After having written about old stuff from the 1960s-90s recently, it’s nice to get back to being excited about new stuff, though this is one I’ve been excited about for a good long while; ever since I read American Gods and its sequel, Anansi Boys, I’ve kept an eye out for news about its inevitable film production. Following the success of Game of Thrones, Neil Gaiman’s book was picked up as a TV series, first briefly by HBO, and later by Starz.
Way back about 20 years ago, my friend Greg Schmitz used to run a site called UpcomingMovies.com (later acquired by Yahoo); in those pre-IMDB days, it took effort to keep track of movies in production, but Greg did it, meticulously tracking every tidbit about hundreds of films, keeping fans apprised of every development. (Today Greg writes “The Weekly Ketchup” for Rotten Tomatoes.) I thought a nice tribute to Greg’s work would be to swipe his format for this post.
Release Date: April 30, 2017
Cast: Ricky Whittle (playing Shadow Moon), Ian McShane (Mr. Wednesday), Emily Browning (Laura Moon), Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney), Yetide Badaki (Bilquis), Bruce Langley (Technical Boy), Jonathan Tucker (Low Key Lyesmith), Crispin Glover (Mr. World), Cloris Leachman (Zorya Vechernyaya), Peter Stormare (Czernobog), Chris Obi (Mr. Jacquel), Mousa Kraish (the Jinn), Gillian Anderson (Media), Omid Abtahi (Salim), Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy), Demore Barnes (Mr. Ibis), Dane Cook (Robbie), Kristin Chenoweth (Easter), Corbin Bernsen (Vulcan), Jeremy Davies (Jesus), Beth Grant (Jack)
Director: David Slade (first episode)
Screenwriters: Bryan Fuller and Michael Green (producers)
Based on: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Premise: A recently-released convict named Shadow Moon takes a job as a bodyguard for a mysterious conman called Mr. Wednesday, who seems to know more about Shadow’s life than he lets on. Shadow and Wednesday travel across America visiting Wednesday’s unusual colleagues and acquaintances until Shadow learns that Wednesday is in fact an incarnation of Odin the All-Father, who is recruiting American manifestations of the Old Gods of ancient mythology. It seems gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them; immigrants to the United States brought spirits and gods with them from their homelands. The power of these mythological beings has diminished as people’s beliefs wane; Wednesday seeks to recruit them to participate in an epic battle against the New American Gods, manifestations of modern life and technology such as the Internet, media, and urban legends.
Official Site: www.starz.com/series/americangods/
Jim’s Preview Thoughts: American Gods has been the subject of an ongoing game of “Who would you cast” between my wife and I for the last 10 years. The roles are so rich and fun; the one character we immediately agreed on was Mr. Nancy, AKA Anansi, the African spider god, who manifests as a New Orleans dandy. We thought Robert Guillaume would be ideal. Orlando Jones got the role, and based on the photo in Vanity Fair (see below) and his comments in the interview, he looks like a great choice, though I still think Nancy should be older. The casting announcements have included some interesting choices; Ian McShane has the combination of charm and menace that Mr. Wednesday needs, and Gillian Anderson, Crispin Glover, Cloris Leachman, Kristin Chenoweth and Corbin Bernsen are perfect. Even Dane Cook is right for his role as Shadow’s best friend who is also sleeping with his wife.
Trailer Note: The trailer, which premiered at San Diego Comic-Con last year, does a good job of introducing characters and establishing mood without tipping anyone off to any spoilers.
(8/3/07) Neil Gaiman talks about American Gods at SDCC: “Roughly once every two or three months I get a call from my agent saying ‘so-and-so wants to talk to you about ‘American Gods.” I talk to the person, and invariably they say, ‘I read ‘American Gods’ and I really love it. How would you go about making it into a movie?’ I have to confess, if I had any idea how to do it, I probably would have done it as a movie. When I wrote it, I had been working on a lot of screenplays and I was really sick of three act structures. I was sick of 20-page beginnings, 18-page middles and 20-page endings. I was sick of the shape, I was sick of neatness, I was sick of tying things up at the end. So when I went off and wrote ‘American Gods,’ it was with the idea that I was going to write something messy and it was going to be a road trip, and it was going to go all over the place, and a beginning that started in an odd kind of place, and it would have five endings, it would have short stories in the middle whenever I felt like it because, ha, it was my book and I could do that. So that was very much part of what I wanted to do in ‘American Gods.’ One director wanted to do it like ‘Kill Bill’; make a seven-hour film and then cut it in half and release it in successive months, which I thought was a really cool-but-goofy idea, but he couldn’t find any studio who also thought it was a cool-but-goofy idea. I think the goofy outweighed the cool. I think sooner or later, one of these directors or producers will come along and say ‘I want to do ‘American Gods’ and this is how and why I want to do it’ and I’ll say, ‘What a great idea, go for it.’ It hasn’t happened yet, but it could be right around the corner – you never know.”
(3/28/11) American Gods is moving forward as a feature film, according to ComingSoon.net.
(6/11/11) The Hollywood Reporter: Tom Hanks’ Playtone Productions announces American Gods series for HBO.
(6/29/11) Neil Gaiman says HBO’s series will differ from the book.
(4/17/13) Neil Gaiman tweets about American Gods from Cambridge International Student Film Festival.
(2/3/14) On his official website, Neil Gaiman explains the move from Playtone/HBO to Fremantle/Starz.
(6/11/14) HBO’s Michael Lombardo explains to Vulture how HBO failed to make the series.
(9/10/14) Den of Geek interviews Bryan Fuller about moving from HBO to Starz.
(5/27/15) Producer-Writer Bryan Fuller talks to Den of Geek about the need for diversity in casting American Gods.
(6/16/15) American Gods officially greenlit by Starz, says The Beat.
(9/10/15) American Gods picks up Hannibal director David Slade, according to Entertainment Weekly.
(1/28/16) Variety reports on casting of Rickey Whittle as Shadow Moon.
(3/2/16) The Hollywood Reporter covers casting of Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday.
(4/21/16) Producers Fremantle Media reports on additional casting.
(6/16/16) Entertainment Weekly provides a first look at the cast.
(6/22/16) The Hollywood Reporter offers a “crash course” in everything you need to know about American Gods.
(7/22/16) The cast and producers appear at San Diego Comic-Con and screen the first trailer.
(3/6/17) Vanity Fair interviews Orlando Jones about his role as Mr. Nancy.
(3/6/17) USA Today publishes exclusive photos of the cast.
American Gods premieres on Starz on April 30.