The Netflix film “The School for Good and Evil,” directed by Paul Feig, had a glitzy Los Angeles premiere on Oct. 18 and began streaming worldwide the following day. It follows best friends Sophie and Agatha who find themselves on opposing sides of a modern fairy tale when they’re swept away into an enchanted school where young heroes and villains are trained to protect the balance of good and evil.
The cast includes Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Flatters, Kit Young, Peter Serafinowicz, Rob Delaney, Mark Heap, Patti LuPone and Rachel Bloom, with Kerry Washington and Charlize Theron.
“You never really believe it’s going to come to life in that way. As a writer, your canvas is people’s imaginations and the idea of a movie always felt like a faraway fantasy. So when it actually happens, it feels so surreal. It feels like you’re living in a dream a little bit,” Chainani told Variety. “Especially with this cast and this director to have this scale of a movie – they don’t make movies like this anymore, that are original fantasies, so it’s just a wild dream come true.”
The first book in the series was published in 2013. The film was in development for nine years, with Chainani himself working on a few drafts of the script. During that time, more books in the series were published in more than 30 languages and the franchise developed a global fan following. The film project eventually found a home with Netflix and Feig came on board. Chainani says that the conversations between him and Feig revolved around what the fans of the books would like to see and how to make it appeal to a new audience.
“It was a collaboration between Paul and I where I give him total freedom to make the movie he wants, but at the same time, we’re in dialogue to make sure that the fans of the book will also like it,” said Chainani. The author adds that because of the international cast and the universal themes, the film has the potential to be popular around the world.
“What’s so original about this movie is that the sets are all there. It’s not like a Marvel movie, or these other kinds of CGI films where everything is done on a green screen,” said Chainani, adding that “The School for Good and Evil” feels like a throwback to the fantasy movies he grew up with like “The NeverEnding Story,” “The Princess Bride” and “Labyrinth.” “When I stepped on set, to see the school built to life, it really felt like the way that I think audiences are going to feel when they watch it, that fairy tales had been made real in a completely new and original way.”
There are six books in the series and two prequels. “The hope is to make more [movies], it just depends on the audience,” says Chainani. “We could make all six movies, so it just depends on how it how it does, ultimately.”
There is also a graphic novel due in 2024 and with that the book world of “The School for Good and Evil” comes to a close. “That, to me is a big universe that can live forever, so I’m happy to move on to a whole new world and create something different,” said Chainani.
In 2021, Chainani published another bestseller “Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales.” As revealed by Variety, Sony’s literary-driven speciality film unit 3000 Pictures closed a deal for the rights to turn it into a limited series.
“I’m working on the pilot script now. And the hope is that we’ll have a home for it by early next year, and that’ll be the next big project,” said Chainani. “But that’s a TV series so it’ll have a different life and shape to it. But the hope is that we’ll be on our way sometime next year with it.”
Chainani, who is of Indian origin, graduated from Harvard and subsequently studied film at Columbia. He directed the acclaimed shorts “Davy and Stu” (2006) and “Kali Ma” (2007). In 2011, Bollywood came calling in the shape of leading Indian studio Yash Raj Films. Studio head Aditya Chopra, whose “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” Chainani is a big fan of (“I must have seen it 100 times”), greenlit Chainani’s script “Love Marriage” as the studio’s first English-language film and pre-production began in London, with the writer also set to direct.
“They had a year where they realized that the timing wasn’t right to do an English-language movie, so we had to put it on hold. And that’s when I realized that I didn’t want my career so controlled by outside forces, and I had come up with the idea for ‘The School for Good and Evil’ as a movie and I thought, ‘let me try it as a book,’ because then I have a little bit more control,” said Chainani. “Had I gone through and directed that film for Yash Raj, then the books never would have happened.”
“Love Marriage” remains on hold but Chainani hopes to direct an episode of “Beasts and Beauty.”