Barry Eisler

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Keanu Reeves John Rain Television Series

Okay, a little off the beaten track from my usual focus on politics and publishing, but I’m pretty excited about Keanu Reeves being attached to play John Rain, so I wanted to mention it here. Plus I’ve been getting a lot of questions and feedback via Facebook and Twitter, and it seemed like a good idea to respond in one place. So…

There’s a ton no one yet knows because the project is still in the relatively early stages of development. I don’t know what network would/will buy the series; I don’t know anything about casting (so I can’t help yet with all those Dox and Delilah questions! ;) ); I don’t know what countries it would show in. All I really know at this point is that Keanu is attached, which is obviously huge in general and thrilling for me personally, and that good people are behind the project and are trying to move it forward. As far as I know, pretty much everything else is still up in the air.

Also, I don’t know whether or how I’ll be involved. I’ve met and had a few discussions with Keanu and the business people (Jaysus, I almost said business “folks,” but Obama has ruined that word as effectively as Hannibal Lecter killed “fava beans”), and I’ve made clear that I’m prepared to help with the project anyway I reasonably can. If they think my involvement will be useful, I’m sure I’ll be involved. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to making popcorn and enjoying the show like everyone else. Either way, I’ll be happy.

Okay, one thing I’m pretty sure of: with 87Eleven involved, the action should be awesome. What these guys do on-screen is just insane.

Most of the feedback I’ve received so far has been of the, “Holy shit, Keanu as Rain… awesome!” variety, but there’s been some hesitation, too, mostly along the lines of, “But Keanu isn’t half Japanese,” or “But Keanu is younger than Rain.” So a few thoughts on adapting a novel for the television or film:

In general, it’s important to remember that not only can you make certain changes when adapting a novel for the screen, but you should. The novel isn’t a story any more than TV is a story. Rather, each is a vehicle for telling a story, and the trick when you’re adapting is to distill out the essence of the story as configured for the novel and reconfigure it so retains its emotional and dramatic impact in the new vehicle. If you’re interested, here are a few more thoughts on this topic I wrote in an essay a few years back.

More specifically, in the books, Rain was born in 1952, making him about twelve years older than Keanu. But the first book came out in 2002, when Rain was fifty—roughly the same age Keanu is today (coincidence? I think not!). So change the Vietnam backstory (a history of violence is essential to the character, but a particular conflict is not), and, presto, we have Rain at the right age.

In the books, Rain is half Japanese, half Caucasian-American, but looks mostly Japanese (in part because of a little long-ago plastic surgery around the eyes, intended to help him blend in Tokyo). Certainly there’s some Asian heritage in Keanu’s features, but he’s not going to pass for Japanese the way the Rain of the novels does. But that’s okay: what’s vital to the character, IMO, is his sense of dislocation, his alienation, his longing to belong coupled with his inability to do so. In the books, I can convey this through (among other things) Rain’s thoughts. For the screen, I think it’s actually an advantage to be able to convey it in part through Rain’s appearance.

I guess the overall question is, what is essential to the character, and what is a variable? With regard to any specific character, reasonable people will probably differ. I remember some people freaking out online when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond because “Bond is not blond!” Whereas personally, I can’t think of something less essential to Bond than the color of his hair. And there was a lot of spirited debate over whether Tom Cruise could play a character as physically massive as Jack Reacher. Reacher’s creator, Lee Child, thought yes (“Reacher’s size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way”); not everyone agreed. Personally, I think Reacher’s size, though certainly central to the character in the books, is more of a variable than an essential quality (imagine by comparison trying to remove Reacher’s adeptness with violence or investigative excellence—if you did, you would destroy the character). Overall, I think the question to ask is, “If we change this quality, do we still have the character?” If the answer is yes, the quality isn’t, by definition, essential. If the answer is no, it is.

Anyway, with regard to Rain, I don’t think the character’s age, face, or specific military background is at all essential, but that’s just my opinion and isn’t really something that’s susceptible to proof. I guess we should just let Keanu settle the argument by being an awesome John Rain… :)

Last thought: I’ve seen some tweets that say something along the lines of, “Keanu Reeves… could there be better validation for indie publishing?”

Maybe that question is meant rhetorically, but I think the answer is… Yes, there could be, and there is. Here’s why.

First, I’m not an ideal example of indie success. I started off in the legacy world, and now do a mix of Amazon- and self-publishing. In fact, the first six books that will form the basis for the series were all published initially by Penguin Putnam before I got my rights back and self-published them; and the seventh and eighth books that will form the basis for the series are published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer. So probably a better example of indie books getting a big-time film/TV option would be Hugh Howey’s Wool, optioned by Ridley and Tony Scott.

More importantly, for anyone who’s wondering whether indie is a viable means of publishing, I think a better metric than “Is Hollywood interested?” is “How many authors are making how much money and achieving how much happiness through indie publishing?” After all, a movie or TV show is about the rarest and luckiest thing that can happen to an author. Making a living doing what you love is a much more manageable and achievable goal. For more, I recommend the series of posts on “Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs” at The Passive Voice, along with the groundbreaking analysis of how much money is being made through indie publishing over at AuthorEarnings.

Hmm, I guess I couldn’t do this post without at least a couple political or publishing asides… :)

So that’s the latest. I’ll have updates as I learn more. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed… this should be a lot of fun and so far I think we have all the elements of a great television series!
Bookmark and Share


OpenID said...

I am really looking forward to this series, and cannot imagine a better actor for the role of Rain than Reeves. (Well, I probably could, but nothing comes to mind right now)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger John McGlinn said...

Nope! If Reeves can be John Rain, you could be John Rain. As far as Tom Cruise being Jack Reacher, it doesn't work. I still see him jumpin on Oprah's couch and to even imagine him cleaning up a bar without a broom is a huge stretch.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Kinney said...

