Monday, March 17, 2008

Unfinished Business: The 5 Best Scripts Hollywood Never Made...


Question: "How many Development Executives does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

Answer: "Does it have to be a light bulb?"

- An old Film Industry joke about Development Executives.



Not all of the movies we see that suck started out that way. A film can take literally decades to gestate before going before cameras with the right team... or wrong team leading it. Hollywood is filled with giant egos, all wanting to take credit for something to validate a reason for having the title above their office door...

I've had quite a few people e-mail me over that past year or so whenever I talk about scripts or films. Many have asked me about other scripts I've read that I love. I thought I'd make a short list of several of the scripts I've read and put together what I believe are the best five scripts that Hollywood hasn't filmed. Granted, this is based on my own personal taste and if you don't like my taste you may not like these scripts. I originally thought I'd do a top ten list, but felt that it might be too many in one post. I'll instead focus on these five. If there's enough interest I'll add to the list with another five.

So without further ado...


Captain Blood - Screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh

PITCH: Think "Gladiator" set in the age of pirating. A swashbuckling epic that took the great 1935 film by director Michael Curtiz starring Errol Flynn into a much more gritty realization. Unlike "Pirates," there are no cursed, ghost pirates or giant, mythic sea creatures... only cursed men and high seas action. A doctor named Peter Blood is sold into slavery and put to work in Port Royal. Spanish pirates attack the unprepared Port Royal, Blood and other prisoners escape while the pirates attack is happening and take their galleon with them. The Pirates are quickly captured by the British. They set a path for a prisoner island filled with many more like themselves and then begin a pirating career on the open ocean that leads Blood back toward justice and redemption against the man responsible for his fate.

STATUS: Dead and buried. This was in development before Disney or anyone else thought about turning "Pirates of the Caribbean" into a film. The movie was to star a very career hot, at the time, Alec Baldwin. It went through various revisions and Frank Darabond did the later versions. Not a bad person to do a rewrite of your work, if you ask me. With the box office bomb "Cutthroat Island" in the mid 90's, pirate movies became "persona non grata" and the film languished for a while before Suits had it walk the plank...


Nevaland - Screenplay by Kevin Lewis & Troy Scott

PITCH: Think of "Peter Pan" meets "Romeo & Juliet"(the Leonardo Decaprio film version) with the action from "The Fast and the Furious" thrown in. This modern day retelling of the classic story by J. M. Barrie is set in contemporary New York during Christmas time. It's an enchanting love story about a young girl named Wendy from the New York burrows that meets a young, edgy party bad-boy named Peter who is on the run from some gang members working for a night club owner with one hand, one hook and a vendetta against him. He takes Wendy into his world which involves nightclubs, wild chases and a romantic night filled with romance and adventure on the island of Manhattan. Get it? As Long Island is a motiff for Neverland? A truly great read. A clever reinvention that's fast, fresh and perfect for todays market.

STATUS: Development Hell. I particularly loved the cast that was attached or rumored to be with this script. Samuel L. Jackson was connected with the Hook/Nightclub Owner character and if you've read the script he would've been dead-on. There was talk of Hayden Christensen as the Peter character, Rosario Dawson as the daughter of a rival nightclub owner named Lily, and Rachel Lee Cook for a punker pal of Pete's nicknamed Tink. Oh well...


Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula - Screenplay by Michael B. Valle

PITCH: Think literally Sherlock Holmes meets Dracula. Everything that "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" got wrong, this script got right. It takes two classic characters from the turn of the century, that occupied a similar place and has them meet. Taking place in 1891, it involves a great deal of characters from both books and has Holmes investigating a series of murders as Dracula has made it back to London. Holmes, a man of absolute logic has to come to grip with the fact that the criminal he's hunting doesn't correspond to his "elementary" view of the facts. Many of the characters that populate the novels of each book are here... including that "Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty" as well. I love, love, love this script. There is not a day goes by when I go to a theater that I don't wish I was setting down to watch this on the silver screen.

