Damon Lindelof, co-creator and showrunner on Lost, is making a return to TV after a brief foray into writing for the big screen. This time, he’ll make the switch to cable along with novelist Tom Perrotta as they adapt Perrotta’s book, The Leftovers, for HBO. This news comes after the announcement that Lindelof had signed a three year deal with Warner Bros. Television to commit all of his time to writing for TV.
Perrotta’s novel is a sci-fi product of sorts. It tells the story of a fictional American suburb called Mapleton which carries all the trademarks of an idealised suburban landscape: beautiful people living in beautiful homes residing in an idyllic setting. But as usual, things are not what they seem. One day, millions of people disappear from the Earth while others are left behind, a collective of these leftovers are the residents of Mapleton. From there, the novel goes on to detail the lives of these people as they deal with the aftermath of the event.
The Leftovers will be adapted by Lindelof and Perrotta and if the pilot gets picked up by HBO, they will both executive produce with Lindelof becoming the showrunner.
In an interview with Vulture, Lindelof describes what attracted him to the project, saying he was hooked on the book straightaway:
I got about a paragraph into it and immediately Amazon’d the book. And when I got the book, I fell deeply and passionately in love with it. I think that even from the moment I read the logline for the book, it was something I wanted to be vicariously a part of as opposed to just enjoying it as a consumer.
The writer also feels that there are big themes to contend with in the project that fascinate him as an author, comparing it to Lost but also seems to have a thematic connection to Prometheus:
It takes us back in time to a place in human history where everyone’s lives were dictated by the gods of Olympus or the gods of the heavens. [The book] tries to explain the purpose of it all, and that lined up with the meta level of Lost. We all look at ourselves in the mirror and think, ‘Am I good?’. The fact that there’s this reaping which occurred, and you don’t make the cut, some of us don’t feel worthy, seemed very ripe territory for a cool character drama.
He then went on to describe his plans for the expansion of the book and predicts already that this is a show that could cause backlash:
The pilot will introduce characters and storylines not in the book. It has to… The book is so rich in characters and details and opens so many creative doors.
[On the risks of a critical backlash] I guess I can’t help myself. I’m sure there’s a certain subset of viewers who watched Lost until the bitter end and will say, ‘I’m just not going to put myself through that again.’ But I’m so incredibly magnetized to this concept and the people in this story. It’s firing all my creative pistons in a way they haven’t been fired since Lost.
Lindelof has successfully ran a show in the past and I can’t see why this won’t get picked up as it promises to have popular appeal as well as quality. However, the last novel adaptation to go to HBO was the Noah Baumbach adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, which didn’t make it too far, despite an all star cast and a proven writing talent.
Writing on The Leftovers will start toward the end of the Summer after Lindelof finishes his rewrite on World War Z.