TOP TEN UNPRODUCED SCRIPTS
April 30th, 2004
Script Reviews: TOP TEN UNPRODUCED SCRIPTS
by Darwin Mayflower
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS!
Though Ive quite egotistically (and foolhardily) titled this THE TOP TEN UNPRODUCED SCRIPTS -- I just want you to know that I dont actually think I have this knowledge or that any one man can make such a declamatory statement. All this is is my opinion. Based on the scripts Ive read. And how I feel right now. Tomorrow I might choose entirely different scripts.
And while I will admit my reading has been extensive, I also have to admit I havent even approached the millions of unproduced scripts -- famous, infamous and unknown -- that exist.
Id be more than happy to hear who you think should be listed. Well tally the votes and Ill post your comments.
And, finally, let me say I slaved over this. There were a lot of scripts I wanted to include. Had I not started to cut down we could have fifty scripts listed.
TOP TEN UNPRODUCED SCRIPTS:
1. EDWARD FORD - written by Lem Dobbs
This script defines black comedy. The proprietor of scriptforum.com called it "dark as a moonless night." Sounds about right to me.
Dark humor is a hard child to tame. Everything has to be weird, surreal and off. You have to be three steps ahead of the audience because if youre not you wont be able to throw them. And if youre not giving an audience something they never would have thought of themselves in a black comedy...you lose them forever.
Lem Dobbs has, if you think about it, had a weird career. Youll read just about everywhere that FORD is "one of the finest examples of writing for movies." I think most say this more as a comment on Hollywood than the material. They are saying, Look -- this is the greatest script ever written and Hollywood is too afraid to make it.
Lem has written other movies since this (KAFKA, DARK CITY, THE LIMEY). But wheres the genius who wrote this? Why has he never returned to black comedy? If I didnt know better I would think Daniel Waters really wrote this script; it would make more sense.
EDWARD FORD is about a loser who wants to be an actor. His goal in life is to get a SAG card. As he stumbles through three decades of disappointment and nuttiness, we experience his friends, his travails, his own almost naive sense of the world...and beauty is born.
Edward is described as follows by the author:
"Edward Ford talks like a minor character in a Republic Studios oater. His complexion is like Lon Chaney, Jr. in preliminary make-up. His expression is one of extreme simplicity, hardly changing as emotion might dictate, a look of almost benign vacancy. This appearance is tempered by his manner, one that seems to speak of a certain basic American decency and honesty of character. On a whole he is not bright."
Edward Ford keeps index cards filled with the names of every actor he ever saw in every movie he ever watched.
Lems attitude toward Ed can be derisive (like a scholar challenging an illiterate) but I always found him to be sweet. And his filing system, along with his longing to be an actor, always symbolized, for me, the hopeless, sad, devoted love affair so many have with the movies.
2. ENTRAPMENT - written by Ronald Bass.
Okay. Officially this is not an unproduced script. There was a movie made with the name ENTRAPMENT and Ron Bass was credited with the script and the story.
But be not fooled, constant reader. That was not his script. The opening looks a bit familiar. But from there on the only thing that remains the same is that theres an older thief, a young thief, and, in the end, theyll pull off something big.
A certain wig-wearing star (who will go unnamed) ripped this script from the gentle hands of Ron Bass (whos still credited as producer) and handed it to a director (a.k.a. Hack) who had, to this date, made a number of forgettable films (he was hired so Wig-Wearing Star could get exactly what he wanted without challenge). Into this fold they brought Hack #2 (a.k.a. Screenwriter) who rewrote from page one, added unnecessary characters, dumbed down the plot and scams, and included moronic dialogue like, "You change partners...you change the rules."
I dont think theres any doubt Im a Ron Bass fan. But simply as a writer the story of what happened to ENTRAPMENT digs a knife into my eye. A writer -- well-known and well-paid -- writes a script that, somehow, fits in every single thing studio heads want: it has action, it has a love story, it has sex, its exciting, it has a brain, its impressive, its funny, it has a great ending.
And its not discursive, folks. Its a streamlined, expert example of slick writing (as all Bass scripts are).
And so what do they do? With this excellent script?
They destroy it. They pick up their guns like so many hunters and gun down the beautiful animal because theyre too stupid to understand it.
I always say of Ron Bass: hes in love with love. And its true. All his scripts boil down to love stories. And this is no different.
He lobs four revolutionary action scenes at us. But whats most important, and most impressive, is the relationship the older man and younger woman have. Their dialogue and tenderness and quick-and-easy banter. Its more effective than most movies that are about nothing but banter.
