EXCLUSIVE: ‘How To Survive A Garden Gnome Attack’ Author Reveals Feature Film Adaptation Plans

by Danica Davidson

What would you do if you were attacked by garden gnomes? Turn the experience into a movie, of course! Robert Zemeckis, writer and director of “Back to the Future,” is set to produce and possibly direct a movie adaptation of Chuck Sambuchino’s faux survival guidebook “How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack.” The film has been optioned by Sony and while it’s early days yet, having a big name like Zemeckis attached makes the big-screen future look bright for this horror/comedy hybrid.

Sambuchino’s novel, published in 2010, shines the spotlight on the dangers of garden gnomes through survival tips from a Class 1 gnome slayer (certified through the University of Phoenix). The book is required reading for anybody hoping to survive an attack from those 12-inch menaces lurking in the lawn.

MTV News spoke with author Sambuchino in an exclusive interview the project’s origins, its current status on the road towards the big screen, whether or not Zemeckis himself will direct, his thoughts on the film’s tone and rating, and which actors he’d like to see in the finished product.

MTV NEWS: Chuck, what’s the story of “Garden Gnomes” all about? What makes it a good fit for the big screen?

CHUCK SAMBUCHINO: The book itself is a parody of a survival guide. I expect the movie will be the tale of a couple (or perhaps even a small town) that comes under the wrath of vicious lawn gnomes. They will have to discern gnomes’ weakness(es) — then fight back! I think it will make a good movie because it can combine horror elements with plenty of comedy.

MTV NEWS: What do you know about the film so far? How long has there been talk about making it into a film?

SAMBUCHINO: This all started about seven months ago when the book was released. Gotham Group took over book-to-film duties for the project. Gotham got Zemeckis onboard, and his involvement attracted Sony Pictures Animation, who recently optioned the work. A lot of things are still in the works, but Zemeckis is definitely attached to produce and he may even direct. Keep in mind that most books that get optioned never actually get produced … but most books don’t have Robert Zemeckis attached, so my hopes are high!

MTV NEWS: What are the chances of you writing the script for it?

SAMBUCHINO: As good as hitting snake eyes on a craps table. In all seriousness, if I was feeling saucy and wanted to throw out my pitch for the film’s three acts, I think everyone involved would give me an audience and consider my take. But they’re contacting some great screenwriters, and I feel like I’m too close to this book to take a crack at a script.

MTV NEWS: How do you picture the book turning into a film?

SAMBUCHINO: For a while now, people have said, “This could be like ’Gremlins’ — kind of a horror-comedy combo.” That could be a fair comparison if Zemeckis and ImageMovers take a PG-13 route and try to make it funny — but I think it’s too early to understand exactly where it’s going because prospective screenwriters will all have different takes on the project.

MTV NEWS: Are there any scenes you’d be particularly excited about seeing in the film?

SAMBUCHINO: Sure! At the end of the book, I detail seven possible locations for you to deposit your gnome to make sure he is, in fact, dead forever. Such locations include a remote ridge in Antarctica and a creepy swamp in Louisiana. I think this would be a fun montage to see on the big screen. I would also like to see some up-close combat between man and gnome.

MTV NEWS: What do you think of Zemeckis’s work, and his being involved in this? Can you tell us anyone else who is involved?

SAMBUCHINO: I grew up on his movies! I don’t think you can meet a single person who doesn’t love “Back to the Future.” As far as others involved, we don’t know yet. They have to decide on a screenwriter; then when a first draft is finished, perhaps actors will get attached, as well.

MTV NEWS: Some places are reporting the movie will be R-rated and some places are saying the opposite. What age-range is this movie being aimed for?

SAMBUCHINO: Last I heard from my agents, it would be PG-13. This is not finalized, so if some writer comes along with a dynamite take that lends itself to an R-rated film, who knows what will happen.

MTV NEWS: Do you have any actors in mind you’d like to see play certain characters? If not, do you have strong opinions on how the characters should look or act?

SAMBUCHINO: I think that the screenwriter will be the one to really create the characters, as mine does not have any human “characters,” per se. However, being that my favorite actor is Michael Biehn (“The Terminator,” “Aliens”), let me say that he should be in the film somewhere!

Have you read “How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack,” and do you think Zemeckis should direct the big-screen adaptation? Let us know in the comments section and on Twitter!