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Hal Ashby’s long-on-ice Hawkline Monster adaptation may finally dethaw

By Christian Long
Hal Ashby

It looks like there's gonna be another attempt to make a big-screen adaptation of legendary director Hal Ashby's passion project, The Hawkline Monster.

Based on the 1974 novel The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western by Richard Brautigan, Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There) lobbied for years to make it into a feature film before his death in 1988. Now The Hollywood Reporter has word that New Regency has stepped in to help finish the job.

The studio has acquired the rights to the film, which is tied up between the estates of both Brautigan, who died in 1984, and the late director. The film will be produced by Roy Lee (It), Steven Schneider (Pet Sematary), and Andrew Trapani (The Haunting in Connecticut), so it sounds like things are off to a promising start.

The Hawkline Monster follows two ambivalent gunslingers at the dawn of the 20th century, who are hired by a woman named Magic Child to kill the monster that lives in the ice caves underneath her East Oregon home. It actually manages to get weirder from there.

Ashby initially contracted Brautigan to write the script back in 1975. During its initial development, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman, as well as Beau and Jeff Bridges, were in talks to play the gunslingers. Unfortunately, Ashby didn't like the first draft of Brautigan's screenplay, and Brautigan refused to write a second, so the project ended up in development hell.

At one point, Tim Burton tried to resurrect the project, which once again saw Nicholson as one of the gunslingers, this time alongside Clint Eastwood, but that also failed to come to fruition. Which means that, yes, on two separate occasions, Jack Nicholson was going to play a gunslinger hired to kill an ice-cave-dwelling monster and neither time it ended up happening.

There's no mention of a director for the newest iteration just yet, but based on Ashby's filmography (not to mention Burton's), it seems like it definitely calls for someone with a taste for the macabre. At least that way they could potentially avoid the same problem the last time Hollywood adapted a supernatural story about a gunslinger.

Any ideas who you think should helm The Hawkline Monster? Let us know in the comments.