Daniel Clowes is the Mark Millar of the indie comics set, with two of his graphic novels—Ghost World and Art School Confidential—having been filmed. And now a third, Wilson, based on the GN of the same name, is back on track, with filming set for Minneapolis next month. The script is by Clowes.

The book was originally slated to be directed by Alexander Payne, back in 2010, and bounced around a bit before Fox Searchlight picked it up. If the Clowes tale—about a grumpy, socially awkward man who is painfully obtuse as he attempts to connect with other humans—was not written directly for Payne to direct, it night as well have been as all his films deal with familial estrangement. But it turns out the film will be directed by Craig Johnson, previously of The Skeleton Twins, and Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern will star as the misanthropic Wilson and his ex-wife/connection interest.

Payne will still produce, however, with his Ad Hominem Enterprises partners Jim Taylor and Jim Burke, Sam Raimi and Josh Donen all attached in some way.

I just happened to watch The Skeleton Twins the other night (it was edited and produced by Jennifer Lee, formerly of Vertigo, and an old Beat Pal.) It was a smart, deft film about…people awkwardly trying to connect with their true feelings, with Hader and Wiig shining. Harrelson and Dern are great 90% of the time, so this sounds like a quality project all around.


  1. I definitely wouldn’t have pictured Harrelson and Dern, but now that I’ve seen their names on it it sounds like a perfect fit.

    Out of all the work Clowes has done it seems like a strange choice for adapting; its format was an essential part of the experience. (I think it was Alan Moore who commented, when The Spirit movie was coming, that “The Spirit is not about Denny Colt fighting crime from a cemetery; it’s about panels on a page.” Wilson was definitely that, with each page being a complete comic strip with a beginning, middle, and end and Clowes shifting styles throughout.)

    The book’s themes of alienation and awkwardness are universal, of course, and I think Harrelson can definitely pull off a character who’s deeply unpleasant without actually ever seeming like he’s a bad person. I expect it’ll be a good film. I just think that the changes required to make it into a live-action film are going to make it into something that’s not really Wilson anymore.

    (Now, if they were to animate it and play with different animation styles for every scene, that would be outstanding. But obviously I don’t see that happening.)

  2. Yeah, I can’t for the life of me understand what would appeal to a movie maker about adapting this book. A cantankerous man who’s awful to everyone, makes terrible, almost mentally ill decisions and ends badly. Removing the comics-specific elements and there’s almost no reason to tell what little story exists in it.

  3. Clarifying, I do like the book (second-tier Clowes), I just don’t know what a movie version could offer. It wouldn’t be the first odd choice for a movie that ended up giving a writer/director more than one would expect though. I recall Clowes saying he actually had enough material to create a sequel, so maybe he’s channeling all the extra stuff into a script.

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