A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Nick Horny’s fantastic Juliet, Naked, which was something of a return to form for the author, after a threesome of mildly disappointing novels (for Hornby, anyway). One of those slight disappointments was How to Be Good, about a couple of the brink of divorce. After the wife has an affair, the cynical and jaded husband decides to reinvent himself as a do-gooder, which involves giving away family possessions and inviting the homeless to live with them. It often felt, to me anyway, like a book that was being written ultimately for the screen. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.
Like I said: Not his best work, but certainly not a bad novel. In 2004, expectedly, the novel was optioned for the screen (by Miramax Pictures, by way of Columbia) and since then, little if anything has been heard about it. Until now.
Through our insider source, The Hollywood Cog, we now know that there’s been quite a bit of activity on the adaptation over the last five years. After it was optioned, Peter Tolan (America’s Sweethearts, Analyze This took a stab at the script and while he delivered on the comedy aspects of the novel, the studio wasn’t happy with the emotional aspects of the story. So, the script went into turnaround, and two years later, television writer Cindy Chupack (“Sex and the City,” “Men in Trees”) wrote another draft of the Laura Ziskin-produced project that was much better received. So good, in fact, that Julia Roberts came aboard the project, which attracted the attention of Mike Nichols, who was set to direct. There was even a start date for this summer. Unfortunately, Nichols also dropped out a few months back, which left the project without a director (his vacancy might have had something to do with the fact that he’s effing ancient). But, Julia Roberts is, for the moment, still attached while the studio continue to shop the Chupack script to directors.
So, basically, that’s a long way of saying that How to Be Good is still in limbo, but Julia Roberts, despite having several projects in development, doesn’t have a go project, besides the currently lensing Eat, Pray, Love. And, if An Education does as well come Academy Awards time as it’s expected to do, Hornby adaptations could become hot again, which might put How to Be Good back on the fast track. That’s great news for fans of Hornby because — save for Fever Pitch, an adaptation in name only — Hornby source material has been remarkably successful (see: High Fidelity and About a Boy). And, save for the fact that the novel concerns a British couple, Roberts is actually ideal for the part of a doctor with a sense of superiority.
And while we’re on the subject of movie adaptations of novels, I’d also like to note that a recent favorite of mine, Rudolph Delson’s Maynard and Jennica is also being developed for the screen, and Liz Meriweather — considered one of the best young screenwriters in Hollywood — is currently penning the script. If you’re a Hornby fan, Cannonball Readers might want to check out Maynard.