Yesterday was a sad day for Ray Bradbury fans everywhere, but there is a bit of good news to cheer them up: What Bradbury considered his most personal novel, 1957’s semi-autobiographical Dandelion Wine, is rapidly coalescing into a big-screen adaptation, shepherded by Black Swan producer Mike Medavoy.
Reached by phone, Medavoy tells Vulture that “we’ve been approached by a number of people about financing it” and adds he is finally happy with the script fashioned by Russian actor turned writer-director Rodion Nahapetov. (For those unfamiliar, Nahapetov created the Russian TV series Russians in the City of Angels, which is kind of like the British Robbie Coltrane show Cracker, but for Cossacks; he was hired last August to adapt the book.)
Medavoy’s fellow producer, Natasha Shilapnikoff, tells Vulture that, even more crucially, Bradbury himself signed off on the Dandelion script shortly before he died. “We needed Ray’s blessing on the script,” she says, “And Ray actually put his hand on the script and blessed it. For Ray to give his approval means so much for us today because this was the novel closest to his heart – this is the one he wanted to see realized.”
Shilapnikoff said that Bradbury had a short list of directors he favored, such as François Truffaut and Fellini, with whom Bradbury consorted in Italy, and noted that one of them is still alive and making movies: Ron Howard. “Ray said, ‘I love Ronnie and he loves me,’” recounted Shilapnikoff, “‘but this is something I leave to you: I write the books, the rest is something for you to decide. Make a fantastic movie.’”
Medavoy — whose other recent credits include Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and David Fincher’s Zodiac — quickly interjected it was too early to say which directors might be offered Dandelion and declined to comment on whether Howard was being sent a copy.
Dandelion Wine began as a series of short stories in 1946, culminating in 1957’s fantasy-twinged full-length novel about an idyllic summer from Bradbury’s childhood in the small-town Illinois* of 1928. The novel follows a 12-year-old boy’s efforts to extract the most out of one summer, concurrent with his grandfather’s comedic but doomed attempt at creating a "Happiness Machine." Given Howard’s own special ties to American nostalgia (lest we forget American Graffiti and Happy Days), the project seems tailor-made for him.
Shilapnikoff said that Bradbury, even at 91, did not fear death and tried to comfort her even as he trudged ever closer to it. “Ray said, ‘I’m never going to die: I’m a time machine. I am just going to another place and time,’ said Shilapnikoff before adding of her movie, “Hopefully, Ray will know about it.”
* This post has been corrected; the story takes place in Illinois, not Ohio.