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Wolfgang Petersen To Start An OLD MAN'S WAR!

Nordling here.

I haven't read OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, but in reading the synopsis online I'm probably going to have to pick this up as soon as I can.  The novel, nominated for a 2006 Hugo Award, is about John Perry, a writer who basically signs away his DNA for use by the Colonial Defense Forces, his wife having passed away some years before.  When he turns 75 the Forces transfer his mind into a new body, genetically enhanced with his DNA with super strength and sense acuity, and joins the CDF as a kind of super-soldier.  In this future the universe is highly populated and finding areas to colonize is becoming exceedingly difficult, so multiple battles erupt when humans and aliens try to spread their civilizations to other worlds.

During his deployment John comes across a woman who looks uncannily like his wife, but now younger and also with enhanced abilities.  Turns out his wife also signed up for duty, but she has no memory of John or her past life, and John vows to get back with her no matter the cost.  The synopsis reads as hard science fiction, fairly epic in scope, with battles, faster-than-light travel, and many alien races.

According to Deadline, Paramount has bought the rights to the novel, and has attached Wolfgang Petersen to direct, and David Self (THE ROAD TO PERDITION) to write the screenplay.  I'll have to track this book down, along with the three other books in the series, which Paramount grabbed along with the first book.  There's so many great science fiction novels out there that, with today's effects technology, could easily be adapted to screen, when in years before it would have been extremely difficult to do.  Even Roland Emmerich is going after Asimov's FOUNDATION series and those books were considered unfilmable for years.  I'm encouraged by this and I hope to see more great science fiction books scooped up as opposed to the deluge of teen novel adaptations we've been getting recently.  The battles sound huge, and while the story spans a wide universe, I like that in the end it's about a man looking for his lost love.  We'll likely be following this one closely.

Nordling, out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:04 a.m. CST

    Petersen is way more miss than hit

    by Spandau Belly

    The guy made one perfect masterpiece of a film in DAS BOOT but there's just no counting on the guy.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:08 a.m. CST

    Again Nordling keeps the ship afloat

    by korkie70

    get Paul Verhooven to direct and set it in the Starship troopers verse. or better yet have this super solidier be malcolm renolds and his wife is Zoe.....brown coats forever

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:09 a.m. CST

    Spandau-you forget The Neverending Story

    by Scottadkinsfist

    That was perfection for a childrens film right there. They sure as hell don't make them like that anymore.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:27 a.m. CST

    a bit of Avatar there

    by lcworld

    with the transfer of mind to another body in the future.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:31 a.m. CST


    by Sean Shapiro

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:41 a.m. CST

    Sounds like...

    by Bodacious_Crumb

    Captain Americavatar!

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:43 a.m. CST

    What the hell?

    by DVaderRIP

    I thought this was a fan site for Justin Beiber?

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:50 a.m. CST

    Wolfgang Petersen

    by DVaderRIP

    Don't forget "In The Line Of Fire". That was a real classic of it's genre. Anyway, I wouldn't worry, I'm sure Harry will just fall asleep during it, just like he did with Inception.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 8:59 a.m. CST


    by DVaderRIP

    Again, In The Line Of Fire. And NES *does* hold up. It's you that doesn't.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:02 a.m. CST


    by Red_Right_Return

    Was made long after Old Man's War was written. In fact, I would say that Avatar lifted ideas from Old Man's War. In any event, I have read all three books and these will make fantastic movies if done right.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:03 a.m. CST

    I read the book...

    by sclamel1

    ...and always wondered why it was not made into a movie. Great story line.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:04 a.m. CST

    Seen this before

    by aaobuttons

    WP had Ender's Game in limbo for years, don't hold your breath on this one getting out.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:08 a.m. CST


    by HamburgerEarmuffs

    Makes a LOT of crappy movies.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:10 a.m. CST

    GREAT Book

    by bhu987us

    If any of you haven't read this book, GET IT NOW. It's brisk, funny, and NEEDS to be a movie.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:18 a.m. CST

    Roland Emmerich on FOUNDATION???

    by spidercoz

    What, McG was busy? Brett Ratner said no? A masterpiece of intelligent epic sci-fi and they get Roland "how will we destroy the White House this time?" Emmerich? That's it, I quit.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:34 a.m. CST

    "now younger and also with enhanced...abilities"

    by FlickaPoo, they're going NC-17 with this, right? Right?

