Saturday, July 02, 2005


Harry Potter and The Half-Assed Film Option

Today's Sydney Morning Herald carries a rather strange story:

December Boys, based on a 1963 novel by Australian author Michael Noonan, is to be the first post-Harry Potter project for British actor Daniel Radcliffe. Noonan's story tells of a group of boys coming of age one summer in the 1930s on the Australian coast. To start production in South Australia this November, December Boys is a coup for Australian company Becker Entertainment, which signed Radcliffe two weeks ago. The announcement triggered an international bidding war for rights to the novel.

Sounds splendid, doesn't it? Except for a few minor details. Turns out that author Michael Noonan is, er, dead. That, and nobody seems to know who inherited his copyright. "He married for the first time in 1993, aged 72, to a younger woman, Jan Pearce," the paper explains. "Ms Pearce is on holidays and has not been contacted about the ownership of Noonan's literary estate. It is believed Noonan may have left the copyright of his books to someone other than her."

Problem is, nobody seems to know who.

But, oh, it gets better: "The plot thickened this week when Noonan's former literary agents sought clarification. Noonan had been represented by Jill Hickson until she sold her agency to Curtis Brown (Australia) in 1999. The firm's managing director, Fiona Inglis, searched her agency's archives on Wednesday and failed to turn up any record of a film option being taken out on the book."

Incidentally, the article notes that when a previous work of Noonan's was more or less ripped off by a film company, he sued them and won.

So, to sum up: a screenplay has been written, preproduction started, and a lead cast... and yet nobody has contacted the author's widow or his agency. They did not receive his permission while he was alive, and they do not have the immediately foreseeable prospect of that permission being granted by the as-yet unknown owner of that copyright.

Sydney attorneys: I smell billable hours.

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