As you read this, I am enjoying a week-long globe-trotting vacation with my family. Toshi and Allen and I are going to see how long it takes us to climb every one of the Great Pyramids this afternoon.
While we enjoy that, I’d like to share the second of five special vacation articles, where I’ve reached out to a wide array of people I know to answer a different question every day. I sent out the five questions as part of one big e-mail last week, and I asked people to send me as many of the five responses as they felt like. Some people did one, some people did a few, and several people answered all five.
I would love to hear your responses to these questions as well. When I get back to Los Angeles next weekend, I’m excited to dig in and read all the answers you guys leave, and I hope you end up enjoying this week’s articles in the meantime.
Movie history is littered with hundreds of amazing “What If?” scenarios. This year’s documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” does a great job of laying out what might have been if that movie had actually made it to the screen. If you could go back in time and make any film that stalled out in development actually happen instead, what film would it be?
JUDD APATOW (co-writer, “Celtic Pride”)
I wrote a movie for Adam Sandler a long time ago with Nick Stoller. We wrote a part for Mel Brooks. He would have played Adam’s grandfather. I wanted those two to play family. I still do.
Judd, if you ever work with Mel Brooks, I am getting a cot installed on the set, and I’m watching every single second of what happens. Fair warning.
JASON FLEMYNG (actor, “Stardust” )
It was a film called “Rainbow Warrior” about the people who started GREENPEACE. We started the first week, I loved the script, I had just started making films, must have been 1980ish. I remember Rutger Hauer was there, and I loved him. They had a life-size animatronic whale, and the REAL Rainbow Warrior. The “Sea Shepard Society” had decided NOT to go to Canada that winter to save the seals from being clubbed to death to make this film, so although I was devastated to be sent home from Amsterdam, I wasn’t as upset as the seals were.
I remember when this was in development. Didn’t realize you guys made it that far into production. I’m curious if the passage of time has made it more or less likely we ever see them try to make this one again.
PAUL MALMONT (novelist, “Jack London In Paradise”)
I”d have been first in line to see Sergio Leone”s “Stalingrad” with Robert DeNiro. And, of course, I still hope to someday see Martin Scorsese”s production of “The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril,” not that he”s ever heard of it. Nonetheless, there are three movies I would love to see but have come to terms with the fact that I probably never will. The first would be the occasionally-rumored bona-fide sequel to “Twin Peaks” that really ties up everything. Next would be “Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League,” or any new “Buckaroo Banzai” movie for that matter. But no reboots, please. Banzai is and will always only be Peter Weller. The final movie that I want to see more than anything and remains perhaps the biggest movie tease of all time: “Ghostbusters 3.” I don”t care if they”re all in wheelchairs by the time this gets done. I want to see it. Get it together, guys. It”s not just for me now. It”s for my kids.
I’m of mixed mind about a “Ghostbusters 3.” On the one hand, I feel like the moment for them to do this again may have passed, but on the other hand, there’s an actual line of dialogue in the first film that clearly points to the way they could extend “Ghostbusters” beyond the cast of that first film. I would absolutely go see it if they released it, but I worry about them missing the mark. And believe me, Paul, you are not the only one who mentioned “Buckaroo Banzai,” and if wishes were enough to do the trick, we’d all be sitting in the theater watching “World Crime League” right now.
ROY LEE (producer, “The Ring”)
David Fincher directing The Sky is Falling by Eric Singer.
Great call. This was a notorious script when it sold in 1995, and it’s been crazy to watch Eric Singer struggle to build a career considering how many people were fans of the script. For those unfamiliar, it is a crazy, mega-violent, profane piece of work about two priests who go on an insane rampage of drugs, robbery, murder, and rape, all because they were part of an archaeological dig where they found definitive proof that God does not exist, pushing them off the deep end. During their spree of mayhem, they have this proof with them in an orange fanny pack, and another man, aware of what they found, hires a hit man to track the priests down, kill them, and then take that orange fanny pack somewhere it will never be found. The script was packed with bizarre imagery and characters so twisted that it’s little wonder New Line finally just gave up. For a time, this looked like it was going to be Fincher’s follow-up to “Se7en,” and if it had happened, I have no doubt it would have felt truly apocalyptic.
GERRY DUGGAN (writer, “The Infinite Horizon”)
I’d wave a magic wand over “The Trade,” written by David Mandel. Dave and I co-wrote a screenplay this year, so I freely admit that I’m biased, but Dave’s script is really wonderful. It’s based on the true story of two New York Yankee pitchers that swapped wives in the 1970s. Their deal didn’t just include the wives – there were kids involved. And a dog. And a car, I think. In less capable hands it could have been a one-note affair, but as written “The Trade” is well-structured, really funny and it has a lot of heart. For a brief moment in time there was every indication that it was going to be produced, and there were even rumors that Affleck and Damon wanted to play Kekich and Peterson. Warner Bros still has the rights, I hope they make it. It would be one of your favorite comedies, and one of your favorite baseball movies.
