I love Milla Jovovich. Ironically, it’s not in the way most nerds of my ilk love her. I think of her as a musician.
I listen to music all the time. When I read, when I exercise, when I surf the web or ride the train. Apart from when I’m sleeping or watching television, I am always surrounded by music.
I particularly like to listen to music when I write. I don’t know that I could write without it. I am very particular about my writing music, though. Unlike music for other occasions, writing music needs to affect mood while not distracting the mind. For me that means mostly instrumental music, but also some select vocalists who create the right atmosphere (which varies with the tone of what I’m writing). I also like music that is timeless, or at least that which calls back to simpler times. My current writing playlist has musicians like Howard Shore, Loreena McKennit, Iron & Wine, Enya, The Decemberists, Medieval Baebes, A Perfect Circle, Tori Amos, and Milla Jovovich.
In truth, Milla predates most of those artists for me. I bought her one album, The Divine Comedy, back in 1994 after hearing the single, The Gentleman Who Fell, on the radio. I loved it, and it’s been in my writing music rotation ever since. It’s not in my top 10 favorite albums of all time, but definitely in my top 25. That’s saying a lot. I have 15,000 songs on my iPod, and I still listen to Divine Comedy regularly even now. Milla’s rendition of In a Glade is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my life.
Didn’t hurt, of course, when I looked at her jacket pictures and saw she was also a supermodel.
Anyway, a couple of years later I heard about The 5th Element, and went to see it mainly for her.
I thought it was meh. All I really remember is orange. Sacrilege, I know, but I recall thinking to myself, “She stopped making that beautiful music for this? Argh!”
But life goes on. One great CD beats none, and she was amazing in Resident Evil and Ultraviolet and other movies, so good for her. She deserved the success, but I was always a little sad about the music that might have been, if she had put the time into growing her talents there.
What was I talking about? Oh, right, the movie thing. So I got a call last year from my agent saying that Paul WS Anderson’s production company was interested my book. It wasn’t the first such call. Nor the last.
All I knew about Paul offhand was that he directed AVP. I pulled up his directorial filmography on IMDB to see what else he directed that I had seen. Event Horizon and the first Resident Evil. That got me psyched. I bought a copy of Event Horizon in 1998 after my friend Dave Charnews told me it scared the bejeezus out of him and gave him nightmares. Scared the heck out of me, too. Not a movie to watch late at night, especially if you’ve been drinking. As for Resident Evil, I challenge anyone to name a better videogame to film translation than RE1. Visually it was stunning, and the story was still far less improbable than the game itself. Plus it starred Milla Jovovich, and she, as I have established, is awesome. Paul and Milla later married.
Paul also directed Death Race with Jason Statham. I haven’t seen that, but I’ve long thought that if Jason Statham were younger, he would be a great Painted Man. Remember The Transporter? Dude is like Spider-man. I imagined a Paul WS Anderson movie based on The Painted Man, with Statham as the PM and Milla as Leesha, and I gotta say, it was pretty damned awesome.
(Note to rumormongers: Do not take away from this post that either Jason Statham or Milla Jovovich are in any way attached to the Warded Man movie project. Nothing of the sort has ever been mentioned or discussed. I’m just saying I imagined it for a minute and it was cool.)
But come on. What were the odds that Paul WS Anderson, or anyone really, was going to actually want to make a movie out of my book? My world view refused to consider the possibility of that happening. I mean shit, I still can’t believe I have a friggin’ book deal at all. I figured at best someone would try to option it for a pittance and just shelve it in case it ever became valuable, and I’d be corespawned before I ever let that happen.
So the morning of the lunch meeting, I was oddly calm about it. Fatalist. But as I was leaving the house, I turned to Dani and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I got to meet Milla Jovovich today?”
“That would be crazy,” she said.
So I meet Paul at the restaurant in his hotel. We sit down, and I see Paul is a young, friendly, smart guy. He has an infant daughter, same as me, and we bonded about new fatherhood and what it was like to have a daughter for several minutes. We also talked about what fantasy movies we liked and what we didn’t, which helped me get a real feel for where he would be coming from in making a fantasy movie. I immediately liked him, but I like a lot of people. You don’t give your baby to just anyone to watch, and I am no less guarded with my writing. I had my gloves on and fists up when we turned to business.
So we talked, and Paul really impressed me. He and I had a deep conversation about the book. Deeper in some ways than I had even with my publishers. He wanted all the meta stuff, like how fear itself plays the main villain in each of the characters’ lives, but also the minute details, like what I based the martial arts on, or the social structures of the prominent city states. He wanted to know what happened in the sequel, and in the books after. We discussed the imagery, and how it could translate to film. One editor had once criticized my writing as “too cinematic”, but one person’s weakness is another’s strength, because I was moved by the power of some of those potential shots.
Then we talked about how friggin’ cool the demons might look.
Paul had already won by decision when the knockout punch arrived. I see Paul waving, and suddenly Milla Jovovich walks up to the table.
“Mind if I join you boys?” she asks.
“Dahr,” I said, but I stood up, because that’s what you do when a lady enters the room, and it was all I could think to do anyway.
Paul introduces us and we sit down. I open my mouth to tell Milla how much I loved The Divine Comedy, but before I can say anything, she leans across the table to me, looks me right in the eye, and says, “Can I just tell you? I loved your book.”
“I really loved The Divine Co… say what?” I said.
“The Painted Man,” Milla said. “Paul couldn’t stop raving about it, but he reads too slow, so I took his copy and made him buy his own. I loved it!”
I am still reeling from this news when Milla starts talking to me about the book every bit as intensely as Paul did. She really read it, and thought deeply about it. She asked smart questions and loved long answers. The three of us had an amazing conversation about character motivations and book to screenplay translation. Eventually I got to tell her how much I love her music and how I write while listening to it all the time.
Then Milla got up and left. “I don’t want to disturb you boys while you’re talking shop,” she said to me, “but I just wanted to meet you and tell you how much I loved the book.” She hugged me goodbye. She smelled like angels.
After she left, Paul told me he and his partner Jeremy Bolt wanted to use their own money to option the book because he believed in it that much, and was really excited to make it his next project. I believed him, and felt very confident that he could do a good job. He told me to have my people call his people, or something. They did, and eventually worked out an option deal. There were other potential offers along the way, but none of them impressed me the way Paul did.
So maybe a movie will get made. It certainly is a boost to have an excited and proven director who loves the source material, but it’s easier to walk the Ring to Mordor than to turn an option into a film in theaters, and I know the way is fraught with pitfalls.
But if a movie IS made, I go into it confident that the top people involved will “get it”, and that is all I could possibly ask for.
And if one ISN’T made, well, Milla Jovovich loved my friggin’ book, and no one can take that away from me.