I’m a big Robert A. Heinlein fan, but even I’ve never heard of the Heinlein story HR says Alex Proyas is turning into a movie. He’s writing and directing a film based on “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”.
The great news here is that the novella was written early in Heinlein’s career. If you’re a Heinlein fan, then you know that means there’s a better than average chance it’ll be good and what’s more, free from the creepy sexual leering which seemed to take hold of the author as he got older. “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” was written by Heinlein in 1942, making it one of his earliest works, written even before more the publication of more well known Heinlein stories like “Red Planet”, “The Puppet Masters”, “The Star Beast”, and my personal favorite “The Door into Summer”.
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is the story of a man named Hoag who has no memory of what he does during the daytime. Hoag hires a private investigator, and charges the detective with the task of following him around, and figuring out what he does for a living. Having had some pretty crummy jobs in my lifetime, this seems like less of a problem than a blessing to me. I’d have given anything to go home and forget what I did for a living, back when I worked in an auto shop, or when I was doing nighttime janitorial work, or when I ran around delivering Mexican food spilling it all over my car and causing the upholstery to permanently reek of beans.
Heinlein’s work is no stranger to Hollywood adaptation unfortunately, as evidenced by Red Planet, they usually botch it. In the rare instances when a good movie has resulted from someone taking on one of Heinlein’s works, the final result often ends up bearing little resemblance to what the science fiction master originally wrote. Starship Troopers is a particularly good example of that. Veerhoeven’s movie works on a certain campy, satirical level, but it’s almost nothing like the Heinlein novel on which it’s supposed to be based.
The good news here is that now it’s Alex Proyas’ turn to try his hand at Heinlein, and if anyone is up to the task, it’s him. His sensibilities are a perfect fit with the those of the sci-fi godfather, and he has professed an undying love of this particular story saying, “I read this story as a kid, and it really stayed with me… it's part of my creative DNA.” That actually makes sense. I have a feeling Heinlein would have really loved movies like The Crow and Dark City. Proyas could do something great with Unpleasant Profession, assuming he’s left alone to work his magic without studio interference.
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