Momo, one of the best-loved works by The NeverEnding Story writer Michael Ende, is getting a big screen English-language adaption from German producer Christian Becker (The Wave) and bilingual writer-director Christian Ditter (How To Be Single).
The ambitious movie version of Ende’s popular fantasy novel will revolve around the titular Momo, an orphan girl who must do battle with the soulless and otherworldly ‘grey men’ who stealthily take over her city and steal time. Ende’s book has long been considered a critique of consumerism, stress and, unfeeling individualism, themes that should still strongly resonate today.
The timing of the screen adaptation is apt, as this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the German book’s first publication. It’s since been released in more than 40 languages.
Becker and Ditter reportedly spent years trying to disentangle the rights from Ende’s estate and other stakeholders such as Beta Film, which owned the remake rights to the only previous film adaptation, a 1986 German-Italian production which featured John Huston in his final on-screen role.
After an under-the-radar rights deal a few years ago, Becker and Ditter have spent the last couple of years crafting a script which they’re now taking out to potential partners on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Momo is one of Michael Ende’s most successful books,” said Ditter. “Everyone of our generation in Germany has read it. It was one of my favourite novels. But the rights were always very hard to get hold of. We weren’t the only interested group the estate met with. So, it took some sensitive negotiation. Naturally, they wanted to know the team would handle the novel carefully.”
He went on to say: “We’re very happy with the script. The novel has multi-generational appeal. It’s a fantasy story which is poetic and personal but also about family and friendship.
The book’s central premise, about mysterious creatures who steal the commodity of time, was an unusual concept in the 80s, but in today’s world of long working hours, global corporations and the search for wellness and mindfulness, it becomes even fresher.”
Becker is one of Germany’s most prolific and successful producers, whose credits include successful 2008 thriller The Wave, the Jim Button franchise, Suck Me Shakespeare, and most recently, Netflix thriller Blood Red Sky. His company Rat Pack is in post-production on another Netflix film; war drama Blood And Gold.
Ditter is known for the Lily Collins-led Love, Rosie and romantic comedy How To Be Single with Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, and Alison Brie, which made over $110M at the box office. He’s currently in post-production on the Isla Fisher and Greg Kinnear comedy The Present, and has co-written the script for Amazon’s upcoming YA fantasy movie Silver.
Fingers crossed that, after years of trying, Momo will get the big screen adaptation it deserves. Producers are hoping to begin production towards the end of 2023. Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of legal issues regarding Ende’s work: there’s currently an ongoing tug of war to the rights for a new version of The NeverEnding Story.