The Sci-Fi Classic Novel James Cameron Couldn’t Turn Into A Movie

By TeeJay Small | Published

For years, the classic Dan Simmons novel series The Hyperion Cantos has been hailed as an unadaptable masterpiece with a scope and world too large and complex for the big screen. The franchise has continued to stall out despite several attempts to bring the film to life by visionary filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and James Cameron. Now, with the arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, it seems as though Bradley Cooper has been inspired to make The Hyperion Cantos into a feature film, against all odds.

James Cameron And Martin Scorsese Tried To Make A Hyperion Movie

james cameron thanos

The film rights to The Hyperion Cantos novels have been hotly debated and passed around Hollywood endlessly for decades now. Martin Scorsese reportedly entered talks to helm the film with Leonardo DiCaprio as a co-producer back in the early 2000s, but the logistics of the massive, sprawling world and mind-shattering sci-fi concepts were just too much to demand from the technology of the time. This ultimately proved to be true, as James Cameron decided that creating 2009’s Avatar was a simpler undertaking than working out the details of a live-action Hyperion movie.

Bradley Cooper Is The Latest To Attempt An Adaptation

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For a point of reference, Avatar cost over $237 million to make, with James Cameron taking years to perfectly fine-tune the advancements in digital 3D technology necessary to bring his vision to life. If the mere thought of a Hyperion film was enough to scare him away, it seems clear that the source material is too much for almost any auteur filmmaker to faithfully tackle. Bradley Cooper signed a development deal with the IP in 2011 and has continued to chip away at the possibility of bringing it to life ever since.

Dune’s Success Changed Plans

In the time since Bradley Cooper agreed to helm a Hyperion Cantos movie, the project has pivoted several times. For a brief period, it looked like Cooper would develop the material as a SyFy original series, unfolding the events of the books over long-form narratives lasting for several seasons rather than trying to pack all the characters, settings, and complex interwoven plot threads into a single film. In 2021, Cooper pivoted once again, back to plans for a feature film, perhaps after being inspired by Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.

Dune Is Both An Inspiration And A Cautionary Tale

Dune serves as both an excellent example of why other filmmakers may have felt such trepidation taking on Hyperion and a terrific template for how to do the book justice. When David Lynch helmed his Dune movie in 1984, issues such as studio interference, budgetary constraints, and technological imperfection led to the critically panned film bombing. Perhaps another filmmaker with another studio could have made the film work at the time, but a number of issues were due to the technology not existing for bringing such a massive story to life in live action.

The Hyperion Cantos Is Still Popular Today

Now, with Cooper’s plans set to move full steam ahead and backing distribution by Warner Brothers, it seems as though a Hyperion film could be a real possibility for the first time in decades. Of course, the project is still a long way from its premiere, as no actors have been confirmed for the production, and there’s no way of knowing if a completed screenplay has even been delivered. For now, fans of The Hyperion Cantos will have to rely on the novel to fulfill their sci-fi fix, though that could all change in the near future.