The image above could be the first poster for Joseph Kahn‘s film adaptation of William Gibson’s landmark cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer. Word of a Neuromancer movie has been buzzing around for nearly a decade, but seeing a visual representation does make it a all bit more real.

Khan is currently known for his directorial debut, Torque, and a music video for the Britney Spears song “Toxic”. Mildly put, his repertoire doesn’t exactly thrill most Neuromancer fans. This, combined with the general sentiment that Neuromancer simply can not be translated into film, has the director under a lot of pressure. Since so little is known about the film production, rumor mills have been churning out all sorts of gems. There is the prospect of Hayden Christensen playing anti-hero hacker Case, a post claims this protagonist’s name would be changed to “Cage”, there’s the fact that Gibson himself is saying close to nothing about the film. There is even concept art out there!

What we’re not seeing, however, is a full cast list, nor any real confirmation that the film is actually happening [official website? IMDB page updates?]. Regardless, I hope that Kahn will stick to his guns and make a great movie, some necessary departure from the original withstanding. I’ll suppress my instinctual cynicism until there’s any real information to be had. While we wait, I’m desperately curious to hear your ideal Neuromancer cast nominations! The IMDB forums offer some interesting choices, here.

28 Responses to “Neuro-Toxic”

  1. the daniel Says:

    I just want someone semi-ugly to play Case and someone muscular to play Molly. Beyond that I haven’t even thought about it, believe it or not, despite the fact that those books hold a sacred place in my heart. I wonder if it is too late to hope for a different director?

  2. Tequila Says:

    I remember that quote of Gibson seeing Blade Runner as he was writing Neuromancer and essentially going “Damn, they beat me to the punch!” Neuromancer can’t be filmed as is simply because visually we’ve already seen it 1000 times over. More so it’s been one-upped by video games and comics since then…so I’m happy to hear of ANYBODY trying to bring this story to life in an era where some could view it as “classic sci-fi” as opposed to cutting edge.

    I like Khan’s work. A lot. He has a great eye for creating high gloss & inventive visuals (he’s done quite an epic amount of music videos actually) and he’s a bit of a dork. If anyone ever saw his MTV Cribs episode the dude had PC GAME boxes on display in his office. Doesn’t get any geekier than that. I’m sure he’s matured since then as an artist (both Torque and the Spears videos are long ago now.) Plus in the case of Torque he had budget cuts through production and had to shoot on an accelerated schedule with insane demands (like the infamous Bike/Soda Company Logo Duel.) I’ve no doubt he can pull off the film visually…story wise that’s gonna be the hard part and given so few GOOD sci-fi films even come out anymore…the bar isn’t all that high at the moment.

    Gibson’s work has always been hard to translate. Mainly because so many focus on the visuals…and really that’s what MOST people who see a sci-fi film want to see…amazing visuals. The story elements will depend a lot on what talent is involved but more importantly how much of a focus it even is to the producers…cause I have a funny feeling Khan does not have Final Cut authority. Something that has killed many great Sci-Fi adaptations in the past.

  3. Erin Says:

    To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the novel Neuromancer. Along the same genre though, I would MUCH rather see Snow Crash made into a film!

  4. TClark Says:

    Like the many attempts to get a movie of Neuromancer off the ground, I won’t be holding my breath.

    Especially since I think the best chance of it being made to my satisfaction was when Chris Cunningham was planning to direct.

  5. Zoetica Says:

    Tequila, I want to know who you’d cast in the film!

    Daniel, I never thought of Case as particularly ugly, actually. Odd looking, rough – sure, but not “ugly”.

  6. TClark Says:

    Oh, I should probably throw in my 2 cents on casting possibilities.

    It may sound weird, but for Case I continually keep coming back to Edward Norton.

    As for Molly… that’s always been a difficult one. I don’t know who had the ghastly idea to pick whoever it was in Johnny Mnemonic to be the “Molly/Sally” character, but she needs to really be menacing. Molly may be hot, but she ain’t “pretty.” And she’ll have to sell the character without using her eyes. That’s a pretty tall order, if you ask me.

  7. Zoetica Says:

    I’d love to see PJ Harvey’s face on a swimmer’s body for Molly, I just decided.

  8. Nadya Says:

    Case: Christian Bale
    Molly: Maggie Cheung (sorry Jon, I originally said Yeoh but changed my mind and edited my comment)
    Armitage: Daniel Day-Lewis
    3Jane Tessier-Ashpool: Evan Rachel Wood
    Wintermute: Wilford Brimley. Heh.

    I’m curious to see how they figure out the logistics of Molly’s eyes! Even Gibson himself has said that he never through it through, because Molly was initially just a throw-away character. I hope they go all-out with total coverage, intimidating large mirror lenses… not some sort of stupid scleral contacts.

