Hitch Hiker's Guide to be a movie

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The Independent Online
THE Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the classic radio sci-fi series that found the answer to life, the universe and everything was 42, is to be made into a movie. A deal, worth between $40m (pounds 25m) and $70m, has been struck between author Douglas Adams, his company Digital Village and Disney.

Filming will start until next year for a release in summer 2000. Like the radio series, TV adaptation and the five books that have preceded it, the film will be called The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Mr Adams has already written a first draft of the screenplay."It has taken many years to pull together a deal for the film," said co-executive producer Robbie Stamp, of Digital Village.

The film will be directed by Jay Roach, who last year directed the secret agent spoof Austin Powers starring Liz Hurley. "The success of Men in Black last year has helped us. It made many people wake up to the possibilities of comedy and sci-fi going together. The Hitch Hiker's Guide is probably the original and funniest of all in this role," said Mr Stamp.

The Guide was first broadcast on radio in 1979 and became a cult classic. It begins with the destruction of Earth to make way for an interstellar by-pass and takes its protagonists on a series of adventures across time and space that border on the surreal. The eponymous Guide is an electronic handbook for the casual space traveller.

Casting for the odd-ball characters has yet to take place: Arthur Dent, the puzzled andindignant Englishman; Ford Prefect, the researcher for the Guide who described Earth as "mostly harmless"; two-headed, three- armed Zaphod Beeblebrox and his assistant Trillian, along with Marvin, the manically depressed android.

Other features of the series, including humans flying (achieved by throwing yourself at the ground while holding a bath towel and missing) will attract dramatic special effects, said Mr Stamp. "We feel that in the past the technology wasn't up to speed to cope with the sort of effects the film would need. That's not the case any more."