Tim O’Brien’s classic Vietnam War novel “The Things They Carried” is being adapted for the big screen and will tout a star-studded cast that includes Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant”), Tye Sheridan (“Ready Player One,” “Mud”), Stephan James (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Bill Skarsgard (“It,” “The Devil All the Time”), Ashton Sanders (“Moonlight”) and Pete Davidson (“The King of Staten Island”), among others.
Published in 1990, O’Brien’s historical fiction comprises a collection of short stories based on the author’s frontline experience in Vietnam as a member of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division. Upon its release “The Things They Carried” drew critical acclaim as one of the preeminent works on the controversial conflict. The immense praise continued when the novel was named a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize fiction category.
Tom Hardy and Dean Baker’s production company, which is spearheading the effort, characterized O’Brien’s novel as "his seminal masterwork — a raw, unflinching, and emotionally truthful literary experience filtered through a kaleidoscope of memory that’s impossible not to be profoundly moved by,” according to a statement provided to Deadline.
“We are all deeply passionate about and honored to have the good fortune of working alongside Tim in bringing his vital classic to screen — and together with our incredible cast, Rupert, Scott, and David — we look forward to creating what we feel will be an important film.”
Handling screenwriting adaptation duties is Scott B. Smith, whose was nominated for an Oscar for his writing on Sam Raimi’s 1998 film “A Simple Plan.”
The lone source of apprehension with the upcoming project may reside with the film’s director Rupert Sanders, whose most noteworthy credits include “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Ghost in the Shell,” films slammed by critics and movie goers alike. Any misgivings may be diminished, however, by the knowledge that O’Brien will maintain input during the adaptation process.
O’Brien has long been praised for his apolitical approach to dissecting the war in Vietnam. This unique perspective, illustrated through intricate characters in “The Things They Carried,” has led to novel’s meticulous analysis and commendation by audiences that range from middle and high school students to military historians and combat veterans. By the book’s 20th anniversary in 2010, it had surpassed 2 million copies sold.
Echoing the sentiment of Hardy and Baker, the film’s co-producer David Zander called O’Brien’s book "a timeless tale about the human heart. It’s about fear and courage and friendship. It’s about growing up, about holding oneself together in the face of terrible events … or not holding oneself together at all. It’s about death. And how to live on in the aftermath of death. It’s about the weight of the things we all carry.
“[It] has attained its stature precisely because it’s about so much more than the war — in the same way that ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is about so much more than life in the Jim Crow South, or ‘The Great Gatsby’ is about so much more than the Roaring ’20s,” Zander continued. "The handful of books that become rites of passage in the American educational system are chosen because they speak to universal questions, and “The Things They Carried” stands shoulder to shoulder with them.”
Filming is expected to kick off in early 2021, pending delays resulting from COVID-19. The scheduled release date is yet to be determined.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.