    I actually think that this Hayden Christiansen (who I’ve never heard of before) would be great as Case as well. I never pictured Case as particularly ugly, handsome or unusual… he is more like an everyday guy with a special talent, with a lot of weird characters around him. That’s how I saw him.

    When it was first announced that Khan was directing this, there was a HUGE backlash from the fans. It was so bad that Khan even made the following heartfelt plea for people to give him a chance. It stuck with me, and has had me rooting for him ever since. He wrote:

    “I could see how the combination of the Britney Spears director with William Gibson is a controversial choice. But the problem is, the summation of my career is not Britney Spears. I’ve done plenty of “cred” videos: Moby, Chemical Brothers, Korn, U2, Muse to name a few. The headlines sound attractively pessimistic to slap the successful pop example of my work to a supposedly nihilistic work like Neuromancer. It really just demonstrates how little most people know of the music video world and how it pertains to filmmaking.

    For instance, before David Fincher became the dark auteur that fanboys salivate over, he made his name doing…Paula Abdul videos. And hard core Michael Bay with his rumbling guns and explosions made…Meatloaf videos, as well as…The Divinyls “I Touch Myself.” Those of you in the music video business know the score and understand why this is.

    I guess this is turning into a defense of myself, so I will defend myself.

    The other complaint lodged at me is that my movie Torque basically sucked. It’s either a sell out piece of commercial crap, or an incompetant long form music video, or both, and it’s a sure sign I’m clueless as a filmmaker. And to all of this, I’ll say: they’re wrong.

    Making your first movie under the Hollywood studio system is hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m telling you honestly with no exaggeration: you have no clue what it’s like to be put through that studio grinder and retain any sort of authorship. The politics, the pressure, the scapegoating, the interference, the pure physicality of an intense 70 day shoot, the budget hysterics, the permeating sense of fear and negativity from everyone. Torque is not 100% of what I wanted, but I’m proud of what it is, because at the end of the day, after going through this studio machine that blends movies together into mediocrity, it split people. Some hated it, others loved it. Some actually had both reactions at the same time. Whatever it was, it wasn’t safe. The ice cream on the cone couldn’t be digested without a strong opinion. That’s a tall order for an Ice Cube biker flick. Your welcome.

    So that’s one of the reasons why “they” hired me to do Neuromancer, and make no mistake, Gibson is one of “them.” There’s no way in hell I’m on this without at least a half disinegnous grunt of approval from him. Yes, Chris Cunningham was attached to this years ago and you may think him as a far cooler director than me, but he quit. HE QUIT. Understand? Sorry. He abandoned the baby on the doorstep, and it will never come to daddy again.”

    He goes on, and you can read the rest here:

    But basically, I’m rooting for him. I just feel like this is really heartfelt and that he’s really passionate about making this movie, and it would awesome for this guy to succeed. I know it won’t be the book, but I want to hope for the best! I did try watching Johnny Mnemonic this past weekend and couldn’t even get through it.

    Although, you know what would be most awesome? An animated Neuromancer… by Peter Chung (who, incidentally, cut his teeth on Rugrats and Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

  9. Jon Munger Says:

    The real danger of doing a Gibson book isn’t in the plot or characters. While they’re old hat for us, the burn out hacker isn’t exactly mainstream. The plot is, for the first two-thirds, straight out of ’24’, with secret military operations and shady criminal dealings. The last third is where it gets strange, but we’re familiar enough with AI to accept the idea of a police force that regulates their development. Actually, if you read it these days, it really doesn’t feel that fantastic– you could set it with a rolling ‘ten years from now’ and only the hard AI opponents will bitch about it.

    The danger comes from nostalgia for the ‘cyberpunk’ notion. If you design it as a Blade Runner spin, yeah, you’ll bore the piss out of us. Like Tequila said, we’ve seen that before. What we haven’t seen so much of is someone taking ‘cyberpunk’ as a mission statement, not a stylistic choice. Walk down the street and notice the meth head gutter punk. Now imagine he’s got a Sense/Net account he stole.

    I worry because of the tendency to steer away from ‘unsavory’, which is just what the characters are. Case should squick people–he should look like he doesn’t bathe. Molly’s got to have a real sense of violence about her, like she can just barely reign it in. These should be people that middle America would walk away from.

    I just have the sinking feeling that we’ll get a glossy music video with people wearing chainmail shirts and freshly clipped mohawks.

    Case: Gotta concur with Nadya. Bale.
    Molly: Hillary Swank- I like Michelle Yeoh, but Swank (when trained right) looks so much more unhinged.

  10. Zoetica Says:

    Nadya, that post of Kahn’s totally won me over, too – hence the link inclusion in the article. I think that many people will be more open to the idea of him as Neuromancer’s director once they see it.

    Hillary Swank! Jon, you’re on to something with that one, yes!

    Christian Bale as Case, however? Not for me.

