Ridley Scott to adapt Haldeman's Forever War

Ridley Scott has acquired the film-rights to Joe Haldeman's magnificent, Hugo-award-winning classic science fiction novel, The Forever War. This is one of the great anti-war novels of all time. As I wrote about it in 2003, "I picked up a copy of Joe Haldeman's classic novel The Forever War last night as a gift for a friend, but I'm going to keep it. I got to re-reading it last night (for the first time in nearly 20 years) and couldn't put it down. Haldeman wrote this novel after returning from his tour of duty in Vietnam, and the book made the rounds, getting turned down by publisher after publisher, by editors who recognized the book's merit but questioned the political savvy of publishing a war-novel. Eventually, Joe rewrote one section of the book, softening it, and finally, the book saw print, becoming an instant classic. The new, author's preferred edition restores the original text, and is absolutely timely and engrossing."
Fox 2000 has acquired rights to Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel "The Forever War," and Ridley Scott is planning to make it into his first science fiction film since he delivered back-to-back classics with "Blade Runner" and "Alien."

Scott intended to follow those films with "The Forever War," but rights complications delayed his plans for more than two decades.

The film will be produced by Scott Free. Vince Gerardis and Ralph Vicinanza will exec produce. Their company, Created By, reps Haldeman and spent the last decade trying to get back the rights.

"I first pursued ‘Forever War’ 25 years ago, and the book has only grown more timely and relevant since," Scott told Daily Variety. "It’s a science-fiction epic, a bit of ‘The Odyssey’ by way of ‘Blade Runner,’ built upon a brilliant, disorienting premise."

Ridley Scott takes on 'Forever War', The Forever War on Amazon (Thanks, Mitch!)


  1. Gee, I hope it’s at least as good as the version of “Starship Troopers” that made it to the big screen.

  2. well they sure hacked the heck out of “Do Androids Dream..” to get “Blade Runner”..

    i missed all the religious elements in “Androids”.
    “Blade Runner” was worth it but i wonder if it could have been a good film with the religion.

    i like to think it could have…

  3. I’m excited to hear about this book making it onto the big screen.

    Managed to pick up this title at random back when I was a teen, and I was shocked at the excellent story I’d found. Must have read it three or four times before I lost it. Now I’ve got to find this newer version, and I can’t wait to read it.

  4. While it might be hard to tell the full story of Forever War in film medium, I think there are more than enough good material in there for a good movie!

    (Just like Bladerunner didn’t capture more than small parts of Do Androids.. – but it’s still a great movie.)

    It’s also time that Haldeman got the ‘recognition due him and get a major movie done from his work. I hope more movies follow, especially some of his later books are really good.

  5. I picked this book up at random a few weeks ago and didn’t put it down until I finished it. I got it as part of his 3 book anthology, Peace and War, that also contains Forever Peace, and another, which I forget the name of. If you’ve only read Forever War, I highly recommend the other two as well. They aren’t quite as visceral in terms of the themes dealt with, but his excellent writing shines through in all of them.

  6. Stuart Gordon directed Forever War as a play in the early eighties at Chicago’s Organic Theater Company and the story held up really well. Ridley Scott is the master of telling this kind of tale.

  7. I hope Scott will excise the unfortunate 1970s homophobia in the book, which is not only offensive but seems quite dated now. The novel depicts a dystopian future in which the majority of people have suddenly decided to become homosexual to reduce the birthrate, which seems downright laughable now. Joe Haldeman depicts homosexuality as the worst horror our poor heterosexual protagonist has to deal with in this terrible future. It doesn’t even read as a satiric reversal of homophobia as some of its admirers try to claim because it is clear that the author wants us to empathize with the protagonist’s revulsion at this majority-gay society, especially in the passages about his mother. While the novel’s antiwar message is a laudable antidote to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, the wince-inducing anti-gay passages (with healthy doses of sexism thrown in for good measure) nearly ruin the book for the 21st-century reader. I hope Scott will save what is good about the book and leave the embarrassing and cringe-worthy parts on the cutting room floor.

