It appears as though the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is back on track for the small screen. The 2002 award-winning novel has been rumored for quite some time as a possible source for a television series. FremantleMedia recently secured the rights, signifying that American Gods time in development hell might finally be over. The fantasy novel has had a series of false starts and delays on its way to the screen.
The premise behind American Gods is that mythological creatures and gods exist because people believe in them. The power in these beings begins to diminish as people’s belief in them wanes. New gods arise reflecting America’s obsession with celebrity, drugs, and technology, amongst others. The protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-convict who takes a job as a bodyguard to a con-man named Mr. Wednesday. Moon soon discovers that Wednesday is an older god and is gathering his forces in preparation to go to war with the new gods. The novel also features many cutaway scenes and subplots detailing the trials and tribulations of various mythological beings and gods throughout America. American Gods has won several awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula for best novel.
Gaiman commented several times that many different top-line actors and directors have approached the author about an adaptation of the novel. The main problem was finding a way to condense all the material needed into a feature-length script. The author noted that though many had the passion the project would require to be a success, the reality remained that the novel was simply too large for the big screen. Every so often another rumor of another meeting would occur, and American Gods’ time in development hell seemed like it might never be over. In July of 2011, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s production company Playtone announced plans to bring American Gods to HBO. The plan was for the series to last six seasons. Whether HBO had ever green-lit a deal so unprecedented, however, is a question that only they can answer. Gaiman himself was even attached to draft the pilot’s script. When asked of the project at the time of the announcement, the fantasy author said that the first two seasons of the series would follow the plot of his book with additional stories injected to help create a larger universe. The intention was then to have the sequel to American Gods written and published before the airing of the following seasons. Gaiman commented that he did turn in a draft of the pilot script but HBO rejected it and asked him to make it more resemble his novel. The series was thought to replace True Blood in 2015.
Gaiman was hired on as a writer for Doctor Who and soon American Gods slowly started to lose all momentum. There was a rumor floating about at the time that HBO purposely delayed the start of production on the series due to the massive success of Game Of Thrones and its sky-rocketing production costs, though the decision seems highly unlikely for the premier network.
After nearly two years of zero word on the status of the series, Gaiman broke news that American Gods time in development hell might be over. During an AMA on Reddit, Gaiman said that there is still active development on American Gods, though it will no longer be at HBO or involve Playtone Productions. The author went further to say that when the time is right, the announcement will be made either through the proper channels or via a leak in a big Hollywood agency mail room. This morning, FremantleMedia announced that they have secured the rights to American Gods and plan to bring Gaiman on as an executive producer for the small screen adaptation.
By Benjamin Murray