STATUS: Dead. But like Dracula, I pray it rises from the dead. I just don't hope some fool does a unneeded rewrite like happened on "I Am Legend" that winds up taking a great script and turning it into a good one. Chris Columbus was at one time attached to direct this. It languished for the last four or five years before dropping off the buzz meter. Sigh...


Smoke and Mirrors
- Screenplay by Lee Batchler & Janet Scott Batchler

PITCH: Think "Raiders of the Lost Ark" meets "Lawrence of Arabia" meets "Casablanca." Nice huh? It's a deeply rich, action/romance that involves a famous French magician Jean Robert Houdin(a real person, btw) who is enlisted by his government to go the French colony of Algeria to expose a local shaman that is terrifying people with his magic. He takes his young, lovely wife with him and encounters a handsome French Legionnaire that has a fancy for his wife. If you'd like to read more about the film/script check out this article I wrote last year called: Development Hell: Disney Style.

STATUS: Dead. Worse that dead, really. Dead and gone... It was a script designed to star Sean Connery. If you've read it, you'll understand that only a few people could do this roll. With Connery retired it's harder to find someone with his charisma that could fill this roll. It was on the verge of being made in the mid to late 90's and then fell back into oblivion and hasn't been seen or heard from since...


Thor - Screenplay by Mark Protosevich

PITCH: Think "Conan" meets "The 13th Warrior" set in the world of "Lord of the Rings." Wow... pretty cool, huh? The adaption of the Marvel Comics character throws away the version where he's a mild, normal man who's a disabled doctor that becomes the Mighty Thor after finding a stick and follows closer to Walt Simonson's take on the hot-headed Norse god(comic book geeks will know what I'm talking about here). In this story which takes place in an unnamed world populated by Norsemen, Thor and his brethren do battle with the Ice Giants. His brother Loki discovers a long lost secret and plots the downfall of his brother, clearing the way for his plot to seize Asgard. Primal, Macho action here. Young boys will be eating this up...

STATUS: Languishing. Marvel Comics still hasn't decided to greenlite the film. Matthew Vaughn is attached to direct it and is waiting to hear from the Marvel Suits. It is truly an epic film and will take an epic budget. I pray that they don't decide to go for a rewrite like they did with a fabulous "Fantastic Four" script by Michael France and Chris Columbus in favor of the sitcom style mediocrity that the final film turned out to be. Will it get made as is? Or will the tinkering of development executives destroy what would be a huge blockbuster for Marvel? Only the gods know...

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice. Sounds great. The Sherlock Holmes would be really cool to watch.

I like the Nevaland. I've always liked Pan.

Can we find these scripts anywhere?

Anonymous said...

Great post! I would love to see the rest of your top 10...

georgeofgungul said...

Thor sounds awesome!

DCHall said...

Would love to see a Marvel-Disney collaboration on Thor.

Anonymous said...

As much as Disney likes to say they're all about story, its so much more than that. Disney is about marketing. A film without a built-in demographic is a film without corporate synergy. All of these scripts are heavily dependent on genera and prior works. Rehash with a twist might be the right term.

Besides, scripts have nothing to do with Disney's choices in filmmaking. College Road Trip? Beverly Hills Chihuhua? High School Musical 3? They're all just mediums in which Disney tells the same mantras over and over again...i.e. Be true to one's self; Always believe; Be thankful; Never give up; blah blah blah.

The reason the majority of those scripts didn't make it past development is because Disney's agenda was hard to insert in the plots.

Honor Hunter said...

These are great scripts I've read guys, but they were not all in development by the Mouse. I've had many people ask me what other scripts I like so this was a post I made to let some people have an idea of what else is out there.

I'd love any of these to be made by Disney or any other studio. The Thor script would be distributed by Paramount if it gets made. That's who Marvel has a deal with.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. The problems with the Hollywood creative system extend far outside of Disney. From an artistic stand point, most Hollywood execs are morons. Sadly, the American public will lap up the stupidest movie in release. When Americans will go to movies like Wild Hogs in droves, why waste time, energy, money, and resources on something that is actually good? I don't support that viewpoint, but that is the way Hollywood execs think.

quack mcbush said...