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:46 a.m. CST

    speaking of SciFi, any news on Ender's Game?

    by Andy Pandy

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:49 a.m. CST

    Great book

    by rjl1138

    Old Man's War is a great book and should have been optioned years ago - Scalzi deserves this. That said, not sure about WP.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:49 a.m. CST

    The last good WP movie?

    by Laserhead

    'Bad Lieutenant: PofC New Orleans.' Terrific film. His best since 'Grizzly Man.'

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:50 a.m. CST

    Whoops-- got my Germans mixed up.

    by Laserhead

    That's Herzog, not Petersen. Huh... maybe Das Boot is Petersen's last good movie. It sure wasn't Troy. Or Air Force One.

  • Scalzi's a great writer and a pretty cool dude to hang with, but faster-than-light travel, alien races, and mind transfers do not = hard sci-fi. Maybe do a little reading before posting.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Epic Sci-fi for the big screen

    by ravenloff

    The "Island In The Sea Of Time" trilogy - SM Stirling ... sci-fi and epic 1250BC battles to boot. "Night's Dawn" trilogy from Peter F. Hamilton...epic space opera combined with the dead returning. Pandora's Star from Peter F. Hamilton...excellent first-contact/interplanetary war combined with permanent wormholes enabling rail commuting between planets. Ilium/Olympos from Dan Simmons...the siege of Troy as a massive game, Greek gods, sentient robots, Eloi-like humans clues to it all...excellent movie potential.

  • like so many sci-fi greats (Ender's Game leaps to mind), the initial book is great, a page-turner with a substantial and cohesive scif-fi universe underpinning the action, and an edge of humor. The sequels are contrived and strain at the insight and relevency of the first one, largely by trying to incorporate the same characters and make it a family drama. The sex scene when all the soliders first wake up in their new, young, enhanced bodies will be badass.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 10 a.m. CST

    RE: dvaderrip

    by MakNeil

    While I can't speak for Harry's opinions on films, Inception was indeed snore-worthy (I fell asleep twice trying to get through it on DVD). It the first film that I have ever seen about dreams, and navigating them, that somehow had all the wonder drained out of it; instead they exist exclusively as places where our subconscious baggage makes itself known in the most literally fashion possible. I don't know about Chris Nolan, but I have never had a dream as dull as Inception (which is not to criticize the look and Nolan's storytelling abilities, though the pacing was a bit off) Speaking of Chris Nolan, he's done the same with Batman. Taken a character whose origins are in comic books, and robbed him of all wonder and that mysterious, inspirational stuff that made me interested in comics in the first place (though admittedly I have always been primarily a Marvel fan). From my perspective, as clownish as the Batman television series was, it at least engaged my inner twelve-year-old, something none of Chris Nolan's films can seem to do (though Memento didn't either, though it was not supposed to). Inception reminded me most of all of the original Matrix film, if you take away its heart, that is.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 10:04 a.m. CST

    bunger! *possible spoilers*

    by adml_shake

    I completely disagree. Book 2 was a great look into the special forces and was just as good as book one. Jane had a great story, watching her deal her new found humanity as she was getting to know John, and through him the woman who she was cloned from. Dealing with a man who was cloned from a traitor, and just waiting for him to turn. Book three was more political than the other 2 but still just as good.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 10:15 a.m. CST

    Great book. Go get a copy RFN.

    by SmokingRobot

    Very entertaining book. And yes, it screams to be a movie. We haven't had an original big sf film in a long time.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 10:24 a.m. CST

    "We haven't had an original big sf film in a long time"

    by spidercoz

    and we're not going to get one from a book adaptation

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 11:06 a.m. CST


    by DKT

    This book is so much fun. Really liked the others in the series, as well. It could potentially be a fantastic summer movie.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 11:48 a.m. CST

    Holy crap I just picked this up from the library on a whim

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    and finished it a week ago. I have to run, but just to let you know they will need Avatar level technology to give it the impact of the badassery that it is. This book is killer, and a must read.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 11:55 a.m. CST


    by Shaner Jedi

    Ha! True but hey it could be a good adaptation.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:04 p.m. CST

