ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Simon Toyne is the bestselling author of the Sanctus Trilogy and the Solomon Creed series. He worked in British television for twenty years. As a writer, director and producer he's worked on several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. He lives in England with his wife and family. THE SEARCHER was recently optioned by Academy Award-winner Leonardo DiCaprio.
So this is how it happened.
Agent: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio wants to option The Searcher.’
Me: ‘You’re kidding.’
Agent: ’I am so not kidding.’
Me: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio?’
Me: (long pause)
Agent: ’He’s an actor.’
Me: ‘I know who he is.’
This is, more or less, what happened to me a couple of months ago.
I was standing in my living room, staring out of the window at the garden and trying to reconcile the utter domestic ordinariness of my situation with the words I was hearing. I felt sure my agent was about to crack up and say ‘only kidding!’, only my agent doesn’t do stuff like that, she’s very, very professional and not generally prone to Jackass style japery - so it had to be real. Except it couldn’t be. I was born in Cleethorpes, a tiny little nowhere town on the North East coast of England. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t option books written by people from Cleethorpes. It just doesn’t happen.
After that initial, surreal phone-call it all went quiet for several loooong months while a contract was drawn up, argued over, re-drawn, argued over again and eventually signed. In all that time I carried the news around like a hot coal, desperate to show it to people, blow on it and say ‘look how it glows’ but instead I had to hold it tight in my hand, feeling the keen burn of it while pretending I wasn’t holding anything at all.
This became particularly frustrating in the run up to publication, exactly the time you want to shine the brightest light you can at your book and say ‘look at this one, look at mine, someone really famous thinks it’s good, you need to buy this book and read it before Hollywood ruins it,’ but I couldn’t. I tried to tell myself that it wouldn’t happen, that something would go wrong, and that Hollywood does indeed ruin most books anyway so I was better off out of it. I even started working on an anecdote of how Leonardo DiCaprio ‘nearly’ optioned Solomon Creed, wondering if I could actually get a bit of mileage out of that instead, trying to phrase it in such a way that it didn’t end up sounding like my book had been considered and then ultimately rejected. But I never did quite get the wording right in my head.
But now the deal is done, or as done as it ever can be in Hollywood terms, and I can finally open my hand and show you the red hot thing I’ve been carrying around all this time. The pragmatic side of me still knows that an option is just an option, and that Leonardo DiCaprio may change his mind, and that the option will lapse in a year’s time anyway (and that Hollywood tends to ruin books anyway, did I mention that already?). But that same voice is also whispering to me another truth now, and that is that books written by people from Cleethorpes don’t get optioned by A-list Hollywood superstars. Except, as it turns out, they do. And Leo just, finally, won the Oscar. So who knows. Stranger things have already happened.
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