Ive mentioned ENTRAPMENT a lot during my short time here at screenwritersutopia.com. Which goes to show you how it stuck in my head. I guess maybe its time to stop. Maybe I can consider this my final billet-doux to it. Or maybe Im just waiting for Lord Prolific Ron Bass to drop me an E-mail to tell me how much he appreciates my praise. I dunno.
The one positive to all this is that Ron Bass will always come out on top. First off, hes probably the most diversely talented writer in Hollywood. And, unlike a jerk like me, hell never complain about an egregious decision like this. Hell just go off...and write ten more hit movies.
Viva La Ron Bass!
3. MANHATTAN GHOST STORY - written by Ronald Bass.
Im going to tell you something you may not believe. That is: THE SIXTH SENSE is nothing more than a cheap knockoff of this script (which Ron wrote ten years ago).
In this magnificent illustration of subtlety, mood and atmosphere, a photographer comes to New York to start a collection that will focus on loneliness. Right off the bat hes having a weird time in New York City. If its not some hippie still screaming about Vietnam harassing him its kids who seem to be drowning in Central Park. And dont forget about those creepy youngsters selling dogs on the street. And the man who seems to be following him.
Hes staying at a friends apartment. He assumed it would be empty but theres a woman there. A beautiful, sullen woman who eventually eases up and accepts him and does nice things like leave him blood-oranges to eat.
The two launch into a passionate, heated love affair and its all very precious and we love it, but theres a problem: the woman is dead. And so are all these other people the mans been seeing.
(I see dead people, remember? Sure you do! Its the reason you saw the film.)
Worst of all -- the womans ex-boyfriend is out to harm them because attachment keeps you "less dead" and if hes able to stay murderously jealous hell be able to keep from fading. The womans attachment is to our main character, of course, and their love, as long as its not broken, will keep them together.
This all leads to a wonderfully wacky, exhilarating chase through an abandoned building whose rooms are filled with others' pasts (it could be an old ship, a farmhouse, etc.).
The question is: Why can Aaron, the main character, see all these dead people? You guessed it --
(Close your eyes or skip the rest of this because spoilers are coming.)
-- Aaron is dead, too! That doesnt sound too familiar, does it?
THE SIXTH SENSE actually killed two movies: MANHATTAN GHOST STORY and STIR OF ECHOES. The latter was made, but no one gave it the time of day because they saw it as a rip-off of THE SIXTH SENSE (which makes little sense since its based on a book that was released before SENSEs writer-director was born).
STIR OF ECHOES was written and directed by a very talented man by the name of David Koepp.
Koepps film was about a normal guy in an extraordinary situation. And he proved himself to be a skilled director when it comes to chills and his movie has a much tighter plot than SIXTH SENSE, which is riddled with plot holes once you watch it again.
STIR OF ECHOES makes you love it for its old-school scares in its first act, brings you deep into its obsession in its second act, and horrifies you with its revelation in its finale.
But back to MANHATTAN GHOST STORY. It was offbeat, quirky, Kafkaesque and, too, it inspired one of the biggest hit movies ever made. I guess Ron can smile about something.
THE SIXTH SENSE was a pretty good popcorn flick. But Ill always despise it a little bit because I know it canceled out this script. And this script could have been every bit as elegant and poignant as, say, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME.
4. RONNIE ROCKET - written by David Lynch.
After I watched the movie THE STRAIGHT STORY, and I was done praising its laid-back style and G-rated excellence, I stopped and asked myself, "Wheres David Lynch?" Like all the great filmmakers (Bergman, Scorsese, Woody Allen, etc.), you know when youre in a Lynch film. He has a style. A way. An attitude.
But I didnt see it anywhere in that film.
Lynchs career has been in something of an unusual place. He was never more popular than when TWIN PEAKS hit the air. He had the Oscar-nominated film BLUE VELVET under his belt (probably the best film Lynch will ever make) and now he was bringing the single oddest TV show in history on the air and it was a hit.
But PEAKS crashed and burned and even though most had a bad taste in their mouths from the series, Lynch went out and made a prequel to it in the form of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME.
Personally, I loved the film. But most did not. And Lynch dropped out for quite a few years -- "looking for ideas," according to him -- and came back with LOST HIGHWAY. A pitch-black noir that had an impenetrable story line but possessed enough style and panache that its easily Lynchs most visually audacious film since ERASERHEAD.
