Writing

Books

The Unfilmable Confederacy of Dunces

McFarland, USA 2022
229 pages

Purchase:

Amazon (US)
Amazon (UK)
Amazon (DE)
IFFMA (DE)

featuring interviews with

Roy Blount Jr.
Barbara Boyle
Henry Bushkin
David Esbjornson
Stephen Fry
Frank Galati
Stephen Geller
Jonathan Gordon
Mark Gill
Jeffrey Hatcher
Beth Henley
John McConnell
Mike Medavoy
Josh Mostel
Alan Ormsby
Penelope Spheeris
Roderick Taylor
John Waters

The Unfilmable Confederacy of Dunces
How Ignatius J. Reilly Defeated Hollywood

For over 40 years, dozens of directors, writers and producers have tried to adapt John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic A Confederacy of Dunces. They have all failed. Lawsuits were filed, filming locations destroyed, friendships shattered, reputations trashed, production companies bankrupted.

This book tells the unbelievable-yet-true story of the un-making of A Confederacy of Dunces as a breathless and absurdist thriller. The stars include celebrities such as John Belushi, Steven Soderbergh, Stephen Fry, Pedro Almodóvar, Robin Williams, Warren Beatty and Harvey Weinstein among many others.

With exclusive interviews, internal documents, and excerpts from private correspondence, I shed a light on the turbulent production history of a film that was never meant to be. For the first time, a detailed account of a doomed project is made public. It features passionate oil magnates, abusive Hollywood executives, an interfering uber-mother, and struggling artists on the verge of a nervous breakdown

Extract from the foreword:

People thought John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces would make a good movie. They were proven wrong. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Despite its phenomenal success in both hardcover and paperback, the adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly have managed to stupefy some of Hollywood’s best directors, producers and writers. That alone is no small feat.

The decision-makers in the film industry often waste no time optioning successful books or even newspaper articles.

It comes as no surprise, then, that A Confederacy of Dunces was optioned right away, and over the decades has had the studio suits scrambling for their phones trying to ascertain who owned the rights, willing to shell out millions of dollars to purchase them. In hindsight, betting at the races on a one-legged horse with asthma would have been a better investment.

A film of A Confederacy of Dunces has never been made, despite a 40-year-long attempt to get a screen adaptation off the ground. By way of comparison, the Civil War, which led to the abolition of an actual Confederacy, was won by the Union in only 10 percent of that time.

The story behind the attempts to turn the novel into a movie has fascinated both fans of film and of the novel for many years. Today, almost every book, homepage, blog and magazine article devoted to unmade movies mentions A Confederacy of  Dunces in the first paragraph, like an ugly, cursed, evil sister to a far more short-lived doomed project like David Lean’s Nostromo, which was shut down by Columbia after only five years.

The passionate, idealistic struggle of the individual against the system intrigues me, and for many years I have been fascinated with projects that never came to pass. While looking up films which ended up in development hell, as opposed to becoming big successes on the screen, I found that A Confederacy of Dunces was frequently mentioned. Much like Kyle MacLachlan’s character who finds a severed ear on the grass in Blue Velvet, I sensed there was a story here waiting to be told, and while looking into John Kennedy Toole’s work I stumbled across a post on Reddit (which is always how great investigations uncovering international conspiracies start) in which someone claimed to be Maidee Walker’s neighbor. Walker was the first author who had tried her hand at adapting Toole’s novel.

Without having read A Confederacy of Dunces, I got in touch with said neighbor and was swiftly given Maidee Walker’s number. When she picked up and started talking I instantly knew I had my story. I picked up a copy of Toole’s novel, devoured it in a few sittings, and started my research in earnest.

