Why Dark City's Alex Proyas is adapting Heinlein's Hoag

Alex Proyas told SCI FI Wire that he's writing his own film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's 1942 SF novella, The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, which inspired the director's Dark City.

"It's one of these stories that's come from my childhood, in that I read it when I was quite young," Proyas (I, Robot) said in a recent interview while promoting the March 20 release of Knowing. "That was a fairly formative story for me. It really did inspire Dark City in some ways. It's one of those pieces that you read when you're young, and I'd not really read it for maybe 20 years. Going back to it, I was actually quite surprised at how much stuff had filtered into my other work from the story."

The story centers on Jonathan Hoag, a man who one night realizes that he doesn't know what he actually does during the day and is confounded by the reddish residue he sees under his fingernails each night. Hoag hires a husband-and-wife private investigator team, Ted and Cynthia Randall, to follow him, and what the Randalls discover is horrifying—and involves mirrors, dark dreams, a missing 13th floor and some folks who call themselves Sons of the Bird.

"There's just something incredibly creepy about it," Proyas said. "Look, I think the whole concept in the story is this parallel universe that exists on the other side of a mirror. I think that's really quite fascinating. I know there have been quite a few stories done about that and a lot of films done with that concept, but it's something that I'm really excited to explore, just this universe that exists in the looking glass."

Jonathan Hoag is one of three projects that could turn out to be Proyas' follow-up to Knowing. The other two are Dracula: Year Zero, based on an original screenplay, and The Tripods, a possible trilogy adapted from John Christopher's SF youth novels. Proyas doubts that Jonathan Hoag will get done first.

"I'm at the early stages of doing the screenplay, so who knows what direction it's going to take?" he said. "But it is something I'm excited about. I am actually doing the screenplay myself at this stage. Usually I start the ball rolling and often bring in collaborators. So I'd be surprised if it was just me right through to the end. But you never know. It really depends on how the draft goes."

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