Tales from Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? essay and exclusive excerpt

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34 Responses to “Tales from Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? essay and exclusive excerpt”

  1. Ambiguity says:

    Interesting write up, but: Nonplussed. I’m not sure that it means what you think it means, because a guy in a suit doesn’t sound all that surprising.

    • Isaac Marx says:

      I think in this context it’s meant to convey “What the hell are they thinking writing in this hackey knock-off alien?”

      Nonplussed is one of a rare breed of words: it has come to mean both its original meaning (upset, bewildered) as well as its complete opposite (unfazed).

  2. lotusstp says:

    Hmm… this is the “New Updated Edition” of 2004′s Tales From Development Hell that I read earlier this year (having picked it up @ Ollies for $1.00). The highlight excerpted here appears to be exactly the same as the 2004 version.  Can anyone tell me how much new material Hughes has added to his already excellent tome?

  3. BarBarSeven says:

    Isn’t the executive summary of this how prior to the 1970s & the release of Star Wars & Jaws, the movie industry was quite casual when it came to releasing works.  Meaning decisions were made based more on creative merit of the film itself & how much the profit/loss ratio would be.

    Then after Star Wars & Jaws the industry truly became a business. And movies were no longer self-contained creative ventures, but pure investments that needed to do more than break even to prove themselves.  Thus “development hell” while studios gamble that they would rather wait it out to strike pure gold, and make money back on merchandising & licensing, than just release something that might not make them filthy rich.

    Nowadays it seems that studios release films based purely on market research & as a vessel to promote a brand rather than being an experience in itself.

    • rtresco says:

      I think prior to Star Wars and Jaws, but post Gone With the Wind, Cleopatra, etc. It was a tight business of bottom lines in the old Studio days of contracted writers, players, directors, but all that fell apart for about ten years until Jaws started the new world you mention.

      • Halloween_Jack says:

         I’d even doubt that those ten years were as good as you mention. Yes, there’s the likes of Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, etc. but you also had epic disaster movies like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, Airport, etc. Pure money-making exploitation ventures. I know that it’s been a common trope among cineastes that there was some noble era of American auteurship that was wiped out singlehandedly (or doublehandedly, maybe) by Lucas and Spielberg, but I don’t think that history really supports that.

        • Steve White says:

           I’d argue that it was wiped out by Kennedy and the Beatles.  The old guard of Hollywood simply grew stale and  only a handful of outstanding films carried the sixties (The Graduate and Dr. Strangelove come to mind).  And those 70′s big budget disaster movies just couldn’t compete with the new style.  Corman should get his due for incubating the American wave of post 1960′s cinema.  Add to that mix the technology that allowed the camera much more freedom and the film schools eating up French films. 

          • Preston Sturges says:

            Working for Corman gave many people their first real exposure to movie making and the idea that visual effects can be improvised on the set. 

        • v_vsn says:

          > Pure money-making exploitation ventures.

          No, that’s incorrect.  As @BarBarSeven was saying, the studios were not driven in this way because they had not figured out how to do it.  They basically released movies (including the Poseidon Adventure/Inferno/Airport movies) hoping they’d do well.  They hadn’t really tapped into the *formula*.  Spielberg brought that with Jaws, and Lucas blew the roof off of it with Star Wars.

          • wizardru says:

            I don’t agree.  Hollywood had already figured this out.  The Planet of the Apes series is a classic example of this.  Each movie had a smaller budget and lesser known actors (except for inexpensive stars like Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter) and they came out annually, rolling into a TV series and animated cartoon.  PotA created the modern marketing blockbuster before Jaws or Star Wars.

            Hollywood has always been a business where art gets made and not the other way around.  The model changed as the costs did and external threats like television forced them to adapt (essentially, they had to differentiate themselves, usually in terms of scale).  Look at many movies from the 20s-50s…many of them could have been TV productions, had TV existed when they were made.

            The myth that Spielberg and Lucas somehow broke Hollywood is just that.

    • Preston Sturges says:

      And I don’t recall seeing a 1977 Star Wars trailer. One exists, and it’s pretty awful.  I only recall some radio ads on the local FM hipster station.  

      Jaws?  Yes that had been a best seller and they promoted the hell out of it with a very effective trailer featuring the woman skinny dipping at night. Close Encounters got promoted so heavily that I was afraid the movie was going to suck balls.

      • v_vsn says:

        > And I don’t recall seeing a 1977 Star Wars trailer.

        I do.  The 1977 tv trailer blew me away as a kid.  It was a harbinger for something radically different and we all noticed it.

