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Gore Verbinski says he's helming George R.R. Martin's critter-colony novelette, Sandkings, for Netflix

By Josh Grossberg
Gore Verbinski

After the phenomenon that was HBO's Game of Thrones, yet another George R.R. Martin story is headed for the big screen.

Pirates of the Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski says he's set to direct a big screen version of the famed author's 1979 sci-fi horror novelette, Sandkings, for Netflix. While Dennis Kelly, the mastermind behind the hit 2014 U.K. sci-fi conspiracy series Utopia (not to be confused with the just-canceled Amazon series upon which it's based), will adapt the script.

The director dropped the news himself in an interview with Collider, when asked about what films he's currently got in the pipeline.

"One of the screenplays is based on a George R.R. Martin short story called Sandkings, which is this brilliant little twisted short story that I love," said Verbinski. "And I'm working with a great writer, Dennis Kelly, who wrote the original [Utopia]... The British original series is brilliant. And Dennis is doing the adaptation, so I'm kind of excited about that."

While the filmmaker declined to reveal any more details, Collider reports the project is being produced for the streamer by Digital Riot Media, the company behind the Happy Death Day series, and its founder John Baldecchi, who collaborated with Verbinski on the 2001 action comedy, The Mexican.

SYFY WIRE has reached out to Netflix for confirmation. 

First published in 1979 in Omni magazine, Sandkings is a sci-fi horror tale in the vein of Frankenstein and, dare we say, Gremlins. It won Martin both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and takes place in Martin's fictional "Thousand Worlds" universe –– specifically the planet Baldur –– and follows Simon Kress, a wealthy, brutish playboy who collects dangerous, exotic animals.

When most of his pets die while he's on a business trip, Simon stumbles on a mysterious new establishment called Wo & Shade, where he purchases a terrarium containing four colonies of alien creatures called Sandkings. The hungry critters include a telepathic female called a Maw and insect-like mobiles who hunt and gather the food as well as build castles and fight coordinated wars and battles among themselves.

Simon is assured by Wo & Shade's owner, Jala Wo, that not only will his new pets grow to fill whatever environment they are kept in, but that they're easy to maintain and will digest anything. But woe to the person who lets the colonies get out of his control, which is exactly what happens to Simon when the Sandkings escape their container. Not only do they grow bigger and eat more than their fill, but the Maw becomes more intelligent, eventually gaining sentience, with deadly consequences, naturally.

Verbinski, of course, is known for such genre flicks as The Ring, as well as family adventure fare like Mousehunt, Rango, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and The Lone Ranger.

No word when Sandkings will premiere on Netflix. But that's not the only Martin book on the way to the small screen.

Aside from HBO's highly anticipated GOT prequel series, House of the Dragon, the network is also developing Tales of Dunk and Egg, a series based on the scribe's Don Quixote-esque novellas.

Meanwhile, Verbinski's fellow director Paul W.S. Anderson (Monster Hunter, Resident Evil) is working on a movie based on Martin's short story, "In the Lost Lands," that will star Anderson's go-to collaborator and real-life wife, Milla Jovovich.