Put on your sunbonnets and start looking for snipes! Sony Pictures is planning a big screen version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic children’s book “Little House on the Prairie.” There was, of course, a long-running TV series on NBC (1974-1983), based on the “Little House” books by Wilder.
Well, sort of–at first they included real incidents from the books about Wilder’s family and their lives in the Midwest in the 1800s, but then they spun off into all kinds of crazy directions. Producer, director, and star Michael Landon was mostly interested in using the setting and the characters to make a show the whole family could watch, and teach them a lesson or two as well.
That’s not as bad as it sounds. I watched the reruns all the time when I was a kid and while the show certainly could be sentimental and tearjerking (especially for Landon, who was a champion cryer, but also always willing to spend a part of an episode shirtless to show that you needed muscle to make it on the prairie), it also had a lot of humor and very memorable characters. And no one could cast and work with kid actors like Landon. That may be the toughest part to top, now when Hollywood is so scared of putting anyone who isn’t perfect looking and shiny and polished and pretty onscreen.
The feature version will be written by Abi Morgan, who wrote “The Iron Lady” and “Shame.” Well, I guess there will be no lack of naked Pa in this one! David Gordon Green is set to direct–he did make some sweet, outdoorsy movies in “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls” before he became a stoner comedy auteur with “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness.”
There’s nothing wrong with doing a feature version of the book, but it will be a tall order for people to try to take the roles that many people, through years of reruns and DVDs, so closely associate with actors like Landon, Melissa Gilbert, and Melissa Sue Anderson. And I shudder for the poor girl who will try to take on the iconic role of Nellie Oleson, as immortalized on TV by Alison Arngrim.