THE BOOK: Centered on the adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the book was published posthumously in 1980, 11 years after the author’s suicide. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981.
WHAT HAPPENED? Dunces has become a poster child for the difficult-to-adapt book. Before it was published, Scott Kramer, then a junior executive at 20th Century Fox, optioned the book, and there have been countless attempts to bring it to screen, including two by director Harold Ramis. Steven Soderbergh wrote a screenplay with Kramer, but the effort was derailed by a lawsuit with Paramount, which had bought the rights for $1 million. In 2001 Miramax paid $1.5 million for the rights, and for a while the movie seemed close to production, with indie auteur David Gordon Green directing the Soderbergh-Kramer script, and Will Ferrell as Reilly. But Miramax pulled the funding, and the project returned to Paramount.
WILL WE EVER SEE THIS MOVIE? Kramer, who’s been working on Dunces for nearly 30 years, isn’t optimistic. “The project is parked at Paramount without any plans for production,” he says.
POTENTIAL SAVIOR: Jason Reitman, just 30, was in preschool when Dunces was first published. But he’s delivered two smartly observed comedies in the last two years—Juno and Thank You for Smoking—both driven by strong character performances.
Photo: Robert Mitra