    1. I hope Scott will excise the unfortunate 1970s homophobia in the book, which is not only offensive but seems quite dated now.

      Or…he could cast Tom Cruise as the protagonist.

  8. Quite like the book, and as I reread it for the nth time a while back I was in my head plotting out how it would work as a movie, and it, to me, seems like it could work fairly well.

    I don’t personally see the book as particularly homophobic, it seems to me you’re making the mistake of thinking that just because a main character feels a certain way and he’s a hero that it must match the author’s view and be something we’re expected to empathize with. Te me, the point is more about the main character getting left behind, his prejudices are worse than pointless, they’re downright backward because he’s the ‘pervert’ now. I never felt we were supposed to empathize with the main character about that, but rather pity him – his mother was happy, but his own hangups couldn’t deal with it, even though he considered himself open-minded about such things. Given the time it was written I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the author had some mixed feelings about homosexuality and was writing them honestly, but I never felt a particular point of view was being advanced about it, other than that societal mores change dramatically with time.

  9. Great! I haven’t read Forever War, but I plan to pick it up. Haldeman’s a brilliant poet and author and I look forward to seeing how this will translate.

  10. Cory said, “the book made the rounds, getting turned down by publisher after publisher, by editors who recognized the book’s merit but questioned the political savvy of publishing a war-novel.”

    Not quite a ringing endorsement for the cutting-edge publishing industry that prides itself on “discovering” great new talent that it can make lots of money with. And as Al Weisel pointed out, the anti-gay aspects of this story are if nothing else, Heinlein-esque in character, and are horribly dated (unless you’re a Republican). Another story for Hollywood to massacre. I can hardly wait.

  11. Do they still sell this book at book stores? I don’t see how I could have missed it – I’ve been an avid reader of Sci-Fi since around 8.

    #3 -Starship Troopers was a good movie,but the book was much better. A lot was left out and changed in the movie. I was disappointed, but still enjoyed the movie.

  12. I love the Forever War. It’s one of my all time favourite sci-fi novels. The follow-up books I didn’t quite like as much. However, I just finished reading his book, “Old Twentieth”, a few weeks ago, and it was very interesting.

    As for the “homophobia” in Forever War? I just don’t see it. Yes, the main character is upset that he’s seen as a pervert by all the folks who have turned to homosexuality, but I think we’re meant to pity him more for his fish out of water scenario than his discomfort with the lifestyles that most people had chosen. “Caveman in modern times”, and all that.

  13. Funny thing how those who have seen war write anti-war books, and those who haven’t (Robert A. Heinlein, for instance) glorify war in their books.

  14. #3 : Stop trying to kill my optimism. It’s fragile enough as it is.

    As for homophobia, I agree with #13 (Peter). It’s a way to make him seem utterly alienated by the new society.

    I think the accusation of homophobia is interesting in itself. I read this when I was a kid. After I went off to college, my mom came across it and leafed through it. She thought it was a depraved promotion of homosexuality. We see what we want to see and we see what we fear.

  15. You know I keep hearing about this book but have never read it. Perhaps I should. I don’t read a lot of sci fi (more fantasy) but worth a shot.

  16. As much as I enjoyed this novel, I don’t see a unique movie coming from it. A war movie with an anti-war message… that’s pretty much the only type of war movies that get made anymore. Adding men in SF battle suits doesn’t do much there. Of course, nothing about Gladiator was even remotely unique, and it did quite well and was entertaining in a pass-the-time kind of way.

    #19: Taintmaster, counterexample: The Red Badge of Courage


    This has been one of my favourites since I was 14..
    I’m so happy, I’ve been thinking of a movie adaptation for this for years…


  18. re: #17, Trent
    It’s not a book about Vietnam – he WROTE it after his Nam tour.
    It’s about the waste and futility of wars spanning generations (because of the time it takes to travel star to star) – time continues to pass (and change comes) while the soldiers are away fighting for good old Terra ….
    It’s an excellent book …. and so is the (not-quite-sequel) “Forever Peace”.