Lee Child spoke at a local library and obviously the question came up about Tom Cruise. He said, "The first question for an author is 'Do you want to see your story on the screen?' If the answer is yes, then you have to realize that there are a lot of business factors at play to make that happen. You will someone else's vision of your story, not necessarily yours. And by the way, 'someone else's vision of your story' is what happens every time someone picks up one of your books"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 1:49:00 PM  
Blogger IRTBrian said...

Keanu is terrible as a performing martial artist. I do not know if he could do John Rain justice in the physical sense but I hope I am wrong!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 3:45:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Keanu has the necessary otherness in attitude and looks to pull off the role. I'm also sure the fight choreographers can make him look good like they did in the "Matrix" series. I wouldn't go polluting your case by citing the Lee Childs/Reacher/Cruise travesty, though. I was a huge Reacher fan, but I'll never forgive Childs for disrespecting his iconic character--and by extension all his fans. Childs can rationalize the choice all he likes, but he and Cruise ruined any potential for the series.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 5:51:00 PM  
Blogger Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thrilled for you, Barry! I always saw Keanu as Rain (filmically speaking) - it's the only choice Hollywood would ever have made and personally, I love him. He has a spiritual quality that always comes through. Hoping for all the best things!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 1:27:00 AM  
Blogger devexpert said...

Yes! Keanu as Rain is great casting, maybe perfect cast.

Cruise as Reacher, no, horrible. Does not fit at all.

I am huge fan of your Rain series and have read every single book and can totally see Keanu as Rain. It just fits. Can't wait to watch this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 7:38:00 PM  
Blogger Pat Mullan said...

Barry, that's great casting. I think that Keanu will be perfect as Rain. With a little Chinese blood - and don't forget his Irish blood :) - has to be a hit. Cheers, Pat.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Claire Chilton said...

This is so exciting! Congratulations, I can't wait to see the show. I love Keanu in everything. It'll be absolutely amazing. I hope you let us know when the show comes out.

One question, did you swoon a little when you met Keanu? I would have lol.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 2:40:00 PM  
Blogger editor said...


Jim Cornelius

Friday, August 22, 2014 1:35:00 PM  
Blogger D.G. said...

This is very exciting. I don't think that Keanu is an amazing actor but I think he could pull off Rain. Looking forward to see who picks up the series and seeing it on TV.

Don't agree with LC about Reacher though. Tom Cruise was horrible casting.

Saturday, August 23, 2014 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger David Tindell said...

I thought Reeves was pretty good in "47 Ronin," so I'm willing to give him a look as Rain. Whether he can play a convincing judoka is going to be the question.

Thursday, August 28, 2014 7:40:00 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Yeah! SO excited. I think Keeanu's MA skills and exotic looks (although Hawaiian, not Japanese) will work to his advantage. By nature, he's a pretty introverted guy so it will be easy for him to play. Hope they choose someone great for Dox. I vote for Brian Bosworth!!

Monday, September 08, 2014 1:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Carson said...

This is good news and I hope it works out.

Sunday, October 19, 2014 7:39:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas Watson said...

After John Wick, it's John Rain.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014 8:39:00 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

Hi there! I have a quick question is this series going to be titled Rain or has that not been determined yet?

Thursday, November 06, 2014 4:17:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

Thanks for all the kind thoughts everyone! Title still to be determined as far as I know...

Friday, November 07, 2014 8:29:00 AM  
Blogger Marsha said...

I think Keanu will be a GREAT John Rain!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger Lanny Roses said...

anxious...;) Eisler, i.luv.u

Thursday, April 09, 2015 1:47:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So, fwiw, I woke up with a weird epiphany this morning, out of the blue, the Christopher Pratt would be the perfect Dox. Do with it what you will.

Friday, August 07, 2015 7:56:00 PM  
Blogger L Smxxx said...

Hey, Love it that Keanu will be John - perfect! However, it sounds as though you, Barry, have virtually no control over the production; hope the storyline will not be TOTALLY mangled, or IGNORED like the Bourne series -> NOTHING like the novels. The Rain novels are excellent; Excellent writing STYLE*, plots & characters, RELEVANT details. (*I've not encountered any similar except for Vince Flynn)PS: note to Barry-pls take care if you continue the Rain series by adhering to your same STYLE, pace, plots, etc. (and the change of titles of this series is a "cheap" move, btw)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016 8:11:00 AM  
Blogger Carol Nathan said...

Any updates on this??

Monday, April 18, 2016 6:53:00 AM  
Blogger REblog said...

Love this idea. I think Bailey Chase could play a great Dox. Can't wait for this series. And Rain had surgery to look more Japanese - perhaps he did that to make himself sort of "universal" thus blending in everywhere when he wants to.

p.s. After having seen John Wick, didn't think about it again until we started reading the Eisler John Rain series, then it immediately occurred to me that Keanu could play him. Would be far, far more interesting and multi-dimensional than the Wick series.

Friday, March 10, 2017 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

Thanks Reblog, and agreed, I've thought Keanu would make a great Rain since the first book was published all the way back in 2002. But it looks like the project is moribund, and I expect to get the rights back this summer, after which we'll see. So the next you'll see of John Rain will be in Zero Sum, the new Rain novel out June 27... :)

Friday, March 10, 2017 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

And Carol, apologies--it looks like I missed your comment from way back in April. See my comment above for the latest.

Friday, March 10, 2017 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger c white said...

Hi Barry

I think Keanu would be a great pick also Daniel WU from "into the Badlands may work also. I also think Netflix would be a great vehicle for the series
The Daredevil fight choreographer would be a major plus. My 2 cents.

Thursday, July 06, 2017 10:09:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home