I have not read Claire Messud’s novel, The Emperor’s Children, but even if it is a terrible book, it seems like there is the skeleton of a good movie here. You don’t have to be an Ivy Leaguer to relate to the idea of three Brown University grads who, years after moving to New York City with world-altering ambitions, find themselves hacking it out in unrewarding day jobs. Though the book is location and time specific (it takes place in the months leading up to and following 9/11), many Gen-Xers muddled through a similar late-twenties malaise (the generation below us seems to be getting off to a quicker start, but that’s because they’re all gay). Given the Gotham setting, this actually sounds like it could play like Metropolitan: The Later Years.
Since Whit Stillman isn’t in any rush to get back to making movies, Noah Baumbach would be a superb choice to film the unofficial sequel to one of the 1990s best films. Would I settle for Baumbach merely writing the screenplay? Sure, so long as he’s collaborating with a shrewd observer of human behavior. It wouldn’t even have to be a dyed-in-the-worsted-wool member of the East Coast elite; I seem to recall Ang Lee handling Rick Moody without much fuss. Granted, there’s not a huge list of directors out there who could do this milieu justice, but I’m sure a writer like Baumbach could probably attract one or two of them.
Unfortunately, Imagine Entertainment owns The Emperor’s Children, and its co-topper, Opie Cunningham, wants to helm this after he’s done with Frost/Nixon and, quite possibly, Oh, Da Vinci: Book Two. Now, if Howard is rushed into filming the latter after completing his 2008 Oscar grab, perhaps Baumbach could successfully lobby for the directorial reins. But if Imagine deems Baumbach too much of a risk for a major studio production, maybe they could bring on someone who’s indelibly captured this world before, like Peter Weir (I’m thinking Dead Poet’s Society, not Green Card).
Howard is all wrong for this. I love him on big, unabashedly mainstream prestige pictures like Cinderella Man, but his range is very limited. Please abdicate, Opie.