READER's TOP TEN
April 14th, 2004
Script Reviews: READER'S TOP TEN UNPRODUCED SCRIPTS
by Darwin Mayflower
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS!
I promised Id post a fan-picked top ten unproduced scripts list. Ill admit Ive been a bit remiss. But here I am. Better late than never and all that.
I didnt quite get the responses I thought I would. So instead of making an actual list, Im just going to talk about the scripts people suggested (with their comments and my own).
Let me first say I got a few negative E-mails concerning Lord Prolific Ron Bass. (Someone asked if I worked for him because of all the encomium I shower on his work.) I was totally unaware that there existed a person who didnt like Ron Bass or his work. The animus seems to stem from the fact that Ron has assistants. Their importance has been overblown in the press and they now have their own name: the Ronettes. Let me break it to you, folks: all big-time writers have assistants. They do research and take calls for the authors while theyre busy making deals and banging out the next script. To accuse Ron of being some sort of overlord who watches over these girls and takes credit for their work is particularly ludicrous since so many of Rons scripts are either based on others work (he adapts most big bestsellers) or deeply set in his personal style. Which means a script that is heartfelt, emotional and precious.
Theres also the fact that Ron Bass, long before he ever had a single assistant, worked on five projects at a time and was booked two years in advance. This is a man who was an entertainment lawyer during the day and worked on his books and scripts in the wee hours of the morning. He was a man with a passion for writing just like you and me. A man who was good enough to have three books published (all well-received). If Ron needs someone else to write for him -- who was that, four in the morning, pecking away quietly in his basement while his kids slept?
Now to the --
(Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Mike Sweeney of Las Vegas even wrote me his own top ten list!)
THE SKY IS FALLING - written by Howard Roth and Eric Singer.
Quite a few people wrote this script in. Ive read it and I didnt much like it. The story is of two cockney priests who find out there is no God and go on a killing spree because of it. Theres a beautiful idea buried here underneath a mammoth amount of trash. Why not make a serious film about a priest coming to the knowledge that theres no God and the implications of that?
The script is really nothing more than a rehash of Oliver Stones NATURAL BORN KILLERS.
For a slightly different view, a fan wrote: "It's often surreal and disturbing but extremely well-crafted. Very controversial. Deals with serious subjects like faith and religion in a very open way."
RIDLEY SCOTTS METROPOLIS - written by Cory Mandall.
"Scott" said of METROPOLIS: "In my opinion, the (script) is exceptional and the translation of 1925 film into a current theme is perfect."
I read this script years ago and about all I remember is that it very much resembles THE MATRIX, TOTAL RECALL and Croenbergs eXistenz.
A brilliant computer system. So real one cannot tell the different between it and reality. One man (or woman) must defeat the computer (or its maker) and save the world. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
THE TICKING MAN - co-written by Oscar winner Brian Helgeland.
The coming of age story of a boy...and his bomb. Just kidding. The story of THE TICKING MAN concerns a machine with a humanoid shell with a nuclear warhead in its chest. The idea being that if war ever broke out the Ticking Man could walk into the opposing country and detonate itself. End of trouble. But since weve made up with the Russians (this script was written soon after this) the Ticking Man has to go bye-bye. It breaks out of its high-security confines and heads toward Russian -- to blow itself up and cause World War III to break out because of it.
Bruce Willis was going to star in this. He was to play the man who made the Ticking Man and later got fired off the project. He teams up with a wannabe reporter to track down the Ticking Man and stop it.
Henry Allen suggested the script. And I was ecstatic to see there was actually someone else out there who also liked it. I thought I was alone.
When a script is explicitly an action film I let it go if it simply entertains me. And this did. It was fun, aware, and I thought it was a blast. I didnt include it in my own list because I didnt have room.
THE SIN EATER - written by Brian Helgeland
More Helgeland. Mike Sweeney says THE SIN EATER is a "first-rate supernatural thriller that cooks up some genuine scares, the subtle creepy kind that send chills up your spine."
I hated this script. My Lord did I dislike this script. I thought it was dull and lifeless and it never, ever scared me. I totally miss its point and consider it Helgeland, a very talented writer, at his worst. Theres a scene in here, set in Paris, between a priest and a reporter, thats like an unintentionally hilarious homage to ANNIE HALLs flashbacks, when Woody was actually there, as an adult, with his parents.
ALIEN III - written by William Gibson.
I was told by the fan who suggested this that it had a good story and they liked it most because Newt was alive at its end.