    I read the book

    by Chuck_Chuckwalla

    It's an enjoyable read! I wouldn't call it hard science fiction though. Scalzi tried to write a SF novel that his mother-in-law could enjoy (you know, one those old biddies that watch Star Trek and say "What's that on his head?") Scalzi puts a lot of funny shit into his stories too. There are times reading it that I laughed out loud. My one criticism is that some of his aliens, or descriptions of the aliens that the Colonial Defense Force fought were sort of uninspired (flying squirrel people, WTF). That's an aspect of the book that I hope special effects will improve the story. It's sort of a cross between Starship Troopers, Avatar, Surrogates and that old Twilight Zone episode "The Trade-ins" which is about an elderly couple trading in their old bodies for new, young ones. Give it a tumble.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:07 p.m. CST

    Very Cool

    by Jeff

    I agree, dkt. I just finished the second book in this series, called "The Ghost Brigades," and holy crap, the punch-you-in-the-face characterizations and action sequences are insane. Full scale ship-mounted rail guns, anyone? Planetary drops into profanity-laden hardcore blood and guts violence? A tenuous universe with hundreds of seriously wacko aliens, ALL of whom are fighting each other and humanity to extinction for resources? It's pretty fucking crazy. John Scalzi is an excellent writer, in my opinion, and he takes you from a familiar Earth, not too far in the future, all the way to the heart of a frightening, real-feeling, R-rated war for existence being waged with uncompromising brutality on all sides. I've never read anything quite like it. David Self is a fabulous choice for the film's screenwriter, but I worry a little about Wolfgang Petersen. I hope he's up for it. One important thing: this film absolutely SHOULD NOT be rated anything less than R. The book was violent as hell, profanity laden from cover to cover, and embellished in full-on sex and orgies that were funny and just part of the normal flow of John Perry's story. Don't fucking PG-13 this shit. Please. No one will like the film if you do.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Sounds like a good book and a potentially good Movie too

    by Arcangel2020

    I have really liked most of Wolfgang Peterson's work, I think he is a terrific Director...but has he ever done any Sci Fi stuff before? This novel sounds like a very interesting storyline and definitely something I too need to pickup and read in the very near future. The movie sounds like it could very well be a very cool movie if it is done right in the future. The one thing that absollutely "horrified" me in this article? The mention of Roland Emmerich doing Issac Asimov's classic "Foundation" series!! Ye Gods, Man! I shudder to think of that guy getting his grubby mits on and making the "Foundation" series into Movies! I am betting it would be like when David Lynch ruined "Dune" when he made that shit pile of celluloid garbage (I am a big Dune fan) and whoever was responsible for that equally shitty version of "I Robot" that came out several years back with Will Smith in it (I bet Sir Assimov was turning over in his grave when that crappy movie of one of his alltime classics was realeased!!)

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:39 p.m. CST


    by DVaderRIP

    That is all.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:40 p.m. CST

    Hello Asshole

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Goodbye Asshole.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:42 p.m. CST

    Source Material Flawed, But Film Has Potential

    by Ultraman2000

    Unlike most others on this talkback, I didn't find the book particularly inventive or engaging. It's basically a rehash of The Forever War, to diminishing returns. It's highly episodic, almost picaresque. As others have mentioned, many, if not most, of the alien races are decidedly cartoonish. Think the silliest members of the Green Lantern Corp. And the third-act turns into a digressive and ultimately unfulfilling soap opera. Don't get me wrong. There's the potential for some fantastic set pieces. In fact, you could almost storyboard the film by playing select scenarios from Halo. But the screenwriter will need to find a strong emotional throughline to craft a unified narrative. This is one of those cases where, given the right treatment, the film could be better than the book. My hope is they retain the lead's sardonic wit and as others have noted, don't chaw the book's hard military violence into PG-13 pablum.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Do not Starship Troopers this. Don't take a great original

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    book, and turn it to crap.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:44 p.m. CST

    Indeed this must be a hard R

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    War is hell, so was the book.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 12:55 p.m. CST

    Ultraman, I've never read The Forever War

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    for some reason, although I've heard of it of course, I've never gotten around to reading it. I know I should. Oh, and Nordling needs to put spoiler warnings in. Sheesh, he just blew like the first 40 pages of the book.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1 p.m. CST

    I never looked at them as Hulk soldiers but

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    regular soldiers with green complexions. They're not Hulk sized, they're more like Captain Americanized. No weirder than blue aliens in Avatar.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:02 p.m. CST