    I love, and I mean LOVE, him, but he is no Case. I’ll take Ed Norton, however!

  11. the daniel Says:

    A few people here and in the IMDB comments mention Bale as Case. I am not sure we read the same book. I don’t think slick muscleman Bale could play washed-up street dog Case. The closest he’s come so far is his turn in The Machinist but in the context of my personal experience with the book, that’s not Case either (not to mention I thought it was a poor performance).

  12. Nadya Says:

    I was thinking Bale in Equilibrium. Heh heh.

  13. Tequila Says:

    Glad Khan has won over some people. I’d not read that statement he made till now. He really is a good fit…not the best fit but a good fit.

    Torque was like many genre films post-Matrix…style over anything else. Slick, sexy, and shiny…unfortunately not many of them worked including Torque.

    I’d rather the whole project be a CG animated thing but if we’re sticking live action…then on to the casting!

    First off I would fire ALL OF YOU as my casting agents. Bale? Swank? Maggie Cheung? Norton? NO. Machinist aside, they’re all too polished and well beyond the grime needed for the roles. Case needs to be dirty and Molly needs to be what she is not a fanboy wank fantasy :P (Swank is the right idea though…just not her.)

    CASE: Jamie Bell…Yes he was the lead in Billy Elliot as a kid…but as a young man he has this quality to him that can be unsavory yet appealing, confident yet fragile, and believable even in the minor roles he’s carried. He’s an up and comer but I’ve no doubt he could pull off the character.

    MOLLY: A CG character of a very very pretty male made up to look as feminine as possible. Think androgyny taken to an unsettling and dramatic visual level…yet still alluring. All dialogue will be voiced by Tilda Swinton.

    @Nadya…”…Although, you know what would be most awesome? An animated Neuromancer… by Peter Chung…”

    I like the way you think. Though for the record Johnny Mnemonic remains a guilty pleasure…it just has too much campy fun!

  14. benjabimon Says:

    i’d love to see a grittier, dirtier approach to the neuromancer film done with traditional filming methods, with minimal use of CGI (except of course for the whole cyberspace bit). because it’s a book chock block full of technology, i’m concerned that any director planning the design of the movie go for that slick, high-gloss look which didn’t characterise the book.

    despite what kahn said, i still lay awake at night thinking of chris cunningham’s involvement and think of what might have been.

    did anyone else read a rumour about idoru being translated into anime form?

  15. A.P. Stilwell Says:

    The thing about Kahn’s comment to me is, he cites Fincher’s music video work before he “made it”, and the problem herein lies that Fincher established with his very first film (‘Alien 3’) that despite a whole mess of studio interference he’s a supreme visualist; something that Kahn’s ‘Torque’ lacks in spades (I’m thinking of that “big climactic” bike chase in which even imaginary physics are broken). And with the Director’s “Intended” Cut of ‘Alien 3’ available on DVD, it’s also clear that Fincher could inject a good amount of thought and emotion into his visuals.

    I’m worried that Kahn can’t do that, because he doesn’t seem quite a durable as Fincher when it comes to the battles with the studio execs.

    I’ll (and it seems many others) keep dreaming of that never-will-be Cunningham adaptation.

  16. c p. smith Says:

    I’ve already seen Joseph Kahns version of “Neuromancer”. It’s his music video for George Michaels “Freek!”

    If that is any indicator then Neuromancer is not going… to be good? It’s “Johnny Mnemonic” all over again. Maybe I’m too harsh. I’ll rephrase that. It isn’t going to have any grit, but it will have gallons of gloss.

    I’ll be spending my time going to see this instead.

    I don’t think I could drag myself through seeing Kahns film. My minds eye has been so particular in imagining it and thats the beauty of being able to read the story, your mind makes it better than any film could be.

    I would much prefer if unknowns were cast in all of the roles. When I first saw “THX-1138” I had no idea who any of the actors were even though Robert Duvall had done mostly TV before filming. Virtually unknown actors give us the capability to step outside of the “I’m watching a movie” mode and really get our heads into the story.

    Miguel De Olaso & Bruno Zacharias’ “Similo” is full of unknown actors yet it looks to be the best film of 2008-2009 in my opinion. “THX-1138” was banking on people not having everything told to them out right.

    While yes Gibson is thick with narrative he is not telling you the story so much as giving you a state of mind and space within which you can experience the story. I think a great director would be challenged to remove the narrative and still attempt to hold on to that poetry that Gibson exceeds at in print.

    Then again I would gladly give up a Joseph Kahn “Neuromancer” for an Alfonso Cuarón “Pattern Recognition” with the same tangible feel as his beautiful “Children of Men”. Luckily the screenwriter for “Children of Men” is penning the screenplay for “PR”

    That and Torque did indeed suck regardless of Kahns defense. It may be hard to make your first industry film but I’ve seen way better “first industry films”.

