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Authors: David Hughes

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Tales From Development Hell

BOOK: Tales From Development Hell
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TALES FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL

ISBN: 9780857687234

E-BOOK ISBN 9780857687319

Published by

Titan Books

A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd.

144 Southwark St.

London

SE1 0UP

First updated and expanded edition: February 2012

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Tales From Development Hell
copyright © 2003, 2011

David Hughes. All rights reserved.

DEDICATION

To Sandra, ‘Kocham Cie’.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

The views and opinions expressed by the interviewees and other third party sources in this book are not necessarily those of the author or publisher, and the author and publisher accept no responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, and the author and publisher specifically disclaim any liability, loss, or risk, whether personal, financial, or otherwise, that is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from the contents of this book.

Did you enjoy this book? We love to hear from our readers. Please e-mail us at:
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No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

Printed and bound in the USA.

TALES
FROM
DEVELOPMENT
HELL
THE GREATEST MOVIES NEVER MADE?
DAVID HUGHES
TITAN BOOKS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My sincere thanks are due to several key players who rescued this book from Development Hell:

Adam Newell,
the producer who shepherded it into production and pulled double duty – quadruple duty if you include this second edition – as editor and continuity person;

Rod Edgar,
the script researcher and production assistant whose diligence makes up for my negligence;

Chelsey Fox,
the agent who negotiated the deal and made sure the writer didn’t get screwed;

Steven de Souza,
who provided several terrific characters, and whose vast contribution seems almost sufficient to warrant shared story credit under Writers Guild regulations;

James V. Hart,
whose tireless efforts gave me a whole subplot I would not otherwise have conceived of;

Gary Goldman,
another great screenwriter much too gracious to take credit where it’s due;

Tab Murphy,
who provided excellent guidance on the rewrite;

Beth Palma Diaz
for invaluable research assistance;

Also deserving of a place on the credit list are the following key collaborators:

Grant Hawkins, Ted Henning, Lee and Janet Scott Batchler, Adam Rifkin, Don Murphy, Forrest J. Ackerman, Ralph Bakshi, David Cronenberg, Ron Shusett, Paul Verhoeven, Gary Goldman, Matthew Cirulnick, Steven de Souza, Jim Uhls, H. R. Giger, Jere Cunningham, David Koepp, Terry Moore, Neil Gaiman, William Farmer, David J. Schow, Richard Friedenberg, James V. Hart, Tom Topor, Darren Aronofsky, Wesley Strick Dean Devlin, Kevin J. Anderson and Glen Morgan.

Finally, special thanks to Sandra, Harry and Jenna for giving me peace, love and understanding while I worked on the Second Edition.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

1
DISILLUSIONED

How
Smoke and Mirrors
started life as a “weekend read”, became the hottest script in Hollywood — and then magically disappeared

2
MONKEY BUSINESS

An infinite number of monkeys with typewriters could hardly concoct a more bizarre story than the evolution of Tim Burton’s “re-imagining” of
Planet of the Apes

3
CAST INTO MOUNT DOOM

Paths not taken on the road to Peter Jackson’s
The Lord of the Rings

4
WE CAN REWRITE IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE

Why the long development of
Total Recall
and its unproduced sequel is a memory most of those involved would rather forget

5
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

Separating fact from fiction in the development of Indy IV

6
THE LOST CRUSADE

Despite an epic crusade by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would take a miracle to bring
Crusade
to the screen

7
TRAIN WRECK

Despite the best efforts of Ridley Scott, Joel Silver, Sylvester Stallone and Roland Emmerich, the
‘Alien
on a train’ movie
Isobar
never left the station

8
WHO WANTS TO BE A BILLIONAIRE?

Before Scorsese’s
The Aviator
took off, Brian De Palma, Christopher Nolan, Milos Forman and the aptly-named Hughes brothers all had their own pet Howard Hughes projects

9
PERCHANCE TO DREAM

The title character of Neil Gaiman’s critically acclaimed comic book
The Sandman
visited Hell. Unlike the film version, however, he made it back

10
CRISIS ON THE HOT ZONE

How Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the Richard Preston bestseller failed to survive an
Outbreak

11
FALL AND RISE OF THE DARK KNIGHT

The long and winding road to
Batman Begins

12
TOMB RAIDER CHRONICLES

Why making the leap to the big screen was the toughest challenge Lara Croft had ever faced

13
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING FILM

How James Cameron, Roland Emmerich and others encountered huge problems trying to remake ’60s sci-fi adventure
Fantastic Voyage

14
TALES FROM THE SCRIPT

From
The Exorcist: The Beginning
to
Airborne:
my own journeys into the Stygian darkness of Development Hell

INDEX OF QUOTATIONS

INDEX OF PEOPLE AND PROJECTS

WELCOME TO DEVELOPMENT HELL

“Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it.”

