When author Bill Bryson set out with an old friend, Stephen Katz, to tackle the Appalachian Trail, the reading world was in for a treat. With his entertaining voice, dry humor and ability to write about history and ecology in the most engaging of manners, a wildly popular travel memoir was born.
In “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail,” Bryson introduces the reader to the cast of quirky characters they meet along the trail, along with the challenges, perils and charmingly wry observations that are characteristic of the New York Times bestselling author.
Upon encountering an ursine adversary, for instance, he wrote, “Bear! I sat bolt upright … I reached instinctively for my knife. When I found it and opened the blade I was appalled at how wimpy it looked. It was a perfectly respectable appliance for, say, buttering pancakes, but patently inadequate for defending oneself against 400 pounds of ravenous fur.”
During the decade since its publication in 1998, it has remained firmly lodged in the list of Amazon’s most popular travel books, and several film directors have set their sights on an adaptation. Chris Columbus and Barry Levinson were both interested, but the project failed to get a green light.
But now, in what portends to be great news for fans of the book, not to mention fans of Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, veteran filmmaker Richard Linklater is set to take the helm. The Los Angeles Times reports that shooting of the independently financed movie could begin as early as this fall, according to Robert Redford, who will produce and star in the film. Nick Nolte will star as Katz opposite Redford’s Bryson.
Several drafts of the screenplay have been overseen by Redford; as of last year, Pulitzer-winning novelist Richard Russo was working on it. With Russo’s talent for interweaving fiction and nonfiction in his writing, it seems like a great fit. And with Redford's sly humor and environmental advocacy, who could be better-suited to play Bryson?
"'A Walk in the Woods' is the kind of movie that has something to say but can also be really commercial because it's just so funny," Redford said. "It will be nice to get back to doing a comedy,” he added.
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