Hollywood no longer an "original idea town"

Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:35pm EST
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By Martin A. Grove

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - One of the myths about moviemaking is that the movie gods prize originality and are wide open to writers with something new to pitch.

"It used to be an original idea town. It's now all about underlying rights," Craig Titley observed when he talked about his screenplay for 20th Century Fox's "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief."

"Percy," based on the first book in a series by Rick Riordan, is directed by Chris Columbus ("Harry Potter" 1 and 2). The contemporary fantasy-adventure, opening February 12, is rooted in Greek mythology.

Percy, who learns he's the son of Poseidon, discovers the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters are alive and well and walking among us. Titley, who has a Ph.D. in mythology, was able to put his academic training to good use here.

But the slowdown in selling originals doesn't have him complaining. "I've always pretty much been a gun for hire doing assignments and adaptations so business is booming from where I'm sitting."

For instance, he wrote the screen stories for adaptations like "Cheaper by the Dozen," based on a novel, and "Scooby-Doo," based on Hanna-Barbera's animated TV series. Nonetheless, he's a fan of originals such as "The Hangover," "District 9" and "Up," which he notes were among 2009's top hits.

"It's like the powers-that-be have determined they need underlying graphic novels or games, but certainly I don't think audiences have said that that's what they want," he said. "They want good movies, as always."

That's what Titley hopes he has with both "Percy," whose cast includes Logan Lerman, Uma Thurman and Pierce Brosnan, and with the remake of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" that he and producer Sam Raimi are developing. New Line was planning to make the effects-driven underwater picture before it was downsized by its Time Warner parent.   Continued...

<p>A view of the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, California December 13, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>