McFarland, USA 2019
227 pages

Purchase:

Amazon (US)
Amazon (UK)
Amazon (DE)
IFFMA (DE)

featuring interviews with

Marco Beltrami
Mychael Danna
Rachel Portman
Walter Murch
Henry Jackman
Alan Silvestri
Klaus Badelt
Angelo Badalamenti
Carter Burwell
Bruce Beresford
David Lynch
David Shire
Howard Blake
George Fenton
Abel Korzeniowski
and others

The Struggle Behind the Soundtrack
Inside the Discordant World of Film Scoring

Do you want to pick up a light saber whenever you hear John Williams’ Star Wars theme? Get the urge to ride into the desert and face down steely-eyed desperados to the refrain of Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Does Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean score have you talking like Jack Sparrow?
From the Westerns of the 1960s to current blockbusters, composers for both film and television have faced new challenges—evermore elaborate sound design, temp tracks, test audiences and working with companies that invest in film score recordings all have led to creative sparks, as well as frustrations.
Drawing on interviews with more than 40 notable composers, this book gives an in-depth analysis of the industry and reveals the creative process behind such artists as Klaus Badelt, Mychael Danna, Abel Korzeniowski, Walter Murch, Rachel Portman, Alan Silvestri, Randy Thom and others.

Reviews:

„Stephan Eicke shows the dark reality of a Hollywood ripe with abuse, pressure and exploitation. […] This book is full of brave statements, and a must-read for those who want to have a future in Hollywood. Those who are hoping for the best can prepare for the worst. It is a fundamental book.“ Fotogramas

„There is no doubt that Eicke’s book makes some highly valuable contributions to the development of scholarly understanding of the contemporary film-music business. It breaks new ground in its consideration of oft-hidden matters such as film-music publishing and composers’ rights, the murky issues of ghostwriting and unionisation, and working practices at Remote Control Productions.“ Dr. Ian Sapiro, Music, Sound, and the Moving Image; Liverpool University Press

„Stephan Eicke is one of the most intelligent, knowledgeable and fine cynics in this medium. He’s an ant in an environment of cicadas. Admiration and respect!“ MundoBSO

„This book is an entertaining analysis of the working conditions for composers. It’s an especially lively read because it is built around interviews with 40 composers.“ ray magazine

„The author had managed to extract some frank comments from the composers which helps distinguish The Struggle Behind the Soundtrack from other composer interview books. Eicke’s book deserves to be read by a wider audience and not just be limited to those who have an interest in film.“ ReelMusic

„This is a very interesting book; the chapter on Hans Zimmer alone makes it worthwhile and I have to say I learned a lot from reading it. Recommended.“ Hellbound

„Eicke’s book is a very interesting one by investigating a topic not elsewhere covered in film music books and daring to point a spotlight at struggles that lie within the film music workplace. There’s enough information at hand here to warrant consideration, and to lend some understanding of conditions under which composers have to work.“ BuySoundtrax

„If you are starting out as a composer, I highly recommend this book!“ Carly Paradis

Interviews and Lectures:

ray

Since 2012 I have been reviewing books and record albums for the Austrian film magazine ray. For select writing samples, please click on the titles listed below the individual covers.

Directors And Their Composers

For MediaSoundHamburg, I write a monthly column, highlighting and analysing the collaboration between acclaimed filmmakers and their composers. You can read the interviews and articles by clicking on the links below the individual pictures.

Werner Herzog & Ernst Reijseger – Part I
Interview with Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog & Ernst Reijseger – Part II
Interview with Ernst Reijseger

Werner Herzog & Ernst Reijseger – Part III
Analysis

Mike Leigh & Andrew Dickson & Gary Yershon – Part I
Interview with Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh & Andrew Dickson & Gary Yershon – Part II
Interview with Andrew Dickson

Mike Leigh & Andrew Dickson & Gary Yershon – Part III
Interview with Gary Yershon

Mike Leigh & Andrew Dickson & Gary Yershon – Part IV
Analysis

Ken Loach & George Fenton – Part I
Interview with Ken Loach

Various

Over the years, I have written for several publications, among them the news outlet Übermedien and the now-defunct German print magazine Splatting Image which was dedicated to underappreciated films.

Caldera Records

As co-founder of the record label Caldera Records, I have written liner notes for several booklets. Click on the links below to access a small selection.