What RONNIE ROCKET does -- even more so than LOST HIGHWAY, which Lynch co-wrote with novelist Barry Gifford -- is take you inside Lynchs head. Which is ironic, I guess, because thats what the story is about.
Ronnie Rocket is a small, Frankenstein-like creature whos "remade" by two bizarre scientists (who work for an even more bizarre woman). Hes slow on the uptake: he cant walk right or talk that great. But what he can do is sing. Plug him in (literally) and jam on a guitar and hell keep up with you.
The brilliant part of RONNIE ROCKET is that theres a detective who actually enters Ronnies mind and...finds a city inside. A real city with residents and factories and, above all else, extreme craziness.
A rock band has kidnapped Ronnie and pushes him harder and harder as his popularity grows. But the constant electrical shock is killing him. The detective must find a way to save Ronnies life.
The inside-Ronnies-brain section reads like Kafka on crack. There are "donut men" (who tell you "life is a donut" and then slay you) and "knitters" (women who knit all day) and were even able to enter Ronnies childhood home and see how it was when he grew up.
RONNIE ROCKET is somewhat like a continuation of ERASERHEAD. And it might be Lynchs most elemental, feral work since that movie.
Some say RONNIE will never get made because Lynch will never be satisfied with it. I hope this is true. If DOWN TO YOU and every other wretched teen film can get green lit, it would be saddening to think that this script, which wouldnt cost more than fifteen million dollars to make, couldnt get funding.
5. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY - written by Joel and Ethan Coen.
From what Ive read of this project, its not an original screenplay by the Coens. Shockingly, it might just have been a rewrite assignment (does this stun anyone as much as it does me?).
But having read all their scripts (many times) and knowing their brand of humor, I can only assume this is mostly them.
The Coens forte is down-and-out characters. People who dont have much money or much going on but always get into situations over their head.
With INTOLERABLE CRUELTY the brothers get to deal with the rich and powerful people of L.A. The folks who drive around in fancy cars and stab each other in the back just for fun.
The story is simple (and a delight, Im sure, for all you lawyer-haters out there): A divorce attorney helps a husband keep his wife from taking any of his money. The attorney later falls in love with the wife. And has to pay for what he did.
The script is hilarious and intelligent. Its kind of like a slapstick comedy version of THE LAST SEDUCTION. It also has a chaotic ending thats about as efficacious and energetic as anything Ive ever read.
6. THE MODEL DAUGHTER - written by Daniel Waters.
Daniel Waters: the last living satirist. Okay. That may be overstepping it a bit. But Dan really seems one of the last of a dying breed who can sink his teeth into a people or a time and spit them out with agility and scary talent.
HEATHERS (which Waters will always have to live up to for the rest of his life) was his skewering of high school. BATMAN RETURNS was his skewering of superhero movies (a lot of what he wrote never made it to the screen; for a full-fledged spoof, see CATWOMAN). HUDSON HAWK (the most underrated script ever written) was his skewering of overheated capers.
THE MODEL DAUGHTER, his first truly original script since HEATHERS, takes aim at the modeling world and blows it to bits.
The draft I read was worked on (with Dan) by Gillian Armstrong. And this might explain the somewhat bifurcative plot.
At first the story is of a massive search for "the Lombardi girl."
Famous designer Lombardi is putting out an ultra-secret product simply known as "the Lombardi" and former husband and wife June Pierce and Ward Lear (who are now rival agents) poke their eyes out trying to find the "youth" who will carry this product and insure themselves superstardom.
The "youth" ends up being their kid (simply known as H). Our second story picks up as H has to deal with being famous worldwide and her parents sleazily trying to buy her affections so shell sign with their company.
H is in love with Jake-Jake, a man who works for her mother. Jakes eyes finally open when the world he lives in is destroying someone he loves. He tries to untangle H from her surroundings. Right up to our explosive finale. (Dans eerie ending is a better indictment on plastic surgery and what the idea (presented by supermodels and magazines everywhere) of what the perfect body is has done to the minds of young people than anything Ive ever read or seen.)
All of this doesnt really matter, of course. Because were dealing with a Daniel Waters script. And you know what that means. He stuffs in as much trenchant humor as he can while sticking to a loose plot. Dans scripts are about taking a sledgehammer to any given subject and laying waste to it with what is one of the most original minds the world has been forced to deal with.
7. JOHNNY DIAMOND - written by Scott Rosenberg.
Scott Rosenberg seems to be the most consistently inconsistent screenwriter in Hollywood. Either you love his scripts or you hate them. For the most part, I love them.