Was Nevaland a movie in development by Disney? It sounds right up their alley with the new remakes of Snow White and Alice.

Anonymous said...

My vote goes for Sherlock Holmes. That sounds like a kickass movie. What idiot turd decided not to make that?

Anonymous said...

One of the more famous scripts Honor didn't mention was the infamous David Letterman movie written by George Meyer (The Simpsons), one of the all time great comedy writers. Supposedly the script was one of the funniest scripts ever written, and it currently resides in the Simpsons writers room.

And I agree the Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula sounds awesome.

Great post Honor

Anonymous said...

I remember when Smoke and Mirrors was being developed. Shame it never got made, but that is the problem with stories for specific types or performers. Sadly, there is no one around who can fill Connery's shoes.

As for the pirate movies, frankly, if the only "development" for the pirates franchise includes ghosts, curses and CGI monsters, I say put 'em back in the vault and throw away the combination.

The magic of the first movie was the story, not the special effects. Sadly, this was ignored not only by the production team but also Disney who seemed to realize $ signs everywhere.

Sadly, it showed in the final product.

I'd enjoy seeing Capt. Blood, but doubt anyone can pull it off without getting "clever" which tends to destroy the story.

Cinemabuzz said...

I would love to see one of those films. Someday. If Hollywood decides to make one of those films.

Bob & Rob "Professional American Writers" said...

Wow, what a great list! Sometimes we think we're the only ones with scripts buried all over town. Interesting to see the level of screenwriter has nothing to do with what gets shelved. Thanks for a cool article...and a superb site.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Samuel L. Jackson as Capt. Hook? I'm there, man. That sounds so cool!

ugly bantha said...

They all sound great. I want to see the Pirate movie. I'm a big fan of the original Captain Blood. Although I don't want Alex Baldwin to play the part, he's too old and fat.

The Nevaland movie sounds cool. Is it got a chance of being made?

Anonymous said...

i'm so into that nevaland idea, i've been sketching costume ideas all day (fashion major here, haha) i'm keeping my fingers crossed that this gets made before hayden is too old to play the youthful pan, because the casting is really great IMO

Janet said...

As one of the writers of "Smoke and Mirrors," I'm honored to be on your list.

A bit of backstory: Sean Connery was attached to star in the early '90s, with Frank Marshall directing. That production fell apart for reasons which vary depending on who you talk to.

The script was later bought for Michael Douglas to star in (with Catherine Zeta-Jones), with Mimi Leder directing. Start date was to be January 2002. That production fell apart due to 9/11 (they were going to shoot in Morocco).

The script is currently owned by what remains of Cinergi... for now, at least.

Thanks for the shout out.

--Janet Batchler

relic gated user said...

As for these stories, I'd rank them on interest meter:

#1 Smoke and Mirros

#2 Nevaland

#3 Sherlock Holmes

#4 Thor

#5 Captain Blood - sorry, but I'm so over pirate movies.

Josh E Armstrong said...

Awesome list! I'd love to read about more screenplays that were never used for films.

Anonymous said...

You people are nuts! Sherlock Holmes sounds like the bomb.

Any chance it will get made soon?

Anonymous said...

For those who were lovin' the Sherlock Holmes script, you should know that it is probably based on a book. If you're interested, check out "Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, or The adventure of the sanguinary count" by Loren D. Estleman. I believe it's out of print, but most libraries seem to have it. It's a pretty good read.

Honor Hunter said...

Actually anonymous,

It's an original tale... it's not based on any book or story. Valle, the screenwriter, wrote it in the late 90's. It's inspired by the Sherlock Holmes books and Bram Stoker's Dracula book and combines the meeting of these two great literary characters that fictionally existed in the same time and same places.

Anonymous said...

Are all these projects really dead?

I hope not. Everyone of them sounds f'ing cool. Hollywood is so stupid sometimes. I mean Sherlock Holmes versus Dracula? The Might Thor ala: Lord of the Rings? Samuel Jackson as Hook kicking a little bitch white boy punker Hayden? Where can I write the moronic idiots that decided against making these?

Th3Boss said...

Where can I get a copy of these scripts to read?