Why you should get excited about the new Blood Meridian adaptation.

Brittany Allen

April 25, 2024, 12:03pm

The late Cormac McCarthy was no stranger to the cinema. Several of the writer’s novels, plays, and screenplaysNo Country for Old Men, All The Pretty Horses, The Sunset Limitedwere adapted into buzzy films, though your mileage may vary re: success-of-translation. Now, it looks like we’ll finally be getting a Big Picture of the author’s epic Western and arguable masterpiece, Blood Meridian, care of the fine folks at New Regency Productions. And there’s reason to get hyped about it.

Blood Meridian has proved a notoriously difficult story to put on film. (Ridley Scott, James Franco/Russell Crowe, Tommy Lee Jones, and Todd Field have all attempted the task.) This may be due to the book’s sprawling nature, and its notoriously brutal depictions of violence. On its 1985 release, Caryn James described the novel thusly in The New York Times: Blood Meridian comes at the reader like a slap in the face, an affront that asks us to endure a vision of the Old West full of charred human skulls, blood-soaked scalps, a tree hung with the bodies of dead infants…” Pearl-clutching? Perhaps. But this is an accurate description of the opening pages.

Yet the book, which follows an 1850s runaway (‘The Kid’) on a sadistic exposition, also has rabid championslike the late, renowned critic Harold Bloom. Who then, you begin to ask, deigns to translate such a gruesome, divisive object?

Who might succeed, where Ridley has failed???

The multi-genre dramatist John Logan, that’s who. Back in 2010, Logan won the Tony award for his play Red, a talkie/symposium inspired by the painter Mark Rothko. Logan’s also received Oscar nods for three of his screenplaysGladiator, The Aviator, and Hugo. But most germane for our purposes, he’s a fan. Logan told Deadline: “Blood Meridian has been one of my favorite novels since first reading it in 1985. It’s a majestic, beautiful, and uncompromising book, and I’m thrilled to be able to help bring Cormac McCarthy’s dark masterpiece to the screen.”

All reason to hope that the seasoned scriptwriter, who is also at work on a warts-and-all MJ biopic, can do this knotty piece justice.

Another reason for tentative optimism? The creative pairing. Director/producer John Hillcoat is known for working in a wide wheelhouse. He’s made commercials, features, and music videoslike this one, for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. (Hey, Hollywood, free idea: tap these guys to write the score…!)

It was likely Hillcoat’s work on another McCarthy property, 2009’s The Road, that aroused his thirst for para-Western ultra-violence. And considering that the author himself blessed that adaptation, maybe we can trust Hillcoat “gets” McCarthy’s unflinching aesthetic. All things being equal, maybe diehard novel fans can relax. Until the opening credits start a-rolling over the plains, that is.

Cormac McCarthy will receive a posthumous producer’s credit on the film, which is tentatively slated for a 2026 release. His son, John Francis McCarthy, will also EP.

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