    I highly recommend both to those unfamiliar with his work.

  19. #19

    Spider Robinson tells a story about being in line behind Joe Haldeman at one of RAH’s book-signings at an SF convention after Forever War was published. Mr. Robinson overheard a couple of fans saying somthing to the effect of “OMG, He’s going up to Heinlein after making a huge parody of his book! Heinlein will devour him!”

    Upon which RAH promptly told Mr. Haldeman something to the effect that he thought Forever War might just be the finest science fiction war story he had ever read.

    Mr. Haldeman was apparently floating about with a very happy dazed expression. (apologies to Spider this is from memory …)

    I think Starship Troopers has gotten a bad rap (“Hitler Youth meets Mickey Mouse Club”).
    I see Starship Troopers more as an examination of the accidental development of a Spartan culture, with some very clear imagining about a society with a voting franchise that required willingness to provably commit ones self to actual physical and mental sacrifice. (“Putting one’s body between the Body Politic and War’s Desolation, or some such Capitalized Sentiment) I seem to recall that even physically handicapped people were given something to the limit of their abilities so they could qualify for the vote. And that was all they got. One vote. No other rights or privilges were extended.

    It was definitely food for thought. That being said, I was really, really pissed off when I saw that one has to be registered 29 days before election in my home state. Scoundrels.

  20. Al Weisel: I fear you completely missed the point of Haldeman’s premise. It wasn’t about ‘the horror’ of a homosexual world vs one last hetero.

    “The majority of people have suddenly decided to become homosexual” would be like saying people in China ‘decided’ to only have one child.

    If you found anything but individual character’s reactions homophobic, you have missed the thrust of the book.

  21. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Haldeman’s books for years, but the book of his that I think would be a more entertaining film is ‘Buying Time’. It’s not quite as, er, deep as Forever War, but it’s a great read.

  22. in re: Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers’ –

    IMHO, it was Heinlein trying to get across the EXPERIENCE of being a combat soldier (you go thru boot camp w/ ‘Juan Rico’ as well as his reasons for joining up- for example: his boot camp was a much more strenuous thing than the movie showed), along with a few monologues on the reasons fighting men fight, and have fought throughout history (besides the usual megalomaniacs).
    The movie, however, in order to fit in a 2-hour slot, really gutted the story in order to make it a run-of-the-mill ‘soldiers in space’ movie. It was somewhat enjoyable to me, but my favorite parts of the story (and props) were completely missing.
    I still want a powered (and armored) combat suit, so that I too may look like ‘an encephalic gorilla’ w/ automatic grenade launchers, built-in radio and radar, etc., etc.

  23. #27, Spot on.

    For anyone reading these comments, take them at face value or less. The homosexual aspects of the story are light & anecdotal and simply add to the fish out of water aspect of the main character. Do not avoid reading the book based on this. It is an excellent read.

  24. Same as many others here; I think the homophobia angle is just to emphasize how isolated he really is. It’s an artful way to challenge a person’s perspective of how things ought to be versus how they really are, at the very least.

    Whatever. All I know is, Bladerunner and the first two Alien movies are some of my all-time favorites, so I’m looking forward to see how Scott does with this project.

    Sure, the books always have more in them than the movies, but that’s fine. It’s two different mediums, and most people don’t want to sit through a Dune-like epic every time they visit the theater or pop in a DVD. The trick to a good movie is in conveying the same basic point as the book.

  25. I’m sure the “it’s not about homophobia” comments are not being made by people who live the dream as homosexuals in America. Some of us don’t like Anti-Gay talk in anyone’s work, regardless of whether or not it makes a character more of an alienated idiot. Try getting picked on as a gay person and then see how wonderful this book reads. Feh!

