Monjo pens HBO pilot, Farscape movie
By Don Groves
Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage is in talks to star in the pilot for an HBO series scripted by Sydney-based Justin Monjo and produced by Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films.
The prolific Monjo is also writing the screenplay for Farscape, a movie spin-off of the sci-fi series that ran on the Nine Network and the Sci-Fi Channel in the US, for Jim Henson Productions, to be directed by Brian Henson.
Dinklage would play a dwarf detective in The Beasts of Valhalla, based on a series of novels by the late George C. Chesbro. Monjo read the books years ago but could not think of an actor who was right for the role of the sleuth named Mongo until he saw Dinklage in Game of Thrones.
“It’s a grounded sci-fi series,” says Monjo, who flies to New York next month to discuss the project with Dinklage, with whom he has corresponded. “HBO and Red Hour think he’s the perfect guy for the part and are very excited about the project.” The intention would be to shoot the one-hour series in 2016 after Dinklage finishes Game of Thrones.
Monjo was one of the writers on Farscape, which ran from 1998-2002, followed by the 2004 miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, co-produced by Jim Henson Productions and RHI Entertainment.
In the finale, the protagonists, American astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) and peacekeeper Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) got married and had a baby. In the movie, it’s revealed the boy had special powers which made him the target of the villainous aliens so his parents hide him on Earth.
The plot follows the kid at the age of 19 when his whereabouts have been discovered and he rejoins his parents on their spaceship. Monjo says the film would be shot in Australia.
Born in New York, he came to Australia 25 years ago on a grant to study acting at NIDA. “I did a lot of acting but most of the time they were boring jobs,” he says.
He’s one of the writers on The Code, Playmaker Media’s thriller about a murder in the Outback which thrusts two brothers into an international political conspiracy, for ABC1.
His credits include INXS: Never Tear Us Apart (co-written with Dave Warner), two segments of Tim Winton’s The Turning, Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, Serangoon Road, Rush and the plays Romeo is Bleeding, That Eye, The Sky and Cloudstreet, adapted from Tim Winton’s novel, co-written with Nick Enright.
He has learned to be patient with screenplays, noting that some have been in development for years. Among his projects are an adaptation of Winton’s Dirt Music, which Phil Noyce was attached to direct; Cane, a big-budget family animated film for Animal Logic and executive producer Robert Luketic; Jungle, adapted from Yossi Ghinsberg’s book about being lost in the Amazon for producer Dana Lustig; and Strange Object, a horror film being developed with Screen West’s assistance.
“TV is so much saner (than film) because they actually make things,” he says.