'Fringe' Writers Monica Owusu-Breen & Alison Schapker Rewriting Secret J.J. Abrams Project 'Zanbato'

by Oliver Lyttelton
April 19, 2011 1:06 AM
4 Comments
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Have you been watching Fox's J.J. Abrams-produced sci-fi drama "Fringe?" The show's position in the so-called "Friday night death slot," and its subsequent ratings plunge (ratings which were not that high to begin with), suggest that you're not. But if you're any kind of a fan of genre TV you really should be -- after a shaky first season, the show's gone from strength to strength, featuring two genuinely Emmy-worthy central performances from Anna Torv and John Noble, and some of the boldest ideas on television at the moment.

As you might expect from a show from Abrams' stable, and created by "Star Trek" writers Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman, it's had some impressive behind-the-scenes talent passing through -- Brad Anderson's directed a number of episodes, while Akiva Goldsman surprised virtually everyone by not stinking up the place as he has with virtually all of his feature scripts. Now, according to Deadline, two of the main writers of the show are teaming with Abrams again for their big-screen debut.

Monica Owusu-Breen and Alison Schapker, who are currently executive producers and writers on the show (and just signed a big money deal to continue in those roles for Season 4 of the series), as well as having credits on the likes of "Brothers and Sisters," "Alias" and "Lost," have come on board to write yet another secret project of Abrams, and his company Bad Robot, set up at Paramount. The script is currently going under the working title of "Zanbato," and, as ever, plot details are being kept under wraps, but it's said to involve "swashbuckling robots with swords," and ties into Japanese history in some degree -- the title refers to a particularly long kind of Japanese sword, with a ricasso (the part of the sword between the blade and handle) usually between 12 and 18 inches long.

The project bears something of a resemblance to another Bad Robot project announced last year, an adaptation of the graphic novel "Boilerplate," about a "Zelig"-style steampunk robot, but they appear to be two distinct scripts. Deadline reveal that at one stage, "I Am Legend" and "Water for Elephants" director Francis Lawrence was attached to helm the project, but that no longer seems to be the case: the director's currently circling a number of other projects, including WW2 tale "Unbroken," a Harry Houdini-related film, and the kung-fu fairy tale "Snow and the Seven."

As Nikki Finke points out (for all her faults, she is at least a consistent supporter of women in the industry), it's rare for female writers to achieve success in the genre world, so it can only be a good thing that Owusu-Breen and Schapker (who are also developing another TV series for Bad Robot, as well as potentially turning their "heightened reality" crime pilot "Pulp," which wasn't produced, into a graphic novel for D.C. Comics) are doing so well, and we look forward to seeing more movement on "Zanbato" down the road.

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4 Comments

  • Tristan eldritch | April 19, 2011 8:55 AMReply

    Totally agree about Fringe. If you had the patience to persevere with it through the weaker moments, it developed into a really cracking show. And Trov and Noble are fantastic in it.

  • bill | April 19, 2011 8:00 AMReply

    Swashbuckling robots. Nice.

  • Leah Zak | April 19, 2011 3:42 AMReply

    @short stuff - good point :) further research reveals that the 12-18 in. measurements actually refers just to the part between the handle and the blade (called the ricasso). We clarified above, thanks for the catch!

  • short stuff | April 19, 2011 3:14 AMReply

    "the title refers to a particularly long kind of Japanese sword, normally somewhere between 12 and 18 inches long" -
    i'm no samurai dork, but that seems rather short to me.

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