William Shakespeare has been called Hollywood's most successful screenwriter because there have been so many adaptations of his plays over the years. John Milton, the author of the Christian epic Paradise Lost who was born eight years before Shakespeare died, hasn't fared so well.
When Milton does show up in films, it's usually to lend his name to an unsavoury or demonic character. That's the case in Drive Angry 3D, where Nicolas Cage, as a felon who escapes from Hell, bears his name. That was also the name of Al Pacino's demonic lawyer in The Devil's Advocate, as well as a sleazy horror-film producer in Wes Craven's Scream 3.
Milton's epic poem about the fall of Adam and Eve and Satan's rebellion against God has inspired many books that inspired movies, including J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and in turn the Star Wars films, as well as all the many films adapted from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass.
Now, finally, two film versions of Paradise Lost are in the works, one of which has been in development for more than 40 years.
Producer Martin Poll ( The Lion in Winter) first commissioned a screenplay of the poem in the late sixties from the late John Collier, and at one point, Arthur Penn ( Bonnie and Clyde) was involved in its development.
Finally, in 2009, a Philadelphia-based company, specializing in distributing Bollywood films, agreed to invest in the feature, tentatively slated for 2012.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has another Paradise Lost, most likely in 3-D, being developed by Legendary Pictures (the Batman movies). The $100-million-plus epic, directed by Alex Proyas ( Dark City) is aimed at the same year, under the tag line "The untold story of the greatest story ever told."