New Regency Picks Up Rights to Hal Ashby Passion Project 'Hawkline Monster' (Exclusive)

The late Ashby tried to adapt the Gothic Western with Clint Eastwood and Dustin Hoffman. Now it will be up to producers Roy Lee, Andrew Trapani and Steven Schneider to finish the job.
Photofest; Simon & Schuster
Hal Ashby

After decades of being dormant, the film adaptation of Gothic Western The Hawkline Monster has emerged from the ice cave.

In a competitive situation, New Regency, the company behind Bohemian Rhapsody, has picked up the film rights to the book by Richard Brautigan in a deal that involved the estates of both Brautigan and Hal Ashby, the filmmaking icon that spent years trying to mount a movie version.

Roy Lee, one of the producers behind the horror hit It, Andrew Trapani (Winchester) and Steven Schneider, who last worked on Glass and Pet Sematary, will produce the adaptation.

The book, first published in 1974, tells of two unlikely hero gunslingers hired by a 15-year-old girl named Magic Child to kill the monster that lives in ice caves under the basement of a house inhabited by a young woman named Miss Hawkline. What follows is a unique adventure where there is more to Magic Child, Miss Hawkline and the house than meets the eye.

Ashby, the influential director of '70s classics Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Being There, struck a deal with Brautigan — who made a splash with his 1967 debut Trout Fishing in America — in 1975 to adapt Hawkline Monster and at points had Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman, as well as Jeff and Beau Bridges, lined up as the gunslingers. The two artists could never see eye to eye on a script for the project, which fell by the wayside when the author died in 1984, followed by Ashby's death in 1988.

Tim Burton later developed Hawkline Monster for Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson but that, too, ran into development hell. The adaptive rights fell into a complex stalemate between the Ashby and Brautigan estates for decades before New Regency acquired them. 

Paul Swensen and Ianthe Brautigan will executive produce, and Natalie Lehmann will oversee for New Regency.

The company is coming off the Cannes Film Festival premiere of The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers’ period drama starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe that it co-financed. Its Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars and has grossed more than $900 million worldwide.

Ashby’s estate is repped by Michael Sherman; Brautigan’s estate is repped by Joel Behr.