If you ever doubt that development hell is a barren wasteland of howling winds and harried studio executives clutching favourite scripts being savaged by zombie accountants with a taste for passion projects, look no further than the terror endured by novel adaptations. Case in point: Glen David Gold’s Carter Beats The Devil, which has just emerged from the years-long nightmare of development elsewhere to land at Warner Bros. doormat.
Gold’s novel was originally published over here back in 2001. A blend of historical thriller, magical mystery and manhunt, Carter Beats The Devil followed the fictional exploits of otherwise real American stage magician Charles Carter, who gets mixed up in conspiracy and devilry.
The tome was touted back in 2002 when Paramount splashed out to buy the rights, at the request of Tom Cruise’s Cruise/Wagner production company, which was then based at the studio. Intrigued by the idea of playing a magician, Cruise was initially big on Carter, but then switched his fancy to David Fisher’s The War Magician. Neither book got anywhere near the screen, and Gold’s title slipped back into limbo. More recently, US cable channel A&E (Arts and Entertainment, not Accident and Emergency, which is what we always think when we see the logo) flirted with the idea of turning it into a series, but dropped it, most likely due to expense.
Now, though, Carter’s fortunes are looking up as Warner has hired writer Michael Gilio, who worked on Treasure Island for Paul Greengrass, to write the script. "I've been trying to get Warner Bros. to buy it since the day it came out and that it's finally happening is enough to make me believe in magic," producer Jon Shestack tells Deadline.
So now the novel might finally find its way to cinemas – though we won’t be holding our breath, since it doesn’t exactly have a charmed history. Who wants to bet that the studio offers it to Robert Downey Jr first?