burn you to a crisp or anything once I've read the finished book."

Foster (swallows hard): "I'll try to be respectful of both the film and the original material. If I'm asked to do the job."

VoG: "Don't talk to me about Job. That didn't work out the way I intended it to, either."

Foster: "One last thing. With novelizations, the author of the original work is usually cited on the cover. Do you want me to push for that?"

VoG: "Don't bother. They always misspell it anyway."

(clap of thunder, fades into the distance. Computer reboots. Start over).

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