“People have been trying to make a feature film of (my novel) Outlander for the last 20 years. I said to (executive producer) Ron Moore that I have seen scripts that made me turn white and burst into flames,” said author Diana Gabaldon about her 1991 book which tells the romantic story of a 1945 combat nurse Claire Randall, who is time warped back to 1743 and marries a dashing Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser.
When Battlestar Galactica was winding down, EP Moore was discussing with wife Terry and his producing partner Maril Davis what their next project would be, and the two brought Outlander to his attention over dinner.
“They got all excited, but I kept drinking and eating. I was taken with it ultimately. It was a page turner and I wanted to see what happened next. I liked the character of Claire and its attention to history. I saw this novel as a TV series.”
Moore tracked down the Outlander rights to producer Jim Kohlberg (also an EP on the Starz series), who saw the project as a feature film. Year after year, Moore would follow-up with Kohlberg, but the project didn’t move forward. Ultimately, Kohlberg concurred with Moore that the novel should be adapted into a TV series. Moore took it to Sony, after which he pitched it to Starz.
The EP first believed that the role of Jamie would be hard to cast, but it was actually the role of Claire which turned into “the search for the great Scarlett O’Hara” said Moore. “We saw a lot of great actresses over and over again. I overestimated how complex the role was. The most prominent quality is her intelligence. She’s very capable and Season 1 rests on her shoulders,” he added. Finally, Caitriona Balfe’s tape came in. Meanwhile, Sam Heughan was one of the first actors to walk into the room for Moore.
Over the years, Gabaldon would hear such suggestions as Liam Neeson for the role of Jamie and even Sean Connery. The author didn’t like these suggestions, because the actors were too old for the part.
Whether Outlander, largely a chick novel, will play to men, Moore said, “I don’t think of it as a man or woman’s show. I just think it’s a ripping good yarn. There was a similar perception in the marketplace with Battlestar Galactica, that it skewed too male, but when women sampled it, they fell in love with it. I think men can fall in love with this story.”
Gabaldon is friends with Game Of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. When she told him about Outlander moving forward, Martin asked “How many episodes are you getting?” to which Gabaldon answered “16”.
“He then said, ‘What?! They only gave me 10!'” said Gabaldon.