Rosenberg writes fast and some of his work looks as such. If you ever sat down and read the whole Rosenberg oeuvre youd be shocked to see that the man who wrote the outrageously fun BAD MOON RISING and DOWN AND UNDER also wrote the moribund GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, THE TEN, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR and CON AIR.
Scotts writing is characterized by his hip, off-the-wall dialogue. The majority of the script is made up of that dialogue, so for the most part it depends on those words whether the script flies or not.
Whats great about JOHNNY DIAMOND is that its a Chandleresque detective story and, in that setting, Scotts "groovy," showy, sometimes almost turgid dialogue fits right in. "It fits (this genre) like a Speedo," as Mr. Burns would say.
What Scott also has is a premium story (thanks in part to William Goldman). And with this serpentine, high-reaching (we get to meet Howard Hughes and there are all kinds of famous people involved), ambitious plot to support the heavy weight of his words -- we have a perfect example of just how talented Scott really is.
Theres no keeping him away from moronic drivel like THE TEN. But if hes able to turn out material like this -- or crazy fun like DOWN AND UNDER -- I think Scott can easily have the career of his hero Mr. William Goldman.
8. I AM LEGEND - written by Mark Protosevich. Based on the novel by Richard Matheson.
I almost didnt include this because just about everyones read it and I did want to expose some scripts that you might not have known of. But its too good to dismiss because of its renown.
Sticking close to Richard Mathesons novel, Mark Protosevich has crafted what is probably one of the best sci-fi-adventure films the world will never see. Theyll never see this script, anyway. Rob Bowman supposedly came up with a new story for the film (Protosevich is involved, if Im not mistaken). But considering how amazing this script was, its hard to believe it can compare.
You know what always sticks with me from this script? Not the inventive action and the gorgeously tricked-out house Neville has built or the vampire-like creatures out to kill him.
No. None of that. What sticks in my head is when Nevilles dog almost dies and he rushes home to save it. That dog is his only friend and hes desperate because he doesnt want to be totally alone.
What this shows us -- that Im cheering in my head like a five year old watching TV (though I make no claims to be more intelligent than a five year old) -- is that Protosevich triumphed in the most important category: he made us care about this man. We want him to survive; we care if he dies; we dont want him to be alone.
It is because of this -- above and beyond anything -- that makes this such a fine piece of writing.
9. CRUSADE - written by Walton Green and Gary Goldman.
Its so sad that Verhoeven will never make this film. God, how hed have a ball filming the stunningly violent scenes in this script.
You know in every action film theres that scene where the good guy is trapped by the bad guy(s) and it seems impossible for him to get away (or they left him for dead and there looks to be no way for him to survive)? Well, the conclusion (when he breaks out) is what were waiting for and the good writers give us something spectacular. Something we didnt already guess the minute the setup showed itself (most times in movies the good guy simply grabs the bad guy and kills him).
CRUSADE without a doubt has the best scenes of this variety in any script Ive ever read. My favorite scene involves a man sewn into a dead donkey (youll just have to read it).
CRUSADE is almost as violent as the religious war its based on. But the violence is contained within good writing and a galvanizing story.
Goldman and Greens script make BRAVEHEART look like a sitcom. It has a similar plot to GLADIATOR but doesnt have to depend solely on its action the way that movie did.
10. THE LITTLE THINGS - written by John Lee Hancock.
John Lee Hancock is an unsung hero out in Hollywood. He has two screen credits: A PERFECT WORLD and MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. Both were sublime scripts (and both were directed by Clint Eastwood). I jokingly call him the Tennessee Williams of screenwriting because he possesses the same skill at dialogue (very specific and always attractive) that Williams did.
I personally like to see writers put spins on genres. And Hancock works a dilly of one here on the serial killer genre. Id rather play in traffic, smoke in a nuclear facility or screw with Billy Jack than watch another serial killer film.
Which should show you just how good this script is. The twist is sharp enough to make the genre his own.
As always theres the killings. And the cop hell-bent on finding the killer.
And the guy hes going after is smart. Smarter than the cop and cant be busted. But he looks right. Has to be him. But is he?
Hancocks technical prowess is unmatched and, with the taut ending, hes drained real emotion from a serial killer script. How many people can do that?
I couldnt just pick ten, so here are some --
1. GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY - written by W.D. Richter and Mark Protosevich.
You may have noticed by now that I like odd scripts. And they dont get much odder than this. I guess youd call this a "sci-fi western." What I like best, though, is the humor. The two dopey cowboys who get roped into helping a Bible-quoting general are two of the funniest characters Ive ever read. Their rapid-fire banter pings back and forth like ricocheting bullets.
