EXCLUSIVE: Charlie Kaufman has been signed to do a page one rewrite of I.Q. 83, an adaptation of Arthur Herzog’s classic 1978 science fiction novel that Paramount is now developing as a star vehicle for Steve Carell. Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar is producing with Walter Parkes. The plan is for Carell to play Dr. James Healey, who led a group of scientists that conducted DNA experiments that unleashed an airborne virus that ravages the population. The affliction isn’t fatal but pretty bad; it progressively lowers the IQ of the afflicted, more effectively than a marathon of the Kardashians’ reality show. It becomes a race against time as the scientist struggles for a cure, even as he feels himself growing dumber. He watches crowds regressing into animal packs and sees the president of the United States try to comfort the masses, only to babble and drool on television.
Lazar first set the project at DreamWorks almost 20 years ago, and a succession of screenwriters never cracked it. Ownership went to Paramount when it took possession of many of the development projects DreamWorks left behind. Herzog wrote it as serious science fiction, but the aim of this new version is to do a scathing satire, on the order of Doctor Strangelove, the 1964 Stanley Kubrick-directed classic.
Herzog was a political speechwriter in the ’60s who also turned out books that included The Swarm and Orca, both of which were adapted into features. Kaufman has the quirky sensibility, evidenced in such films as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, that makes him a novel choice for the new take. He will go back to Herzog’s book and work from that. They’ll worry about a director when Kaufman gets the script right. Lazar previously worked with Carell on the Get Smart feature and with Kaufman on Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind.
Carell also seems a good fit on a film that mixes a serious subject with the absurd. He’s been in the Oscar mix ever since his turn as financier/murderer John DuPont in the Bennett Miller-directed Foxcatcher was seen by the critical crowd in Cannes, Telluride and Toronto. Sony Pictures Classics releases the film next month. Both Kaufman and Carell are repped by WME, and Carell’s managed by Media Four’s Steve Sauer.