A screen adaptation of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos series is closer to fruition than ever, but it has been a long road to get here. The acclaimed sci-fi novels were published between 1989 and 1997, and fans have been hoping to see them in a visual format ever since. Thankfully, successful novel adaptations in the last few years have helped prime the world for this bizarre odyssey.
To a casual observer, it looked like Warner Bros. greenlit a Hyperion adaptation in November of 2021 immediately following the success of Dune. While that may have been a factor, the truth is that several attempts have been made to bring the story to the screen since at least 2009. Along the way, it has apparently become a passion project and perhaps even an obsession for actor Bradley Cooper, who will be a producer for Hyperion.
The success of Dune – which itself stands on the shoulders of successful book adaptations like Game of Thrones in recent years – has fans more hopeful than ever that the Hyperion Cantos will finally be completed. Here’s a breakdown of what we know about the project right now.
At the time of this writing, the latest news on the Hyperion Cantos adaptation is from the announcement on Nov. 1, 2021. At the time, Deadline reported that Cooper had launched a new production banner, and that Hyperion would be its first project. It also confirmed that the books would be adapted into movies, not a series, and that it would be released by Warner Bros. Motion Pictures rather than WarnerMedia’s Syfy channel.
Sadly, the report did not give much insight on the status of the production, so there’s no telling when we might see Hyperion or even when we might get more updates. However, the scramble to secure intellectual property and the success of other scifi epics both suggest that this one will finally move forward.
There have been no casting announcements for Hyperion yet, but we do know who will be behind the camera. Cooper will produce the movie along with executive producers Weston Middleton, Graham King, Hayley King and Tom Spezialy. Spezialy is best known for executive producing HBO’s Watchmen limited series in 2019. Fans have speculated widely about whether Cooper will take a role in the movie himself, and if so which one.
The Hyperion Cantos is comprised of four books and is relatively episodic. In 2015, Warner Bros. announced that the books would be adapted into a limited series for Syfy, but the 2021 announcement says that it will be a series of movies instead. Sources at WB specifically said that this decision was made “to provide the IP with more breadth and scope that the expansive story demands.”
This suggests that WB wants to expand the Hyperion universe for sequels and spinoffs on the screen, and also that it will not be rushed into one neat little package. Denis Villeneuve successfully broke Dune into two movies, so there’s a chance we could see the same happen with Hyperion. Hopefully, the story gets the time and care it deserves.
The history of the Hyperion adaptation is almost as long and convoluted as the story itself – minus a few centuries and apocalypses. Warner Bros. announced the first attempt at a film adaptation in 2009 under director Scott Derrickson. Graham King was attached as a co-writer from the very start, along with Trevor Sands. It’s not clear why that version did not pan out, but in 2011 word got out that Cooper was “anxious” to get in on the project. It took the A-lister a few years to get his foot in the door.
In June of 2015, Syfy announced that Cooper and Graham King were reworking the story as a limited series to air on cable. That project stayed on Syfy’s slate until at least 2017, but fans never got any teasers, details or even casting news. At the time, Todd Phillips was attached as a producer as well.
Finally, the latest attempt at Hyperion comes just in time since Cooper has the clout to make it happen. The actor has now established himself as a director and earned several Oscar nominations. The commercial success of his recent projects can’t hurt either.
Simmons is not active online these days, and he has not weighed in on the latest adaptation news yet. However, fans often refer back to a forum post he made in 2017 where he disparaged Cooper and sounded pessimistic about the chances of a successful Hyperion adaptation getting finished. The post has now been removed along with Simmons entire website, but parts of it have been preserved on Reddit.
“At no time during this actor-plays-with-his-toys joke did Cooper ever contact the author of the novel he said meant so much to him and his roommate through college and beyond,” Simmons wrote wryly. “Of course not!! I’ve been around the L.A. industry just long enough to know — deep in my marrow — that going to the novelist for a film is a ludicrous and preposterous idea.”
What is ‘Hyperion’ About?
The Hyperion Cantos is set in a distant sci-fi future where humanity has spread out across the galaxy, but has become dependent on technology beyond its comprehension in the process. Simmons takes readers all over this universe and expertly introduces them to all of its defining features, including inscrutable artificial intelligences, mysterious alien artifacts and the suggestion of existential truths that could shatter everything we think we know about space-time.
The story itself is best known for its intertextual allusions to other literary works. The title “Hyperion” is borrowed from an unfinished epic poem by the 19th-century poet John Keats, for example, and a cyborg imbued with an artificial approximation of Keats’ persona is actually a character in the series. The first book is famously modeled after The Canterbury Tales, as it follows seven pilgrims on a journey and describes each of them telling their life story along the way.
The odds of a Hyperion adaptation reaching the screen look good right now, even if there isn’t much concrete information to report just yet. Fans of productions like Dune are picking up the books now in droves in order to get ready for another historic adaptation.
Those interested in checking the Cantos out for themselves can start with the four main novels – Hyperion (1989), The Fall of Hyperion (1990), Endymion (1996) and The Rise of Endymion (1997). Each one is available in print, digital and audiobook formats. The first book even features a full-cast audiobook with a different voice actor for each of the seven pilgrims.
Sadly, there’s not much further reading to be done in this lush sci-fi franchise. Simmons wrote three short stories to go with the Hyperion Cantos. The first was “Remembering Siri,” which was published almost verbatim within Hyperion, so there’s no need to seek it out separately. The second was “The Death of the Centaur,” which is included in Simmons’ short story collection Prayers to Broken Stones. The most recent publication is “Orphans of the Helix,” which was published in a 1999 issue of the anthology Far Horizons. It can now be found in The Hyperion Omnibus, available in print only. Check back here for more updates on the Hyperion adaptation as they become available.
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