Fans of canonical children’s book The Giver were torn when word broke last year that Jeff Bridges’ big screen adaptation of the novel was finally moving forward in the development process. On one hand, Bridges’ twinkly eyes and grizzled wisdom make him a natural fit for the titular role; on the other, The Giver‘s unique, simple charms may not translate well to celluloid. But one year later, those who felt ambivalent may no longer have to worry that Hollywood will ruin their favorite story — Giver author Lois Lowry doubts that the long-incubating film will ever get made at all.
“The film rights have been out there for 15 years now,” Lowry tells EW. “And every now and then, some big studio gets involved, and some major player gets involved. And then time passes, and it all collapses again,” she says with a laugh. “So it’s out there, and I should be feeling excited, as if now is the time it’s actually going to be made. But this has happened so often before that I’ve become kind of sanguine about it.”
So why does Lowry think that the book has languished in development longer than its protagonist, 12-year-old Jonas, has been alive? Well, “it’s a book with not a lot of action. And it’s largely introspective.” This sets it apart from other YA books-turned-blockbusters like The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series, which are both much longer and more incident-filled than Lowry’s novel. She says that she’s read four different Giver screenplays over the years, each of which has “tried to inject action and drama and suspense — and some have done it more successfully than others.” Those who currently hold the movie’s rights were using Lowry’s favorite of the four screenplays — “but now I’ve heard them talking about finding a new screenwriter, so who knows. I have no idea. And I’m not involved in it.”
One constant throughout The Giver‘s long road to the multiplex has been Oscar winner Bridges, who originally bought the rights and envisioned the movie as a vehicle for his father Lloyd. The elder Bridges died in 1998; 14 years later, his son has decided he’d like to play the role of the Giver himself. Lowry approves of this casting: “When I think about a potential movie, he’s the one I see in it because he’s the one who legally has the right to play that role now. There are other actors that I could see there, but I purposefully put them out of my mind because that overcomplicates it.”
Lowry does, however, have a suggestion for how Bridges and his team could find the right kid to play Jonas. “There have been various periods of time when young actors’ names have been bandied about, and now some of them have grown up and become adults,” she laughs. “But I think — not that they’ve ever asked me — I think what they should do is hold a national search. Because kids across the country know the book, and they would be very excited by that. And that’s how they could find the right boy for the part. But who knows what they have in mind.” Hey — if it worked for Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, it could work for The Giver.