Ill agree I didnt want to see Newt die. But I remember abhorring this script. It put me to sleep. As bad as ALIEN III eventually was, Im glad this was not the script they used.
ONE SALIVA BUBBLE - written by David Lynch and Mark Frost.
Lynch and Frosts second (after GODDESS) collaboration. A few years before they tackled the pilot to TWIN PEAKS. I was going to put this on the list, but since I already had Lynchs RONNIE ROCKET I left it off.
This is every bit as weird as RONNIE but in a somehow totally commercial way. To prove that: Steve Martin was going to star.
NAPOLEON - written by Stanley Kubrick.
Three people added this. Ive never read it. But Kubrick was an excellent writer. His CLOCKWORK ORANGE adaptation is possibly one of the best book-to-script translations in the history of cinema.
EXIT ZERO - written by Kurt Wimmer
I was surprised to receive three requests for this. Im always ambivalent about Wimmers scripts. As I was about this. Theyre never vapid or lacking. But I cant fully embrace them because they seem to run out of whatever little charm they had by their ends.
In this case the script simply exhausted me. Its only 130 pages long -- but it felt like reading DON QUIXOTE in one sitting.
Wimmer, who co-wrote (adeptly) the remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, comes off as a techno-geek. His scripts are always jam-packed with arcane doodads and lengthy, explosive action scenes inside spaceships and the like.
I was happy to hear hes going to direct a movie based on his own script. Maybe well finally see if his words work better onscreen than on the page.
LINCOLN - written by William Nicholson.
Im told it "really captures the man."
Mike Sweeney suggests two scripts Ive never read:
CITY OF DARKNESS - written by Patrick Cirillo & Joe Gayton
"You won't find great character development here, but it's a hell of a fun ride. Two kids unleash a comic book hero and villain on our world, where the comic book characters continue to do battle."
ELEMENTARY - written by Brian Helgeland.
"A pretty good Sherlock Holmes tale from Helgeland, this one told from Watson's point of view. Moriarty's here as well, as is Jack the Ripper, which makes for a fun crossover tale. Helgeland captures the spirit of Holmes quite well and paints an interesting picture of the man."
IRON MAN - written by Jeff Vintar.
One of my favorite comic-book adaptations. It was almost included in my list, but I ran out of room. Vintars greatest gift is that hes able to hit all the successful-adaptation-of-comic-books categories -- likable hero; cool bad guys; genuinely dangerous hero; bad-ass action scenes -- and never goes overboard so that anyone over five is rolling their eyes.
APOGEE - written by Andrew W. Marlowe.
Not many people know about this script. Which is why I was surprised to hear someone sing its praises. I always liked this script because, though its nothing but AIR FORCE ONE in a spaceship, its perfect for anyone who ever wanted to be Clint Eastwood or travel to space. You get two little-boy fantasies in one.
I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES - written by Aaron Drane.
Im told: "A bounty hunter from hell and his wife (one of heaven's operatives) attempt to stop an apocalyptic event. Has elements of END OF DAYS but is much, much better."
SGT. ROCK - written by David Webb Peoples and Brian Helgeland.
Very popular, these two drafts of this script. I prefer Peoples take...but only by a bit. Helgeland took Davids script for his rewrite, kept the entire thing, and changed the ending. I think both are better WWII yarns than SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. More toward the kill-the-Nazis films of the John Wayne set...but that doesnt stop it from being a fun time.
Quite a few Ron Bass scripts were mentioned: MOZART AND THE WHALE, his script for THE SHIPPING NEWS (which is being made), something called FIRST LADY.
Id go into it...but I think people are sick of me talking about Ron Bass.
For the most part people listed the scripts Id already talked about. CRUSADE was mentioned by everyone. BAD MOON RISING, FANTASTIC FOUR and WATCHMEN were also brought up quite often.
I was told to check out the video TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN. Im mentioning this because if I can help someone out -- I will. But I think the man writing me was the author of the film. (If he wasnt he was this films more ardent fan and should receive something from the makers of the film for his devotion.)
"Lizzy" lamented the absence of any women on my list. Im sympathetic. But I really had no choice. As much as I like certain female screenwriters I dont know of any available scripts by women authors. So if anyone can find me any, Id love to review it on the site.
Those are your picks, people.
I want to thank everyone who wrote in. Your E-mails were intelligent, considerate, encouraging and all-around nice. If the world was filled with the fans of screenwritersutopia.com we wouldnt have to lock our doors at night.
So thanks again for the E-mails...and dont be shy about giving me your thoughts.