(This story contains small spoilers from the book “Good Omens,” which was first published in 1990).
It’s been a long time coming for “Good Omens,” the fantasy novel written by “American Gods” author Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, to make it to the screen.
But later this year, Amazon will debut its six-episode adaptation of the acclaimed fantasy novel, which takes place the day before the Apocalypse. Gaimand and Pratchett, before he died in 2015, had been trying to get somebody, anybody to take on the task of adapting their book for the better part of the last decade.
“Terry and I kept trying to find somebody that was going to make it for us. We would go to top writers and showrunners in the world and say ‘Good Omens’ and they would go ‘uhh.. too weird,” Gaiman told TheWrap at the television critics association press tour. Gaiman said that, shortly before Pratchett died, he wrote Gaiman a letter basically telling him he had to be the one to adapt his own work. “I want to watch it before the lights go out,” Gaiman said Pratchett wrote him. “And then he died. Which moved it from my friend asking me to do something to a last request.”
Gaiman said that from then on, things started moving quicker and by early 2017, Amazon greenlit the series.
But the adaptation, with its literally out-of-this-world plot that spans centuries and features angels, demons, the Voice of God and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, was a herculean task. Gaiman said that they spent “11 months in post-production, which is what it takes when you’ve got 1,200 VFX shots and something of that level of complexity.”
The series stars Michael Sheen and David Tennant as an angel and demon, respectfully, who form an unlikely friendship over centuries of living comfortably on Earth. Jon Hamm plays the Archangel Gabriel and Frances McDormand lends her voice as the Voice of God.
Set as the end of the world approaches, the series follows fussy Angel Aziraphale (Sheen) and a loose-living Demon Crowley (Tennant) who are forced to form an unlikely alliance to stop Armageddon as the end of the world approaches. When they lose the Antichrist — an 11-year-old boy unaware he’s meant to bring upon the end of days – they are forced to embark on an adventure to find him and save the world before it’s too late.
With Gaiman as showrunner, the Amazon adaptation was able to stay pretty close to its source material — and even includes pieces of the never-published sequel. However, there was one particular scene that Gaiman had to cut, that he called “one of my favorite scenes in the book.”
The scene in question was the “Last Ride of the Bikers of the Repocalypse.”
“It was a lot of people’s favorite scene,” Gaiman said. “Its all of the stuff with the other four horseman of the apocalypse, riding along behind the [main] four horseman of the apocalypse, talking to each other while they ride in this sort of weird mystical way.” He said that he wrote this scene in his first draft of the script, before realizing “I don’t think this is going to work. I think it’s going to cost us millions to try and shoot the sequence.”
The problem was the scene deals with four bikers — Big Ted, Pigbog, Greaser, and Scuzz — driving down a freeway at 90 miles an hour during a thunderstorm, having a silent conversation with each other, which is much easier to put into a novel, “because you’re reading the conversation,” Gaiman said. “And I cheated, and said there’s a weird silence and they could hear each other’s voices and stuff like that. How the f–k [do] you actually get that to work [on screen]?”
With a lot of money, which Gaiman later realized was just not worth it, since those characters end up minor to the overall story. “We had even cast the guys and they were fantastic,” he said. “But it was like, ah, this is not actually going to work.”
“Good Omens” premieres on Amazon in 2019