I like that we’re seeing a mix here of projects people are close to and projects they’ve only heard of. I think both are equally interesting.
PAUL SCHEER (actor, “Human Giant”)
I would have loved to see Shane Black’s “Lethal Weapon 3” – I remember reading a synopsis of it and it sounded it so much better than what they actually did. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Tim Burton’s “Superman Lives.”
I wish they’d made “Superman Lives.” I think it would have been a train crash and probably would have resulted in massive firings at Warner Bros, but it would also be one of those terrible films that I would watch once every few years just to verify that I didn’t dream it.
DAVID LOWERY (editor, “Upstream Color”)
The Coen Brothers adaptation of “To The White Sea” should have happened. It was the perfect approach from the perfect filmmakers, with the perfect lead actor. I have the script, but have only read the first 20 pages of it out of some strange hope that maybe someday I’ll get to see the movie. The first line, describing a speck resolving itself into a bird against the sky, has stuck with me in a way few sentences have. I feel like they scratched this itch to some extent with “No Country For Old Men”; after all, James Dickey and Cormac McCarthy are not dissimilar in their literary renderings of men and nature.
Yes. This, this, a thousand times this. “To The White Sea” is an amazing novel that seems like it would be impossible to translate to film, but the script that was written by David Webb Peoples, Janet Peoples, and Joel & Ethan Coen is one of the finest examples of screenwriting I’ve ready in my 43 years on this planet. I mourn that film like would mourn a departed family member. I feel like we really lost out when this didn’t happen.
DAVID MANDEL (writer, “Road Trip”)
Billy Wilder talked about an idea he had in the 60s for a reunion of the Marx Brothers with them at the United Nations during the cold war– Krushchev banging his shoe etc. I guess the brothers were too old at that point, but it would have been amazing.
The stories about this one are amazing. It began with Wilder living in New York near the United Nations at the height of the cold war, and he developed a 40-page treatment with his frequent co-writer, I.A.L. Diamond. They actually made a deal to make the film and even announced the start of production in November of 1960. My guess is that they would have beaten “Dr. Strangelove” to the punch in some regards, but it also sounds like they were going to try some genuinely edgy material, with the Marx Brothers playing robbers who took advantage of a UN crisis to rob Tiffany’s. By far, the sequence that sounded like a classic Marx Bros. bit most was supposed to feature Harpo making an address to the entire body of the UN without ever uttering a word. Unfortunately, both Chico and Harpo were unwell by this point, and Harpo’s heart attack followed quickly by Chico’s death ended any dreams that Wilder had for the film.
SIMON KINBERG (producer, “Elysium”)
Bertolucci’s “Red Harvest.” One of my favorite books of all time, and one of my favorite filmmakers.
Awesome pick. If you’re unfamiliar with the Hammet novel, it should seem familiar to anyone who loves “Yojimbo,” “Miller’s Crossing,” or “A Fistful Of Dollars.” Bertolucci almost got his version made in the early ’70s, and both Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson were seriously considered before the project eventually fell apart in the early ’80s, and Bertolucci has referred to this as one of the biggest regrets of his career.
ALBERT PYUN (director, “Mean Guns”)
My greatest regrets were not getting to make “The Overkillers” by David Goyer with Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone and Zhang Ziyi in 2001, and “Alcatraz” by Robert Rodat with Chuck Norris and Wesley Snipes for Avi, and a remake of “Johnny Guitar” with John Travolta. I gave them my all but was not as biz smart as I am now (relative term).
I would love to know more about all three of these.
DAVID HAYTER (screenwriter, “X-Men”)
I’d love to have seen Kubrick’s “Napoleon,” Terry Gilliam’s “Don Quixote,” Jim Cameron’s “Spider-Man.” And I’d have particularly loved to have seen Bryan Singer/David Hayter’s “X-Men 3.”
I’m with you on the Kubrick and the Gilliam, but I am very, very, very glad Jim Cameron never shot his “Spider-Man,” because as brilliant as Cameron is, that treatment he wrote just plain missed the point of the character, and featured some sequences that I think would have been truly disastrous.
MARK DUPLASS (writer/director, “The Puffy Chair”)
RICHARD LINKLATER ALMOST MADE A MOVIE OF “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.” THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN EPIC FOR ME.
That would have been one seriously Austin-centric movie.
SCOTT DERRICKSON (director, “Sinister”)
1. Kubrick’s “Napoleon” 2. Welles’ “Heart Of Darkness” 3. Kurosawa’s “Masque Of The Red Death” 4. Coppola’s “Megalopolis” 5. Lynch’s “Ronnie Rocket”.
I know about all of these except for the Kurosawa, and that sounds FASCINATING.