— Douglas Adams

 

T
his is not the book I set out to write. Originally, I planned a kind of mainstream version of my earlier book,
The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made,
covering some of the best unproduced scripts in recent Hollywood history. However, like so many movie-related projects before it, a degree of ‘Development Hell’ crept in, which turned this book into something else entirely. I already knew that the stories behind many unmade movies were more interesting than the movies themselves would ever have been. What I also discovered was that some of the films which suffered most in development
did
eventually get made — albeit with varying results — and the stories behind those projects are, to me, just as fascinating. Thus, as far as this is book is concerned, the development process was a positive experience — which is more than can be said for the various case studies it documents.

Why do so many Hollywood films go into development, only to wind up in Hell? What is this place to which so many promising-sounding projects and perfectly serviceable scripts seem to be banished, many of them never to be heard from again?

To understand the concept of Development Hell, one must first understand what
development
is. Producer Jane Hamsher, whose credits include
Natural Born Killers
and
From Hell,
has described development as follows: “The writer turns in a script. The producers and studio executives read it, give the writer
their ‘development’ notes, and he goes back and rewrites as best he can, trying to make everyone happy. If it comes back and it’s great, the studio and the producers will try and attach a director and stars (if they haven’t already), and hopefully the picture will get made.”

That’s development, in theory. In practice, it’s more like this:

     
  1. The writer turns in a script so unutterably perfect they would stick pens in their eyes sooner than change a single syllable of it.
  2.  
  3. The producer or studio executive, too busy/bored/illiterate to read the script for themselves, sends out for ‘script coverage’ — advice on the potential of the script from a professional script reader. If this doesn’t instantly lead to the script being junked and the writer being fired and replaced — either by a younger, hotter, cheaper model (a ‘tyro’), or an older, more experienced and more expensive one (a ‘veteran’) — the writer will be given ‘notes’. “Everybody gives writers notes,” says screenwriter Richard Friedenberg
    (Dying Young, A River Runs Through It),
    “[even] the garbage man. And the notes always conflict.”
  4.  
  5. If sufficiently encouraged to do so, the producer/executive might then actually
    read
    the script. “This is perfect,” he (or, one time in a thousand, she) might say. “Who can we get to rewrite it?” Then, in order to justify their own on-screen credit/exorbitant salary/job title/parking space, they will throw their own ideas into the mix or, more commonly, take ideas out. “In Hollywood, ideas are anathema,” says screenwriter-producer Gary Goldman
    (Basic Instinct, Total Recall, Minority Report),
    “and the bigger the budget, the more forbidden they are.”
  6.  
  7. The writer then scurries away to rewrite their
    magnum opus,
    doing their best to incorporate all the different, conflicting notes, and resubmits the script for approval.
    Steps 1 through 4 are now repeated continuously,
    with the script continually evolving — and, in rare cases, improving — until finally someone decides it’s good enough (though probably not quite as good as the first draft) to make into a film...
  8.  
  9. This latest draft of the script is sent out to actors and directors, in the
    hope that it will attract one with sufficient clout to actually
    get it made.
    Interested
    directors
    — who may be attached to up to a dozen projects at a time, in the hopes that a studio will eventually give one of them a ‘green light’ — will almost certainly want a rewrite, to incorporate twenty-minute tracking shots, elaborate set-pieces, thousands of extras, impossible locations, etc., any of which can add a couple of zeroes to the budget the producer has in mind. Interested
    actors
    will almost certainly want a rewrite, to make their scenes larger, their character more heroic, their journey more arduous, their dialogue more, well, you know,
    gooder
    — even (or
    especially)
    if it means stealing the best lines from other characters. In other words, as one veteran screenwriter puts it, “tweaking a draft to better suit a star who’s expressed interest, only to have said star drop out of the project.” Since the desires of the studio, producers, director and actors are usually mutually exclusive, all of them will blame the writer, who will be fired and replaced by a new writer... taking the whole process back to stage 1.
BOOK: Tales From Development Hell
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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