Heres a script that strives to be different and (for once) succeeds splendidly.
2. AVATAR - written by James Cameron.
Possibly the most beautiful script Ive ever read. So far Cameron has stuck to earth (well, he did travel off-planet in ALIENS) and we now get to see his vision of an exotic alien world. Where giant panther-like animals lope around the jungle. And a peaceful race of people are being harassed by the humans who have installed an army base there and plan to encroach on their land.
Cameron describes three epic battles here. If he can truly present this world, as described, and do exactly as he writes, I think it would be the pinnacle of the action genre.
Cameron takes the time to develop a tender romance between a female alien and a human-alien hybrid. What happens and how it does (the people are fearful of him at first and later trust him as he proves himself) has been done innumerous times before, but its always Camerons striking landscape -- his dazzling visuals -- that make everything seem new.
Camerons prose is languid and unrushed, and contains lengthy details of the planets extraordinary beauty.
The one scene that sticks with me is when the Avatar and the alien woman run through the forest, bioluminescent lights shining as their feet press lightly down on the ground. Soon everything is shining and glowing around them. Coming alive with light.
I think, if Cameron could possibly film it, it would elevate the whole enterprise to art.
3. FANTASTIC FOUR - written by Michael France.
Mike France did what is almost impossible: he wrote a satisfying script based on an old, cherished comic book. The only problem, I think, is that he made it too good. Every other page has a scene on it that would cost about twenty million dollars. When this was budgeted at one hundred and fifty million -- I dont think that was an exaggeration. The scope is tremendous.
What France is superb at is setting up the characters and then showing us what its really like to posses superhuman powers.
Though its taken straight from FRANKENSTEIN, the Things relationship with a blind woman works wonders to humanize a man who appears like hes made of brick.
Something tells me the studio vetoed the tender scenes before they did the New York-ruining storm.
4. BAD MOON RISING - written by Scott Rosenberg.
I think Scott wrote this with the knowledge that it would never get made. He has such a good time in the prose that, like a Shane Black script, its almost as good as what he gives the actors to say.
This is a werewolf film, folks. But its a Scott Rosenberg wolf tale. And the werewolves are bikers. Our lead character has come back to his small hometown and tries to resurrect a failed relationship he had before he left. And there is a droll werewolf-hunter.
Scotts dialogue is heavily on display and Id say this is his funniest script to date.
The sheriff is slaughtered. Our main character must take over. The werewolf-hunter comes to town (he sees and talks to the ghost of his mentor). Theres the requisite "final battle." And even if the ending is a bit weak -- I have one question: Why hasnt anyone made this by now?
5. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND - written by Daniel Waters. Based on the novel by Robert Anson Heinlein.
As far as I know this was written especially for Tom Hanks. I cant see him in the role of Michael myself (hes too old now, and I dont think he was ever right). Now I hear Mark Protosevich has turned it into some sort of oddball western. Who knows.
Dan Waters at first seems an odd choice for this material. But if you think about it hes really not. The plot is sprawling and more than a little strange. What Dans able to do is good-humoredly poke it in the ribs and make it funny without having you laugh at it.
6. DEMOLISHED MAN - written by Oliver Stone. Based on the novel by Alfred Bester.
This was written back when Stone was a writer-for-hire. The story here is remarkably similar to MINORITY REPORT. In this case we have Espers (mind-readers). Without the ability to hide ones crime, there is no such thing as murder in this future world.
A rich, insane man wants to kill off a competitor and hires another Esper to block his thoughts. He also hires a songwriter to write him a tune so inane and repetitive it will keep his mind clear whenever an Esper is around.
Hes trying to commit murder in a world where its impossible to do so. Stone slowly builds the mans growing internal explosion till it literally manifests itself.
7. CATWOMAN - written by Daniel Waters.
Dans true-blue, no-editing-by-Burton spoof on the superhero genre.
I always thought the best part of BATMAN RETURNS was Dans creation of Catwoman. She was like a leather-clad personification of murderous feminism.
Someone else thought so, too, because they got Dan to write her her own movie. The result is this: Catwoman has been taken in by her mom, who lives in Oasisburg. A self-contained city in the middle of the desert. Its Emerald City meets Las Vegas according to Dan. And women are heavily repressed.
A group of wacky superheroes protect the burg (much to the pleasure of its fawning citizens).
But the heroes are actually zeros and they plan to blow (up) this burg like they do every time they visit a town, loot it and leave (faking their own deaths).
