What do Adam Sandler, a Price is Right controversy, and cartoon versions of Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln have in common?
Answer: novelist, comic book scribe, mystery-hunter, and jack-of-all-trades Brad Meltzer.
Meltzer’s bestselling non-fiction book Heroes for My Son has been optioned by Sandler’s Happy Madison production company, while the author also has two other surprising projects in the works — one involving a movie about a shocking moment on the iconic CBS game show, and the other turning various historical figures into cute illustrations as a way to inspire kids.
Meltzer, author of thriller novels such as The Book of Lies, The Book of Fate and The Millionaires — and host of the conspiracy-chasing History Channel TV series Decoded — says he wasn’t quite sure what Sandler’s company planned to do when they picked up the film rights to Heroes for My Son.
“Here was a non-fiction [book] I collected, with Jim Henson, and Rosa Parks and Mr. Rogers in it. I did it out of pure love for my son, but how do you make a story out of that?” Meltzer says. “They found an incredibly story in that. But I can’t ruin it.”
Screenwriter David Hollander (creator of the 2001-2004 series The Guardian) has the job of turning that collection of inspiring figures into a narrative, and all Meltzer can reveal now is the plan is to make it as warmhearted as the book. “I thought, ‘Oh it’s a comedy? But no, it’s not at all,’” said Meltzer. If Sandler decides to star, it would be a chance to show off the actor’s dramatic side, which is fine with the author: “I’m still the guy who likes seeing Adam Sandler take on the serious role.”
And if it turns into a hit, Meltzer already has sequel material. His follow-up Heroes for My Daughter just debuted at #10 on The New York Times’ list of bestselling advice books.
How does The Price is Right fit in? Meltzer tells EW he is producing a film inspired by an Esquire article about an obsessive fan of the game show, who figured out a way to beat the game, but may have done too good a job. “In 38 years, The Price is Right never had a contestant guess the exact value of prizes in the Showcase Showdown. Until Terry Kniess outsmarted everyone — and changed everything,” reads the headline on the 2010 article, written by Chris Jones.
Even this seemingly straightforward story has an element of mystery, Meltzer adds. “Today no one knows if [Kniess] is the grandmaster genius or the ultimate cheater. It purely depends on whether you have faith or not,” he says.
As you can tell from Drew Carey’s understated reaction in the video above, he’s clearly dubious.
Meltzer, who is collaborating on the project with Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon, says its the story of a man who “sees patterns in everything. He sees patterns in the weather, that’s why he’s a weather man. He sees patterns in numbers, so he goes to Vegas and they kick him out. Think about it — your power in life is to see the patterns in everything? So what else would you possibly do with all that power than, of course, beat The Price is Right, right?”
Sure. That… or world peace.
Meltzer is working on that one, too.
The writer, who co-created the 2004-2005 TV series Jack & Bobby and penned DC Comics controversial Identity Crisis superhero series, is no stranger to exploring different media platforms, but ask him what else he’s working on and he has a surprising answer:
“… You heard about the clothing line?”
Meltzer has just launched the kid-friendly apparel company Ordinary People Change the World, which features cartoon versions of real-life inspiring figures such as George Washington, Muhammad Ali, Lucille Ball, and Amelia Earhart.
“While I was writing Heroes for My Daughter, I was looking at clothes for her and all I could find are princesses and fairies,” Meltzer says. “I thought, I have so many better heroes than that.”
He reached out to the necessary estates and recruited artist Chris Eliopoulos to design the cartoon version of the historical figures. “It says on the front, ‘I am Amelia Earhart’, and on the back, ‘I know no bounds,’” Meltzer says. “It’s inspiration you can wear.”
The idea for the company, which donates 10 percent of the profits to charities, developed after he initially made a shirt just for his daughter. Then his son wanted one. Then other people’s kids did too. (They also make the shirts in grown-up sizes.)
“It’s nothing I ever thought I’d be doing,” Meltzer says. “I realized this could be a way to change the dialogue about the way people talk about heroes.”