  17. Andy Says:

    ooo… I want to see that version of “Pattern Recognition”. “Children of Men” was an awesome movie, so far only seen it twice and if that feel could be translated to a William Gibson story it’d make my day.

  18. Linn Næss Says:

    My biggest fear about anybody trying to make this movie, regardless of their past experience, is that Hollywood (or whomever) won’t let it be as disorienting as it should be — I don’t want Sin City-esque gritty, I want to feel genuinely uncomfortable, maybe even a little nauseous watching it. (If that George Michael video is any indication I’m apparently already setting myself up for disappointment.)

    In terms of the suspension of disbelief that’d take, I’d love to see a full cast of total unknowns, though the chances of that happening are probably pretty slim. If that’s not possible, I’m with Zo — love Bale but not as Case, so Ed Norton’s a close second to newbies.

  19. A.P. Stilwell Says:

    Watching that George Michael video (my do I always wish those links lead to the real George Michael . . . Bluth!) I’m convinced that Kahn just wants to replicate ‘Blade Runner’; and despite Gibson’s statement of, “Someone already beat us to the punch,” I don’t want to see another ‘Blade Runner’. I love that film enough as it is. I don’t want to see the Neil Marshall/’Doomsday’ knock-off. Seriously, nearly all of the shots (particularly the city sequences) are exact replicas of the Syd Mead/Lawrence G. Paull miniature sets from Ridley Scott’s film.

    Sorry Kahn.

    But bring on that Cuaron ‘Pattern Recognition’! Yummy. Include that great song that Sonic Youth did for the ‘Sonic Nurse’ album, too.

  20. Zoetica Says:

    I’m going to tell you a secret.

    I love that George Michael video, despite his awkward woman-humping.

  21. Sebastian Says:

    Norton for Case would have been great, 10 years ago. Case must be in his early 30s at most. Console Jockeys are supposed to be at their peak when they are teenagers. Younger people have better reflexes.
    Christensen wouldn’t be my first choice, but fits the age-frame.

    My proposals:
    Case: Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko)
    Molly: Belinda McClory (Switch from Matrix)
    or Gabrielle Anwar (Fionna from Burn Notice)
    Armitage: Jeffrey Donovan (Michael from Burn Notice)
    The Finn: Patrick McGoohan or his younger self John Hurt

    Joseph Kahns statement won me over. He has the right attitude. Lets hope its enough.

    Besides nothing can be worse than the “New Rose Hotel” movie.

  22. c p. smith Says:

    I’m going to tell you a secret Zo.

    I like it too. Shhhhhhhh!

  23. Peter Tupper Says:

    My concern about filming Neuromancer is that that future has passed us by: A row of pay phones? Limited nuclear war in Europe? O’Neill cylinders as luxury resorts? We’re even approaching the point at which the idea of computer-hacker-as-hero resonates about as much as airplane-pilot-as-hero.

    None of those things are insurmountable in filming, but it will require substantial changes, thus disappointing the fan base.

    The Blade Runner vision of the future is kind of worn out after untold imitations, and what makes Children of Men so effective is that it depicts a future dystopia we haven’t seen before. I hope that somebody can make Neuromancer into something equally compelling.

    Actually, come to think of it, why not make Pattern Recognition instead? Why fabricate the future when the recent past is so weird?

  24. Shay Says:

    @Sebastian – The Finn: Patrick McGoohan – WIN!

    I kinda think NEUROMANCER is unfilmable, but then, I think WATCHMEN is unfilmable too, and yet it’s coming to a theatre near me, sooh.

    More precisely, I think the time to make a NEUROMANCER film might have passed.

    Somewhen after Lawnmower Man and before The Matrix, before the end of the 20th century.
    I wonder what sort o film it can be now. What would Neuromancer look like if it were written today, for todays audience?
    It was never about predicting the future, more like an examination of the human condition, but that doesn’t mean it’s timeless.

    While on the subject,
    I’m also kinda horrified at what AMC might be doing with THE PRISONER. A timeless allegorical tale.. Or is it..?

  25. A.P. Stilwell Says:

    Okay, okay . . . I’ll admit to liking this Joseph Kahn video ([url][/url]) but I had no idea he directed it until recently and it still shows off his penchant for wanting to continually ape someone else’s work.

  26. PLANETDAMAGE » neuromancer news: coilhouse crowd thinks movie “could be good” Says:

    […] You might not know, though, that there’s a longer and quite creative thread about Neuromancer on Coilhouse (who have actually released their first print version that doesn’t get into wide circulation so order them like fuck, I’ve already done so) and there you have a YouTube embed of Kahn’s version of the George Michael track Freeek and it looks very slick to be cyberpunkish, if anything. If Kahn can keep a steady hand on the visuals, Neuromancer’s going to be a decent slap on the face. (via coilhouse) […]

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