    Eric Nylund makes the point in Signal to Noise that China’s one child only policy results in a male society with too few women. So more men are stuck with gay love, or no love at all. Oh well.

  26. @33
    “Try getting picked on as a gay person and then see how wonderful this book reads. Feh!”

    Okay, I’ll try that sometime! Thanks for the great idea, Jeff!

  27. This newly updated version of the book seems to not be available anywhere. Anyone have a link to where to get the new version?

  28. I don’t remember any anti-gay language in the book.

    It’s been about a decade since I read it, but the way I remember it, the human race several years has been made homosexual, as a form of population control. This is not a matter of choice as in contemporary politics, they used Advanced Sci-Fi Science to make it happen.

    The main character of the book, a man from today who’s living in this future, is lonely and alienated. He doesn’t have any problem with homosexuality. But he’s subjected, as a heterosexual, to the same bigotry and pressures that gays were subject to in the middle 20th Century. His crew calls him the “Old Pervert” behind his back.

    Plus, like, he’s not getting any sex.

    If anybody has any specific information on the book to contradict my memory of it, I’d love to hear it.

    I’m pretty sure that the book or its author, Joe Haldeman, won a gay science fiction award, and that Joe and Gay Haldeman are regular invited guests at a big gay science fiction convention. So I’m really hard pressed to make a case for homophobia here.

  29. @15: It is rare for an unsolicited manuscript to be picked up by US and UK publishers simply on spec. If this book was just a random choice from the slush-pile, then it was no surprise that no one picked it up right away. Good manuscripts can languish for years or decades without an agent to help them because so much of the slush pile is utter crap, and it isn’t worth spelunking their depths.

    However, there were certainly books published by more established artists that were critical of the US involvement in Viet Nam, at least toward the end of that involvement.

    It also became fashionable in the early 70s to publish novels written by veterans of the conflict, so this might just have been a case of a watershed moment for this writer.

  30. The Forever War is a great anti-war novel? I read it a few months ago, it’s poorly written, there is almost zero character development. The plot is very predictable and frankly quite boring. You can see the ending a mile away and you keep hoping something interesting will happen in the meantime but it doesn’t.

    Al Weise is correct that the homophobia in the book is laughably bad and takes you right out of it. Well, it would if you could get into it in the first place as the characters are made entirely of wood.

    As adolescent wank material I suppose it ranks up there with the equally bad Starship Troopers. But you know, eventually we grow up and move on to high school.

  31. 29: while I agree I don’t find the book itself homophobic, the main character is _very slightly_. and there’s support of it in the text (however I don’t have it on hand to prove). However, it’s very much of the “I fully support gays or anyone else to do whatever they want, but it secretly weirds me out a little and if I had to admit it I might not want my immediate family being gay’ variety. In fact, I believce I recall a scene with a psychologists where they discuss the problems he might have leading an all homosexual crew and he says he’s tolerant and the psychologist says something like “Yes, we know, you _think_ you’re very tolerant” and then suggests that instinctively it does bother him on some level (but that the greater problem is going to be the crew being bothered by _him_). But again, I don’t believe it’s particularly promoted as an admirable quality, just one more way he’s been left behind, the main character never treats anybody poorly, or for that matter differently, because of their sexuality (with the possible exception of his mother and her lover, and that’s more because he just can’t handle the revelation).

  32. R.J. why don’t you try it on me, in person and see what it gets you? I’ll even fly you here. It will be a one way ticket, of course. As an added bonus I’ll do your hair before doing you in.

  33. Sorry, forgot the little smile face on my last post. Wouldn’t want anyone to think I actually want to kill someone. Ha ha ha…the Forever War isn’t over yet, bucky. Not until we get our rights.

  34. Nice. I wonder how Scott will adapt the inner narrative and the ridiculousness of the brain-programming the soldiers received at the start of the conflict?

