Universal Cable productions is developing a series based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Slaughterhouse-Five.” The adaptation will be written and executive produced by “Happy!” showrunner Patrick Macmanus, who has signed an overall deal with the studio.
Published in 1969, “Slaughterhouse-Five” is considered a satirical classic. Drawing from science fiction and Vonnegut’s own experiences in World War II, the book tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, who as a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army survives the firebombing of Dresden. The narrative unfolds in a disjointed, non-linear fashion as Pilgrim becomes “unstuck” in time and the novel bounces from one point to another in his life. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is a frequent presence on the American Library Association’s list of “most frequently challenged books” due to repeated efforts to have it removed from schools.
Gale Anne Hurd of Valhalla Entertainment, Jon Brown of Ensemble Entertainment, and Bradley Yonover of Brand Y Media will also executive produce the UCP adaptation
“It’s obviously a favorite book for many of us,” Elise Henderson, senior vice president of development for UCP, said, adding that studio development chief Dawn Olmstead “has been tracking it for many years,” waiting for rights to the book to free up from a previous feature deal.
“As soon as they did, we jumped in,” Henderson said. “At that point, we needed a writer, and we had just been introduced to Patrick for ‘Happy!’ Having read his material, we knew that he has the ability to do the emotional character depth that we need but also the ability to figure out a complex story and how to crack it, and capture the humor and the tone.”
Previously co-showrunner on Netflix’s “Marco Polo,” Macmanus is executive producer on “Happy!” UCP’s series adaptation of writer Grant Morrison’s comic book of the same name, set to premiere Wednesday night on Syfy.
Macmanus said that he envisions the “Slaughterhouse-Five” series as one that expands on the world of the novel while staying true to Vonnegut’s tone and core themes.
“There are no lines that Vonnegut ever throws away,” he said. “But there are certain lines within the book that allude to a much larger world. I’m not just talking about going off into outer space. He alludes to the Balkanization of the United States and to the hydrogen bombing of the United States. I feel like today’s TV is the only way to tell this story. Even though it’s only approximately 275 pages, I think that it’s ripe to be expanded upon exponentially.”
No network home has been yet set for “Slaughterhouse-Five.” UCP expects to shop the project within the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment group as well as to outside networks and premium services.
With his overall deal, Macmanus — represented by UTA and the Cartel— joins a growing stable of writers based at UCP, including Sam Esmail, John Carpenter, and Nick Antosca.
“We are really excited to have Patrick in an overall deal,” Henderson said. “It’s our job to find interesting, challenging, fun television shows, and we feel like Patrick is one of those people who is going to help us do that.”