My former colleague Sonny Bunch recently reviewed David Hughes’s Tales from Development Hell in the Wall Street Journal. Bunch, a former movie critic at the Washington Times, seems to mostly favor this compendium, which ponders some fantastic scenarios that never quite made it to the big screen.
Christopher Nolan’s bold reboot of the Caped Crusader, “Batman Begins” (2005), was great—but what about Darren Aronofsky’s? The director of “Black Swan” unsuccessfully pitched a version described as “Death Wish or The French Connection meets Batman,” with a Serpico-like Detective Gordon and a Travis Bickle-like Bruce Wayne.
Or how about a “Lord of the Rings” directed by the guy behind “Deliverance”—and starring the Beatles, with John in the role of Gollum, Paul as Frodo, George as Gandalf and Ringo as Sam?
It can take years, if not decades, for an optioned script or book to become a movie. Bunch explains that “Much of development hell exists, it seems, because of minor-league Lucifers—producers, script doctors, studio heads—striving to snag a share of the glory by putting their own stamp on a script.” But then there are some success stories such as the finalized version of Total Recall. (If you ask me, it was part of the paid-for dream fantasy, right down to the midget prostitute and the woman with the three breasts.)
I am also reminded of Peter Biskind’s The Godfather Companion, which revealed Paramount’s apprehensions with Marlon Brando and the studio executives’ attempts to cast Danny Thomas or Ernest Borgnine in the role of Vito Corleone.