    Also, Haldeman’s “Forever Peace” might possibly be more relevant to today’s audience.

  35. I guess they don’t sell this at Walden Books or Barnes and Nobles. I read just about any Military Sci Fi I can find and I don’t recall seeing this one. knw Wldn Bks wll drw th ln t sllng sm bks, th nly n cn nm ws spclly t f ln, n tht n th thrs nts h md t clr tht h’s pr NMBL -th thr s Prs nthny, t ws n f hs Xnth bks.

  36. It was Firefly Tom and he said “it may be wrong in this culture, but is normal and acceptable in other cultures around the world”. Which is a good reason you shouldn’t get your science or anthropology from SciFi authors.

  37. @44: I guess they don’t sell this at Walden Books or Barnes and Nobles.

    I bought my copy off the shelf at Barnes and Noble. It’s a relatively popular book, and most stores of decent size should have it.

  38. Thanks Deviant, I’ll get it tomorrow, or order it. These days my wife and I go through so many books, we can order from Amazon and Borders with free delivery. Is it in the Sci Fi, or GLBT section? Ha! just kidding. C’mon! have a sense of humor.

  39. A few years ago the SciFi channel was planning to do a FOREVER WAR miniseries, but it never quite got off the ground.

    There’s several versions of the novel THE FOREVER WAR.

    One section of the book (when the veterans return to Earth), Haldeman rewrote at the advice of the editor.

    Later Haldeman released a new version with the excised part restored.

    Like a lot of Director’s Cuts, I think the originally published version is the better one, but it’s worth hunting down both versions.

    There’s a sequel of sorts to THE FOREVER WAR, FOREVER FREE, which isn’t so great as a sequel, but is an interesting read in its own right.

    Also, Haldeman wrote a novella for Robert Silverberg’s anthology FAR HORIZONS called A SEPARATE WAR that tells Marygay’s experience during the war. It was later republished in A SEPARATE WAR AND OTHER STORIES.

    And there was a three part FOREVER WAR graphic novel done by artist Marvano.

    One time I caught a bit of the 1990 movie ROBOT JOX on TV (Screenplay by Haldeman), and was surprised to hear some dialogue right out of THE FOREVER WAR made it into the movie. At first, I thought, “Wait, when did they do a FOREVER WAR movie?!”

  40. Scott and Haldeman? Sounds like a fan-boy dream come true… Amost as good as David Fincher to direct “Rendezvous With Rama”. Speaking of which, whatever happened to that?

  41. #27 – Joe Haldeman recounted this story at a panel at WorldCon this year – you have it almost right. I believe it was at the after party for the Hugos the year that The Forever War won best novel, not at a signing.

    At another panel at WorldCon he also said that he wrote a homosexual protagonist in one of his more recent works (unfortunately I can’t recall which one) partly as an apology for the way he treated them in The Forever War.

  42. I’m ashamed to admit that I only know of The Forever War as one of the works that inspired the 1988 anime OVA series Gunbuster.

  43. I just don’t see the homophobia. I first read the novel in early high school, and have reread it several times. I certainly saw an attempt to exploit the (assumed) homophobia of the reader, as well as fear of drugs, etc. Compare Haldeman’s portrayal of homosexuality with that of the Army.

    Haldeman was trying to show a future where conventional 1970s mores were overturned. You know the cranky old teacher you had in school, always mumbling about the rap music and teenage pregnancies and how everything was better way back when? Haldeman’s trying to put the reader in that situation (and I think he did it with a lot more deftly than Aldous Huxley did.)

    How they’ll achieve that sense of future shock now, I have no idea. Maybe have everyone living in cans, copulating with plant life, or bring back Art Deco, whatever.


  44. while i think that forever war is a really good book. try armor by joe haldeman. this is the book that should be made into a movie.

  45. So, any update on this story? When is RS going to stop wasting time with historic fiction starring Russel Crowe and jump into futuristic fiction, preferably without Russell?

Comments are closed.