Don’t you love it when you hear about a movie finally getting made that you’ve been dying to see? Usually these are book adaptations or sequels, but occasionally it’s just a project you’ve heard about that sounds awesome. Over the last decade I’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter franchise, and this year we finally get to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, after what feels like a one hundred year wait. These days we don’t usually have to wait long for a beloved story to come to the big screen, thanks to advances in technology. What was once unfilmable is now completely doable. (Except for Watchmen—that really was unfilmable and should’ve been left alone.) However, there are still those projects that linger in development hell, teasing us with possibilities and might-have-beens. Here are a few movies I’d like to see go into production.
Is this truly an unfilmable film? I think it is. Orson Welles couldn’t get it done, and Terry Gilliam’s (Fear and Loathing in) documentary Lost in La Mancha shows just how hard it is to bring Cervantes’s epic to the big screen. Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was financed and Johnny Depp was onboard to star as Sancho Panza—they even started filming! And still, it couldn’t get done. I’m not sure what it is about this story that continues to stump filmmakers. I would say sheer length—Don Quixote is a big freaking book—but Lord of the Rings got done, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, too. So big books can be translated to the movie screen. At this point I think it’s mostly the stigma of past failure. No one has managed to get a Don Quixote feature film made in the modern era, thus, everyone assumes it can’t be done.
This movie based on the life of the 3rd Century BC warlord has been stuck for years. Hannibal’s is a story ripe for film. Good ole fashioned sword and sandal epic, the Carthaginian general who turns his sight on Rome and takes WAR ELEPHANTS over the ALPS to get there. Please. Am sold. Just think about it–can’t you see the sweeping visuals, the elephants lumbering through snowy mountain passes, the huge army coalescing around Rome? And Hannibal, someone handsome but weathered, like Clive Owen, giving a moving speech and leading the charge? Hmm…that sounds like Gladiator…
Which is part of the problem. Except for the conquering army part, and the war elephants, the story is basically Gladiator–pesky outsider takes on Roman imperialism. The other problem is that this is Vin Diesel’s pet project. He’s set to direct and star as Hannibal. That’s right. Vin Diesel. To star. And DIRECT.
No wonder they can’t get financing.
Mystery White Boy
I’m divided on this one. As a fan of Jeff Buckley, I both want to see this movie, and yet, I kind of think maybe the best way respecting Buckley’s legacy is to simply leave it alone. In case you don’t know, Jeff Buckley was a singer/songwriter in the Nineties. He completed one album, Grace, and left most of his sophomore effort, My Sweetheart the Drunk unfinished (all recordings for that album were later released as Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk). Buckley is probably most famous today for his seminal rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which if you haven’t heard it, crawl out from under that rock and have a listen.
Right?! He’s amazing. And only that one, perfect album to remember him by. In 1997, while in Memphis working on My Sweetheart the Drunk, Buckley went for a swim in the Wolf River, which had done several times before. He disappeared and was found, drowned, nearly a week later. Being this tortured artiste, people wanted to assume Buckley OD’ed, but it turned out he had taken no drugs and was not drunk. He simply…disappeared into the river.
His story is romantic and tragic enough for a movie, and Buckley has a solid, rabid fanbase that have put his recordings on the charts several times since his death over a decade ago. So of course there’s a movie in the works. There’s a script, and even an actor attached—James Franco (Pineapple Express, Milk) is a dead ringer for Buckley and the favorite of Buckley’s own mother to portray her son. Yet despite all this, Mystery White Boy remains a speck on the horizon.
Roger Rabbit 2
Remember Roger Rabbit, the half-live action, half-animation film starring Bob Hoskins? Damn, that movie is awesome. It’s one that I liked as a kid, but the older I’ve gotten the more I appreciate it. Coincidentally, Roger Rabbit is not remotely appropriate for children. Why was I watching that? Anyway. There’s a sequel. Roger Rabbit was a big hit in 1988 and work on a sequel began immediately. There was a script and a plan and then it stalled. Over the last twenty years directors have come and gone for whatever reason, still no Roger Rabbit 2. In 2009 Robert Zemeckis stepped up and announced he would make it for a 2012 release using motion-capture technology. I hate his mo-cap movies. Everyone ends up with empty eyes and gummy faces. It’s disturbing. In fact, you know what, I’m good with Roger Rabbit 2 sitting on the shelf.
World War Z
Make this movie. NOW.
Based on Max Brooks’ (son of Mel) epic book, World War Z is the alpha and omega of zombie literature. Laugh it off if you will, but Z reads like the manual for the destruction of modern society (replace “zombie plague” with “global pandemic” and you have a frightening picture of how ill-equipped we are to handle a breakdown of that magnitude). It is harrowing, bone chillingly scary, and gruesome. When a freaked-out media tells the American public to “go north” to escape the threat, people pack their cars with DVD players, Spongebob sleeping bags, and about a month’s worth of canned food. Halfway through the first winter, everyone’s in Canada, freezing to death and resorting to cannibalism. Brooks’ story unwinds through a series of survivor accounts taken from across the world—supposedly the “outtakes” from his official UN report on the zombie war. The book spans twenty years and all seven continents and includes a cast of characters numbered by the dozens. It is a daunting, sweeping task to be sure.
But it can be done. After a bidding war in 2007, Brad Pitt’s Plan B emerged with the rights. Plan B has an output deal with Paramount, so there is some money and clout available to push this project through. Then in 2008 a script by J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling) leaked onto the interwebz. Ain’t It Cool News reviewed the script and pondered if a zombie movie would be taken seriously as a Best Picture contender, it was that good. Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace) was attached to direct and it seemed to be all systems go for a 2009 production. But then…nothing. For some reason, Z stalled and never got off the ground. Today it’s back in development, with a new writer (why, if the 2008 script was so good?), and no director attached. Discouraging, but they do say that zombies are the new vampire…
And the movie in development I DO NOT want to see made: A Confederacy of Dunces