DEREK HAAS (screenwriter, “Wanted”)
I would go back in time and make the Tom Selleck version of “Raiders” just to see what would’ve happened. I mean, I’d still make Spielberg shoot it. I wouldn’t change anything other than Tom in, Harrison out. Would it have been good? Would Harrison Ford’s career be any less? He was already Han Solo, for Chris’sakes.
I think it’s a fair question. And while Ford was already Han Solo, there’s a chance that without Indy, Ford would have only been Han Solo. It’s not like “The Frisco Kid” and “Force Ten From Navarone” were setting the world on fire between those first two “Star Wars” films. Ford could easily have ended up boxed in by the iconic character, and never really allowed to stretch beyond that.
KEITH CALDER (producer, “You’re Next”)
The Terry Gilliam version of GOOD OMENS.
Some sort of film version of “Good Omens” seems inevitable to me. There’s no way this thing goes unfilmed forever, is there?
GEOFF LATULIPPE (screenwriter, “Going The Distance”)
This one’s a tie for me. As a massive Kubrick fan, I would have LOVED to have seen what he did with “Napoleon,” even though I have little interest in Napoleon himself. You just know it would have been awesome.
The other would be Orson Welles’s “The Little Prince,” which would have been a mix of animation and live action, and oh my fucking God can you even imagine a half-animated movie from Orson Fucking Welles.
I had no idea that was even a possibility. I think that could have been another of those movies that started to shift the notion of what animation could be, and any film that could have helped with that is a film I wish had been made.
JENSEN KARP (owner, Gallery1988, JASH, Tyson/Givens Marketing)
It’s a movie that’s still on the table for me, but I guess now it’s tossed around as a TV show more frequently, but I can’t wait for any form that “Preacher” takes on. It’s my favorite comic book of all-time, and I genuinely look forward to complaining about how they make it into media.
I didn’t read “Preacher” until earlier this year, when I read the entire series cover to cover. I am now convinced that this is going to remain one of the great unrealized properties. Anything too faithful to the book is going to freak a studio out, and anything too different isn’t going to make sense as a movie. It’s one of those stories that was told the right way, in the right media, and should be left alone.
SCOTT FRANK (writer/director, “A Walk Among The Tombstones”)
“La Brava.” Scorcese was going to make it a million years ago with Dustin Hoffman for the infamous Canon Group. When Canon took out an ad in the Trades “Welcoming Dustin Hoffman to the Canon Family,” Dustin blew. “Get Shorty” was partly based on that experience.
I’ll bet you could write an entire book just about films that were killed in one way or another by Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty during “development.”
TRAVIS STEVENS (producer, “Big Ass Spider”)
TIE: John Milius’ “King Conan: Crown Of Iron.” But only if I could get it made in the ’80s when all the talent’s eccentricities were attributes and not liabilities. And W.D. Richter’s Buckaroo Banzai sequel, “World Crime League.” Which I would commit major crimes to finance, even today.
DAVID PRIOR (DVD producer, “Zodiac”)
If I gave you the first answer that came to mind, I’d start violently sobbing. And everyone else is already going to say Kubrick’s “Napoleon.” So on reflection, I guess I would have to say one of any number of Orson Welles’ unfinished projects. It would be hard not to choose his stalled “King Lear.” But with “Heart of Darkness” and “Dead Calm” in the mix, it’s tough to settle on one. So I’ll take ’em all.
I have a pretty good feeling I know what movie you’re referring to in that first sentence, and I agree. That line-up of directors, all the bells and whistles available to artists now, and the commercial clout to get a truly edgy R-rated big budget anthology off the ground? Could have been beautiful, man. And Orson Welles made a whole career out of “almost,” which is heartbreaking.
DOUG TENNAPEL (writer/artist, “Cardboard”)
I would make one of my own failed graphic novel movie productions like “Creature Tech” or “Tommysaurus Rex”! They still need to get made, and if any Hollywood people are reading this who can pony up the 1.7 million those premises have against them you ought to go for it. You”d be a legend.
I understand why studios keep optioning the rights to the books that Tennapel writes and publishes, but I don’t understand why none of them have happened yet.
LUCKY MCKEE (writer/director, “All Cheerleaders Die”)
I don’t know if they are actually going to make it, they might be. But that would have to be “The Deep Blue Goodby.” I am afraid if it ever gets made they are gonna fuck it up worse than “Jack Reacher.”
I’ve read a few drafts of the latest attempt to turn Travis McGee into a modern film franchise, and I have to say, Lucky, I have every single finger and toe of mine crossed that they don’t do it. “Wrong” is an understatement.
For me personally, I think Disney’s animated “Princess Of Mars” back before he made “Snow White” is the one that I would spend my wish making real, because I think we’d have a totally different film industry today, and animation would not be thought of as a child’s art form now.
What I hope this does, more than anything, is spur you to share your picks. I still feel like out of the literally millions of you who read our site every month, we only ever hear from a small percentage of you, and I would love to change that.