Given the decades it spent bouncing around Hollywood, unable to find a studio or a creative team whose vision aligned with the late Jim Henson, it’s a minor miracle that we’re getting a Dark Crystal revival at all. Thankfully, it’s pretty good, and it raised this week’s AVQ&A question:
What is a project in “development hell” you really want to see get made?
I think just about every drama club kid appeared in Guys And Dolls at some point. I was in the chorus as a high school freshman and can still rattle off every stellar song by heart; in fact, I often serenaded my kids with “Fugue For Tinhorns” and “Bushel And A Peck” at bedtime when they were little. So I have waited a long time for the gambling-based musical to return to the big screen, some 50 years after the Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra version. How long? Well, I was all excited about this Newswire I wrote in 2013, back when Danny Strong was writing the script and Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were rumored to take over for the Brando/Sinatra roles (or vice versa), in what I considered perfect casting. Now that the movie musical is on an upswing after the success of movies like La La Land and The Greatest Showman, a few months ago talk about a Guys And Dolls revival began anew, as TriStar has purchased the remake rights. Yes, I have been burned before, but just like Guys And Dolls’ Adelaide, my hope is eternal.
I‘ve always wanted to see what Steven Spielberg could’ve done with a Stephen King property, especially during his ’70s and ’80s heyday. Outside of Spielberg’s Amblin Television producing that piss-poor CBS adaptation of Under The Dome, the pair have never collaborated on a major project. That’s not, though, for a lack of trying. In 1982, two years before its publication, Spielberg scooped up the rights to The Talisman, a fantasy horror novel King co-wrote with Peter Straub. Sadly, the project languished, with a scrapped TNT miniseries in the late ’00s being the closest it came to fruition. “Several times he came very close to making it, and there were a lot of discussions about that,” King recently told Entertainment Weekly. There’s still hope, though: Spielberg said in that very same article that he’s hoping to get The Talisman made “in the next couple of years,” though, sadly, not with him behind the camera. Collider reported earlier this year that a director had been assigned with The Handmaid’s Tale veteran Mike Barker. Still, I remain excited—The Talisman is a bit of a mess at over 900 pages, but there’s a touching, thrilling YA adventure buried beneath its convoluted mass of interdimensional realms, vulnerable werewolves, and prep school demons. Might a top-of-his-game Spielberg have excelled at such a story? Likely, but I’ll see it no matter who’s behind the camera.
At present, my answer has little to do with how successful I think an adaptation would be and everything to do with my curiosity about a personal favorite book series, and what weirdo showrunner they could find who would be insane enough to tackle it: That would be Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos. The project was first announced back in the halcyon days of 2015, when it seemed like having Oscar-winning star Bradley Cooper and producer Todd Phillips shepherding the heady and convoluted tale of seven pilgrims trying to unravel an interstellar mystery would be enough to get it off the ground. But alas, even with a modest initial plan of just sticking to the first book in the series and giving it to Syfy to do a budget version of the massive narrative, things seem to have gone south. Author Simmons even took to the internet a couple of years ago to suggest there was a better chance of monkeys flying out of his butt than of his beloved series ever getting adapted to television. But I remain hopeful that Cooper will refocus his attention on the series and get the damn thing made, maybe with one of those newfangled streaming services I’ve heard so much about that are cranking out ambitious and expensive shows one after the other at the moment. Get in on the gold rush before the bubble pops, Bradley! I want to see the Shrike do some serious torturing on the Tree Of Pain!
I don’t necessarily think Metal Gear Solid should be a movie, since video game adaptations are universally bad and Metal Gear is too good to be sullied like that, but I am curious to see what sort of take Jordan Vogt-Roberts will have on it—if the movie ever gets made. Series creator Hideo Kojima first revealed that a Metal Gear movie was actually in the works in 2006, though there had been more aimless talks long before that, and several filmmakers either expressed interest or popped up as second-hand rumors before Kong: Skull Island’s Vogt-Roberts came on board. He has since shared a bunch of concept art for the movie on social media, but it was always with the caveat that he was just showing off cool stuff and not that he was actually doing any serious work on the film. Plus, Kojima was unceremoniously fired from Metal Gear publisher Konami a few years ago, throwing a wrench in the works, so there still hasn’t been any real progress on this.
A cinematic follow-up is no longer the last resort for TV shows with unfinished business—just ask Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, or that pioneer in streaming-to-terrestrial second chances, One Day At A Time. Hell, even a perpetual underdog like Veronica Mars got a movie sequel and then a shot at becoming an ongoing concern on Hulu. But while Mars Investigations might be permanently re-opened, another Rob Thomas-created workplace remains in limbo: The cater-waiter purgatory of Party Down, which was rumored to be spun off into a movie throughout the early 2010s. But as Thomas recently told me, the project is pretty much dead. Reuniting a cast that included Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Ken Marino, and Ryan Hansen is too great a challenge in 2019—it already was in 2010, when Lynch’s big break on Glee meant she had to sit out season two. (And it’s not like the dance card of her replacement, Megan Mullally, is particularly empty these days, either.) And while things in the TV business have changed enough that, if Party Down were to come back, it’d probably be as a series and not as a feature, I carry a torch for the movie because of how Thomas and co-creators John Enbom and Dan Etheridge suggested it’d open: With a reenactment of the smarmy beer commercials that sunk actor Henry Pollard’s (Scott) career before it even began. Are we having fun yet? No, not until hell freezes over and a digitally de-aged Henry glides across its surface to give the fans of a low-rated, but highly regarded cable comedy something they’ve had to picture in their heads for the past decade.
Many of my favorite film directors have a problem with announcing way more projects than anyone could ever complete in their lifetime, a habit that I, as a chronic over-committer, observe with a combination of horror, anxiety, and deep empathy. Guillermo del Toro, bless his heart and all the horror and wonder it contains, does this a lot—so much so that we gently rib him about it in Newswire headlines from time to time. There are many outside factors beyond del Toro’s kid-in-a-candy-store enthusiasm, of course; there are budgets to be secured and executives to be persuaded before a project can ascend from the pits of development hell. Del Toro made this point last November when he tweeted out a list of every script he’s completed that has yet to be produced, and of that list, I have to say I’d most like to see him finally complete his decade-long quest to direct At The Mountains Of Madness. That’s the uncompleted del Toro project that’s come closest to becoming a reality, and while H.P. Lovecraft adaptations in horror are plentiful to say the least, most of those are low-budget projects that—through no fault of their own—can’t even come close to the level of detail del Toro brings to his projects. Can you imagine the cosmic horror of the Elder Things, rendered with the same specificity as the costumes of Crimson Peak or the creature design of Pan’s Labyrinth? It’s enough to drive one to madness just thinking about it. So what if it was going to cost $150 million and be rated R? This is a post-It era, baby!
Look, the chances of Hollywood fucking up a live-action remake of Akira are as manifold and branching as the flesh of a psychic teenage bike ganger hepped on super-drugs—especially since the studios continually insist on casting Americans in the part of the anime’s dystopia-living Neo Tokyo residents. And yet, there’s a grotesque and hungry part of me that desperately wants to see the ending of the 1988 film—in which poor, doomed Tetsuo turns into a sort of malevolent, city-destroying flesh balloon—translated into the real world, no matter how many cancellations and project collapses I have to go through to get there. And sure, it’s a step in the right direction that the brilliant Taika Waititi has been attached to the long-in-the-works production. But that dude is also busy as hell, so pardon me if I don’t count my hyper-violent eggs before they hatch, even as I hold out hope that some day I might get to see one of the grossest goddamn images I’ve ever witnessed blossom beautifully into the “real” world.