    Re: ultra

    by Jeff

    I hear you with your criticisms of the book, ultraman2000: you thought the aliens in "Old Man's War" were "decidedly cartoonish." If I might present a different viewpoint: I thought they were compelling and decidedly un-cartoonish. In fact, I thought this was one of the book's strong points. Yes, there were several different aliens the CDF had to fight, but given each civilization's short introduction time, I though every species was differentiated and very well-conceived. All the way from ritualistic war singing, to an entire city of ten-inch-tall architecture, to a frighteningly advanced politics-is-everything mindset, I though Scalzi did an excellent job of not just differentiating his species, but making them compelling enough to care about and want to see again. I have no idea how any of this might play out in a movie.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:10 p.m. CST

    It was funny when the Lovecraft aliens were peaceful

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    and the timid deer people weren't. I loved how the recruit orientation was trying to get them over their pre-conceived prejudices.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:12 p.m. CST

    I'm yawning.I'm yawning some more. And Zzzzzzzzz

    by BoRock_A_Boomer


  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:38 p.m. CST


    by Zatoichi

    I was thinking it sounds like a combo of Forever War and Altered Carbon.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:45 p.m. CST


    by lv_426

    Wolfgang Peterson directed a sci-fi film in the mid 80's called Enemy Mine. I really enjoyed it. It is not as iconic as Robocop or Aliens or any of the really big 80's sci-fi films, but it is pretty damn good and highly underrated in my opinion.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:48 p.m. CST

    Whitley Strieber

    by Retro

    Geez, I thought he was going to make Whitley Strieber's "The Grays". Chances are this new one will never get made either.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:50 p.m. CST

    Nordling! Read these books immediately

    by inkingeekX

    I actually had a discussion with another talkbacker a few years ago when the disturbing trend of remakes was just beginning. The size and scope of these books are enticing to think of as eye candy on screen, but Nordling hit the nail on the head when he simplified the basic premise-a man looking for the love of his life...

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:55 p.m. CST

    grammaton cleric binks

    by lv_426

    If you liked Old Man's War, then you should definitely check out The Forever War. Both books share some similarities, but I'd say Old Man's War is more flat out entertaining and fun, while The Forever War is more innovative and profound, but still an enjoyable read all together. If I had to list my favorite science fiction novels, I'd say The Forever War has a spot reserved in the top three. Old Man's War is awesome though. I finished that one off pretty quickly. Definitely a page turner. I hope the movie is good and doesn't deviate too far from the novel. I guess all we can do now is wait and see. And can I just say that Old Man's War getting a big Hollywood film adaptation is such great news after all the hackened "versus" and "tweeny bopper" crap films in addition to the endless remake/reboot/re-vomit movie announcements and releases of the past year? Who's with me?

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Great pick-up on Kindle

    by AlienFanatic

    Read them all furiously when I got my Kindle, and was not disappointed. I still haven't read Zoe's Tale, but I'm sure it's also good. I hope Petersen has the cojones to pull this off.

  • He could make W.S.'s "Warday" but that might be a tad dated at this point. So, if the original book, which I've not read, is supposed to be an allegory for the Bush presidency, does it stop at that or does it push off into moonbat territory?

  • Are you fucking high?

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 2:24 p.m. CST

    Old Man's War

    by torgosPizza

    Is a pretty amazingly epic, hard scifi trilogy. Zoe's Tale is kind of a one-off that still takes place in the series but is not quite as good as the other three. All of them are worth reading, for sure, and are some of my favorite sf novels - but I'm still holding out hope that Ridley Scott will show an interest in doing the Takeshi Kovacs series, starting with Altered Carbon. Quite possibly my favorite hard-boiled sf novel ever.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 4:49 p.m. CST

    The book is easily the best...

    by AidanJames

    military sci-fi in a VERY long time. Belongs on the bookshelf with Armor, Starship Troopers, and Forever War.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 5:32 p.m. CST


    by lv_426

    If Ridley wanted to do something similar in tone and feel to Blade Runner again, then I agree, Altered Carbon and its sequels would be great for him to take a look at. If not Ridley, then I nominate David Fincher as an alternate choice to adapt the Takeshi Kovacs books.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 5:51 p.m. CST

    "regular soldiers with green complexions"

    by buggerbugger

    So they're kind of like the blue-skinned Genetic Infantrymen in 'Rogue Trooper'?

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9 p.m. CST

    lv_426, I'm with you on the remake crap

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    that news is getting old. Hollywood has no originality left.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:09 p.m. CST

    Geez, I just read the second paragraph after

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    just skimming this earlier. Ever hear of spoiler warnings Nordling?

