Macon writer’s work being developed into movie

pramati@macon.comOctober 8, 2013 

Often, when Hollywood buys the work of a writer to turn into a motion picture, it can spend years in what’s known as “development hell” before ever seeing the light of day.

But for Macon-based writer Nathan Edmondson, it shouldn’t take nearly as long to see his graphic novel “Who is Jake Ellis?” on the big screen.

That’s because 20th Century Fox and producer Peter Chernin (“The Heat,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) announced last week that David Yates, who helmed the final four movies in the “Harry Potter” series, has been signed to direct “Who is Jake Ellis?” for the studio.

“Fox put out the word that it would make the movie, which made it easier to attract directors,” said Edmondson, 28, a native of Augusta and a Mercer University graduate. “(The producer) heard Yates was interested, so he flew to London to sit down with Yates and convince him. ... We were really eager to hear how this had gone, and my manager called him, and from that point we knew we had a deal.

“It’s the difference between finding out you’re pregnant and telling people you have a baby -- you very much want to share that news. ... We knew we had a deal internally, and we celebrated cautiously.”

Edmondson co-created “Who is Jake Ellis?” with artist Tonci Zonjic in 2011 for Image Comics. The story follows Jon Moore, an ex-CIA analyst on the run, aided by the mysterious Jake Ellis, a master of espionage only Moore can see.

Edmondson and Zonjic have nearly completed a sequel, “Where is Jake Ellis?” that continues the story. In the works are plans for future “Jake Ellis” graphic novels, which are stories of some length in comic strip format, often bound as a book.

Edmondson said he hopes the first movie is successful enough that it becomes a franchise, a la “Harry Potter” or “The “Bourne Identity” series.

“It’s a complicated process, and lightning can always strike for better or for worse,” he said. “But we are in as good a place as anybody can be in, really. We’re also further along than the trades have let on. Next, we’re going to be looking at the screenplay and casting. ... You’re always cautiously optimistic.”

Edmondson said the project is looking to attract A-list stars for the various roles, something that initially surprised him. When the producer asked him whom he envisioned in the story’s roles, he responded with lesser-known names, thinking that producers wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money on certain actors.

“I wanted this to be a financial success and he said, ‘I don’t like your ideas,’ and he told me his ideas, which were the biggest A-list actors you could ever imagine,” Edmondson said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but I know they’re going after much bigger fish than I could ever imagine. I was very pleased with the names. ... We’ll see.

“A lot of people want to work with a franchise, a lot of people want to work with David Yates, a lot of actors want to work with Chernin because he’s an empire builder. These are the kind of roles that actors are going to be attracted to. We’ll see how it ends up, but I’m very optimistic about casting when that news comes out.”

While Edmondson has written screenplays before, he’s not going to be writing the script for “Jake Ellis.” He said Yates has a specific writer he wants to work with on the project.

“At this point, I’m turning it over to another artist,” he said. “They’re going to make it their work of art, their thing, and I’m very happy to take a back seat on this thing.”

Edmondson, who spoke at last weekend’s Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, is busy with other projects besides “Jake Ellis.”

Later this week, Marvel Comics is scheduled to announce that Edmondson will work on two new titles for the company featuring two famed characters. Previously, Edmondson worked on Marvel’s “Ultimate Iron Man” and “Ultimate X-Men” titles.

He moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating from Mercer to work for a nonprofit agency and met his wife, Gretchen, there. The couple moved back to Macon, where Edmondson started to write. His first graphic novel, “Olympus,” was published by Image Comics in 2009 and later optioned by Hollywood. That project hasn’t gone forward, though.

Edmondson said he hopes the attention “Jake Ellis” is gaining will help lend momentum to “Olympus.” Two of his other books, “The Activity” and “Dancer,” also are being developed into screenplays.

Edmondson also is writing the graphic novel “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Echoes,” linked to the “Splinter Cell” video game series.

Writers hoping to break into any part of the film or publishing industries, he said, should “read as much as you can and write as much as you can.

“The one thing successful writers have in common is that they never stop trying.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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