  4. One of the best science-fiction movies that was never made is ‘Ender’s Game’ but i hope Hollywood will film ‘Daemon’ by Daniel Suarez, an amazing story: 
    http://www.smartlab.at/book-review-daniel-suarez-author-of-daemon-freedom-and-kill-decision/

    • siloxane says:

      One of the best science-fiction movies that was never made is ‘Ender’s Game’

      It’s taken years, but “never made” no longer accurate. The film is currently in post-production and is scheduled for release November 1, 2013.

      More info.

  5. Quib says:

    The first description made me think the alien would look human, and blend in with passengers on the train. That made me think it was cool.
    There’s maybe some distant potential in the feeding on adrenaline idea. It could be completely ridiculous, or awesome to have a creature with a motivation to terrify it’s victims as much as possible before killing them, using it’s engineered intelligence to psychologically manipulate people’s deep seated anxieties.

    • Conan Librarian says:

      So its the sci-fi version of the Orient Express murder mystery, only with an Alien super-hybrid?

      • Robert says:

        I don’t think comparisons to plot elements of previous stories is fair. Unless a story follows a plot point by point, it’s a different story.

      • Quib says:

         Is there a part of that that’s not awesome?

        Also like that episode (those episodes) of Twilight Zone, y’know, the one where the bus stops at a diner, and they’re trying to figure out which person is an alien.

  6. Preston Sturges says:

    Q – How many studio executives does it take to change a light bulb?

    A – Does it have to be a light bulb?  Could it be a dog? A talking dog!

  7. charlesrichter says:

    “Intercontinental Subterranean Oscillo-magnetic Ballistic Aerodynamic Railway”
    Good thing it was aerodynamic, if it was operating in a vacuum.

  8. chronoss chiron says:

    cant wait for spiderman 666

  9. cdh1971 says:

    A friend told me his cousin who works in Hollywood told him he saw a screenplay for a reimagined ‘Smoky and the Bear’.

    Burt Reynold’s role was written with Johnny Depp in mind, with Neil Patrick Harris in Sally Fields’ role and Lance Henriksen in Jackie Gleason’s role as the sheriff.  Peter Dinklage was to be his deputy. 

    The script was written with these actors in mind, but also offered alternatives, don’t remember who they were. I’m not sure when the screenplay was written, but my cousin mentioned it about five or six years ago. The only reason I knew of Dinklage was because I saw the Station Master.

    This is just one of many wacky screenplays likely floating around. Bizarre choice of  characters. Maybe it would work with David Lynch or Tim Burton directing?

    • DonBoy2 says:

      That was confusing, because you mean “Smokey and the Bandit”.  I was expected Ranger Smith.  No, that’s Yogi.  So I was just all-around confused.

      • cdh1971 says:

        Yes, Smokey and the Bandit. Not sure why I wrote bear. Oh wait…Smokey the Bear.

        As for Yogi the bear…Have a live action interpretation. Yogi (Johnny Depp) and Boo Boo (Dinklage) are two Furries who are squatters at Jelly Stone National Park. Yogi and Boo Boo steal from tourists picnic baskets, beer, personal lubrication and whatever else they need. Lance Henrikson plays Ranger Smith.

  10. jeligula says:

    F. Paul Wilson’s exceptional character, “Repairman Jack”, has been in stalled development for over a decade.  Truly a developmental hell for Dr. Wilson.  He needs to talk to George R. R. Martin to see how it is done.  Martin has never failed to get his work on film, but writing for TV  since 1986 would tend to give a person the experience and the network.

  11. DonBoy2 says:

    My understanding of the Spider-Man situation is that Sony “had to” make another movie to prevent the rights from reverting to Marvel, although I can’t immediately confirm that from online sources.

    • Thad Boyd says:

      Yes, but they didn’t have to boot Raimi.

      • wizardru says:

        They didn’t have to keep him, either.  It’s almost a certainty that Marc Webb’s salary was far less than Raimi’s would have been…and since the rest of the cast was being recycled, why not the director?  The third film was a financial success but a critical flop, while the newest movie has succeeded on both fronts and has restarted the franchise for several more movies.

        For Sony it’s a win-win (though marvel would surely like to get control back, their contract is something that benefited them then, but they’re stuck with now).

  12. 2012, as I recall, was the year (one of a succession of many) we were supposed to see the adaptation of The Stars My Destination.   Uh-huh.  Considering what one could realistically expect from such a thing, I’m thankful this shows every sign of being yet another failed 2012 prophesy.

  13. Thad Boyd says:

    no sooner had Sony finished counting the box office receipts from the last of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, a “re-boot” was announced, taking its most valuable film franchise in a new direction, bringing it too a new generation, or – who knows? – perhaps simply making the suit, and perhaps the story, a shade darker.

    …but the suit in Spider-Man 3 was black.

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