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 9:32 p.m. CST

    Recycled sci-fi? Maybe but...

    by Sithtastic

    The question to me is can you make the concept work effectively? Starship Troopers was itself a mix of All Quiet on the Western Front and (in its updated production) Aliens. Whereas I have not read Old Man's war, it sounds to be conquering a variety of very tried and true anxieties expressed in sci-fi, but with other genres mixed in. The plot sounds compelling and I just might give it a whirl.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 11:09 p.m. CST

    Only reason this got greenlit was due to AVATAR's success

    by zillabeast

    They saw a chance to cash in on a story that shared some common traits, and walla!

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 11:44 p.m. CST


    by Jeff

    It's true, zillabeast, that "Old Man's War" is moving ahead largely because of the success of "Avatar." The epic scope, military operations, and mass-scale battles are things both stories share. But the thing is, that's fine. Wolfgang Petersen worries me as a director, I'll admit, due to his hamfistedness on recent projects. But if he gets his shit together at all for "Old Man's War," I'd very interested to see where it might go. David Self writing the screenplay gives me a good amount of confidence, since he wrote "Road to Perdition," one of my favorite films of all time. "The Wolfman" wasn't so great, I'll admit, but Self seems to have only touched up certain passages of that story, which Joe Johnston sort of misdirected with an un-scary flow. Anyway, I'm as skeptical as the next movie guy when it comes to interpretations of science fiction. "Avatar" may have paved the way for something interesting and pretty fucking kickass, however, on the military science fiction front. I hope they keep the film focused and character-driven, two elements that drove the book into modern classic territory. We'll see, I guess. I'll need to hear more as this progresses.

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 7:28 a.m. CST

    enemy mine

    by larry burbridge

    was pretty dang good. saaaaaaammisss!

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 8:04 a.m. CST


    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    I'm sorry what I said about your Mickey Mouse.

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 8:05 a.m. CST

    Kind of? His wife was dead.

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    There should have been massive spoiler warnings.

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 8:23 a.m. CST

    Good but

    by GhostofCicero

    There I was thinking that Avatar's success meant this book would never get to the big screen. I'm afraid those unfamiliar with the book will just label the film as an Avatar rip-off and that will be bad news. Whoever mentioned Hamilton's "Pandora's Star" and it's sequel is dead on, that would make a terrific and original couple or three movies.

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 9:02 a.m. CST

    Hmmm, a very good point. It's not a ripoff but

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    the assumption will be there. The book came out in 2005 or 06 if I recall from the copyright date. Sure it was before Avatar, but still. I mean I just read it like two weeks ago, so I had never heard of it.

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 9:57 a.m. CST

    John Steakley's ARMOR needs to be a movie

    by yomomma

    Old Man's war is great, but ARMOR is a masterpiece. Probably too manly to make into a movie these days...

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Avatar - not without a time machine

    by Mike Albrecht

    People, the book was published in 2006.

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 11:50 a.m. CST

    RE: its biggest flaw is the whole war with everybody theme

    by Mike Albrecht

    Covered in the third book, 'The Last Colony.' Has nobody linked to Scalzi's website?

  • Feb. 25, 2011, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Whatever happened to Ridley Scott's The Forever War adapation

    by DougMcKenzie

    Is it going to be a movie or a mini-series? Is it ever going to happen at all?

  • Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, written in 1957. Almost identical, right down to the crippled soldier tele-controlling a large powerful body on an inhospitable planet who eventually leaves his empty shell behind and becomes his avatar. Story got no credit.

  • Feb. 26, 2011, 12:45 a.m. CST

    Oh, and Frank Herbert (Dune) wrote...

    by dockealy

    a series of stories that had an ocean wide sentient bed of kelp that could download memories. Cameron smushed a bunch of sci-fi stories together with Pocohantas. Still, it's one hell of a good movie, though.

  • Feb. 26, 2011, 3:34 a.m. CST

    They'll probably cast a boring 25 year old in this

    by chien_sale

    a moron like Sam Worthington.

  • Feb. 26, 2011, 8:12 a.m. CST

    they should do All You need is Kill

    by larry burbridge

    Great story about a soldier who is killed in battle and is regenerated ala Groundhog Day until he gets it right.

  • Feb. 26, 2011, 9:14 a.m. CST

    dockealy, we're geeks. You don't need tell us Herbert

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    wrote Dune. Speaking of which I'd love a tv series of the Butlerian Jihad. It's too long for a movie.