Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nobody Knows Anything, Part 6a: When all is said and done...

The movie industry is full of best laid plans, and has been that way for many generations. Some films take forever to make, while others never get made. This post is about two movies that each took about twenty years to actually get made from the time they were first discussed, followed by a few movies that are either in pre-production or in negotiations or are completely made up.

John Huston had an option on making Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King since the early 1950s at least, but circumstances kept getting in the way. When he first started talking to producers about making the adventure film, he could bring up George Stevens' classic film Gunga Din as a template for the kind of exciting action the movie would deliver. After all, that movie was just very loosely based on a Kipling poem, and this one had an entire Kipling novel to work with. When in early discussions, Huston wanted the movie to star Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable.

Time rolls by, and Huston makes several other films. He still want to film the Kipling story, but by the early 1960s, both Bogart and Gable are dead. At that time, Huston thinks instead about casting British actors, since the characters are supposed to be British soldiers striking out on their own to conquer a small part of Central Asia. When Huston would talk up the project, the names he would bandy about were Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.

The movie finally did get made in the 1970s. Two British movie stars were in the lead roles, but by then, it was Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

Clint Eastwood's Oscar winning western Unforgiven also took a circuitous path to getting made, but for completely different reasons. The screenplay was originally written in 1976 by David Webb Peoples. He states as a main influence The Shootist, a movie that was released that year, best known now as being John Wayne's final film.

The first filmmaker to option Peoples' script was Francis Coppola, but as happened many times in his career, Coppola ran low on funds and decided he couldn't afford to make the film, so his option ran out.

Clint Eastwood read the script and liked it very much. He wanted to direct the film, but he was also interested in playing the main character, William Munny. Eastwood didn't want to monkey with the script, so he kept the project on hold until he had to time to shoot it and he felt he was old enough to play the character.

Eastwood dedicated the film to two directors he had worked with on westerns in his past, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Siegel, coincidentally, directed The Shootist, the film that inspired Peoples to write the script for Unforgiven.

So there are stories of scripts that sit around unproduced for decades, but actually do get made in the end, sometimes very successfully. But some projects never get beyond the rumor stage, and here are the story of three such films I have heard about, largely because of rumors that have been spread around by My People in furtherance of Our Agenda.

For decades now, Hollywood has been making major motion pictures based on old TV shows from the sixties and seventies. The Star Trek franchise started the trend, but shows as diverse as The Fugitive and The Brady Bunch have found their way to the big screen from the small. Why not Irwin Allen's 1960s adventure series Land of the Giants?

Well, hypothetical question asker, there are two major obstacles. First, the show sucked and second, it doesn't have a huge fan base. Even My People have to admit it didn't have enough giant woman scenes to keep our interest. This rumor among My People I would put in the category of wishful thinking.

A somewhat more credible rumor is that Eddie Murphy will star in the remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man. This rumor even has a page on The Internet Movie Database as being "in production", but it only lists Murphy, producer Brian Grazer and a screenplay. Among My People, this movie has been rumored to be Murphy's "next project" for most of this century, so until there is more cast and a director listed on, this rumor is just slightly more credible than the big screen adaption of Land of the Giants.

A slightly more believable rumor is that Jack Black will star in a new movie based loosely on Gulliver's Travels. You'll notice that the imdb page for this project has a lot more names attached to it. The thing that is unknown, and of intense interest to My People, is if the story will just be about Gulliver in Lilliput, which has been the case in some other screen adaptations, or if it will also include a trip to Brobdingnag, the land of giants Gulliver visits after his trip to Lilliput, as shown in the still picture from the Ted Danson TV movie version.

In the final installment of Nobody Knows Anything, I spill the beans secondhand about how things get done in Hollywood, or more precisely, how things don't get done.

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