Veteran director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) is teaming with original Utopia creator Dennis Kelly on a feature adaptation of George R.R. Martin‘s 1979 novelette Sandkings that is currently in the works at Netflix, Collider has exclusively learned.
Verbinski revealed the exciting news in a recent interview with Collider, during which he talked about his past films and the high-profile projects he never made.
After being asked what he’s currently working on, Verbinski said “one of the screenplays is based on a George R.R. Martin short story called Sandkings, which is this brilliant little twisted short story that I love. And I’m working with a great writer, Dennis Kelly, who wrote the original [Utopia]… The British original series is brilliant. And Dennis is doing the adaptation, so I’m kind of excited about that,” said Verbinski, who refused to say any more about the project, though we managed to find out a little bit extra.
It seems that John Baldecchi, who produced Verbinski‘s 2001 feature The Mexican, will produce Sandkings under his Digital Riot Media banner according to his company’s website. Though I’ve never read the book myself, it sounds awesome, so I’ll do my best to explain the plot without giving anything away.
The story follows a wealthy playboy named Simon Kress who collects dangerous, exotic animals. One day, he stumbles across a mysterious establishment called Wo & Shade, where he purchases a terrarium filled with four colonies of creatures called sandkings, which grow to fill whatever environment they are kept in. Each colony consists of a large female called the maw, and numerous insect-like mobiles that she controls via telepathy. In addition to finding food for the maw, the mobiles also construct a sandcastle around her to protect the maw from invading colonies.
Indeed, the four colonies — white, black, red and orange — often engage in coordinated wars with one another, especially once their new owner makes them fight over food by starving them. Simon begins taking bets on the outcomes of these wars, which leave some of his friends impressed, and others disgusted. Eventually, the sandkings escape Simon’s terrarium and begin to take over his house as their hunger — and Simon’s desperation — intensifies.
First published in the August 1979 issue of the sci-fi magazine Omni, Sandkings remains the only one of Martin‘s stories to have won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. The author originally intended for Sandkings to be part of a series, but that idea never came to fruition, though the story is set in the same fictional “Thousand Worlds” universe as several of Martin‘s other works, including Nightflyers.
Sandkings was previously adapted in 1995 as a TV movie starring Beau Bridges that ultimately served as the first episode of The Outer Limits relaunch, and it was also turned into a graphic novel in 1987 by DC Comics, writer Doug Moench and artists Pat Broderick and Neal McPheeters.
Kelly is coming off of HBO‘s innovative limited series The Third Day starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris, and he’s also working on Netflix‘s Matilda movie starring Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull. Meanwhile, HBO is gearing up to start production on Martin‘s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, and the author’s short story In the Lost Lands is being adapted for the big screen by Paul W.S. Anderson, with Milla Jovovich and Dave Bautista poised to star.
As for Verbinski, he has long balanced genre fare (The Ring, A Cure for Wellness) with family fare (Mouse Hunt, Rango) and big-budget fare (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lone Ranger), so he has kind of done it all over the course of his 25-year career in features. He most recently produced the indie western The Lost Son starring Sam Worthington, Thomas Jane, Heather Graham and Machine Gun Kelly.