Portland Writer Daniel H. Wilson's Sci-Fi Vision Nets Major Movie Deal—Again

First there was Robopocalypse, with DreamWorks snapping up the movie rights and Steven Spielberg signing on to direct. Now local writer Daniel H. Wilson has done it again, with a major deal with Fox for his still-unfinished novel Avtomat.

By Fiona McCann December 17, 2015

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Daniel H. Wilson

Portland writer Daniel H. Wilson has landed himself another movie deal, with Fox making a preemptive acquisition of screen rights to Avtomat, a novel he’s currently working on.

The Robocopalypse author, who is still writing what will be his fifth novel, closed the deal last week, with Hutch Parker Entertainment producing, according to entertainment industry news site Deadline.

Speaking to Portland Monthly, Wilson confirmed the preemptive deal, saying that a partial manuscript of Avtomat had been shared with a small group, but that Hutch Parker Entertainment snapped it up and brought it straight to Fox. According to Deadline, the deal is high-six or seven figures if the movie gets made.

“This happened one time before with Robopocaylpse, and I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience,” says Wilson. DreamWorks bought the rights to Robopocalypse before that book was  complete, with Steven Spielberg attached as director as far back as 2010. “To have lightning strike twice was really humbling. I just sat down and tried to breathe. I realized I’d received a double portion of good luck and I wanted to be quiet and hope that nobody noticed.”

It’s been five years since the Robopocalypse deal, but Wilson says it’s “still in development.” “Steven Spielberg is still attached to direct it, DreamWorks still owns the rights, and I think that we will find out more in the New Year about what they plan to do with it,” he says. “Drew Goddard wrote the script and he just showed what he’s capable of with The Martian, so to say that I’m excited to see this thing would be an incredible understatement.”

Now that Avtomat has netted a major deal before it’s done, does he feel under pressure to get it finished?

“I do, but it’s just so hard for me to focus on that pressure all the time. I’m not standing in front of an audience. I’m not on the pitcher's mound in front of a stadium full of people,” he says. “Every day I just wake up and am at the coffee shop with my laptop. It’s a very low-key existence that I lead. It’s very difficult mentally to be able to conjure up all that pressure every day.”

He’s excited, sure, but as a Portland resident and professional writer, he feels at some distance from the Hollywood machine. “Once again, I have to put my butt in a seat and write on this every day, and I’m not going to be able to dream about the movie,” he says. “I’m going to have my own job in front of me.”

Which is not to say he’s not grateful. "There's so much uncertainty when you’re a writer, and to have this incredible luxury to have made a sale before you’ve finished—I’m so thankful for it. I wake up and write my project, and I know there are people waiting for it and who want it. I wake up, and step outside into the rain and walk down the hill with a smile on my face most every day."

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