Catwoman is brought back to life. And she stops the good-bad guys while freeing the women of Oasisburg of the slavery known as the human male.
Selina Kyle is even more interesting than Catwoman and Im glad Dan spent so much time on her. She has a hellish casino job where the women have to wear clothes with their stomachs exposed and grease down corpulent old ladies who are sunbathing. Shes also immersed in a duplicitous love affair between the burgs two most eligible bachelors: local architect (Brock Leviathan) and local reporter (Lewis Lane). One of these men is the leader of the good-bad superheroes. The other is the man Selina loves.
Will this all work out with a breathtakingly intricate scene that features arcane doodads and Dans love for elaborate syntax? Does a cat hate water?
8. DOMINO - written by Steve Barancik.
I was absolutely floored to hear this is based on a real person. I guess I should have known when they mentioned Dominos father (actor Laurence Harvey) by name. But it just seemed too bizarre...
DOMINO is the story of an ex-model who works as a bounty hunter.
I couldnt possibly describe the convoluted plot in less than a day, but Domnio (this part was made for Angelina Jolie) gets partnered with an irascible Spanish man who doesnt want to know her because shes nearly suicidal.
This is more black comedy. Not quite on the level of EDWARD FORD, but it passes muster as far as Im concerned. Its a script that knows how to have fun with the format without irritating (which is hard) and contains one of the funniest hair visuals youll ever see.
To think that even ten percent of this is true is absolutely incomprehensible.
9. WATCHMEN - written by Sam Hamm.
This is the unproduced comic-book adaptation. Sam flawlessly squashed "the WAR AND PEACE" of comic books into a smooth screenplay. And then Joel Silver couldnt produce one hundred million dollars and Terry Gilliam left the project.
Sam is a near master at adapting comic books. Ive never read WATCHMEN but I was able to enjoy this because he sets up the characters within the piece and you dont need any prior knowledge to follow the plot.
WATCHMEN, in the end, isnt much more than a smart, well-thought-out action film. But who said we wanted anything else?
10. STAR BLAZERS - written by Tab Murphy.
Dont gasp when I say this. But Im not a big fan of STAR WARS. STAR WARS, in particular, strikes me as nothing more than a boring story presented by a director who didnt have the chops even for that.
What I hate most about STAR WARS is that every simple complication has an even simpler conclusion.
But Im not here to bash such a beloved film. I always thought it would be great to combine something like STAR WARS with a more recent space adventure film -- like the moronic but exciting STARSHIP TROOPERS.
Thats what STAR BLAZERS is. Humans vs. Aliens. It has no pretense to be anything else.
Its a lot of spaceship dog-fighting and corny dialogue about making it back home. But it works. And its fun. So what more can you ask for?
These next scripts are not unproduced; I mention them because theyre great scripts that were discarded for inferior ones when the movies spawned from them were made.
1. THE TRUMAN SHOW - written by Andrew M. Niccol.
THE TRUMAN SHOW was a terrific film with a great performance by Jim Carrey. But I implore everyone reading this to seek out Niccols original script. Which was set in a fake Manhattan and was much, much darker than the movie.
Truman isnt all his, hellos and good-byes. The man is disturbed and depressed. He hides in his car in the morning and has a clandestine shot of booze so he can get through the day. Later he sees two men attacking a woman on a subway station. He quickly looks away and acts as though he didnt see a thing.
The actors playing the roles marvel at his pusillanimity.
I dont toss the word "genius" around too often. And when I do its attached to something else. "Genius of mystery fiction." "Genius of harmless comedy writing." I think Niccol is a genius screenwriter. Hes totally and awe-inspiringly original. Already with GATTACA and his version of THE TRUMAN SHOW hes accomplished more than most have in their whole career.
Niccol was supposed to direct TRUMAN. But he lost out after a "test" he shot. In it actor Gary Oldman, playing Truman, holds a baby aloft and demands a woman on the street tell him if his life is a sham or not.
It was scenes like this (that was cut from the shooting script) that took the bite out of the movie.
2. THE SAINT - written by Jonathan Hensleigh.
Hensleigh is a kicked-about guy. Hes a big-time writer, but he also gets screwed a lot by the Writers Guild (on THE ROCK and ARMAGEDDON) and hes unfortunately looked on as nothing more than an "action writer" (that rhymes with "no-talent hack").
I like his work and I consider this script, which wasnt used at all for the film (though he got credit), to be one of his finer works.
This time around, unlike in the movie, the character follows the book version of the Saint. Not the hokey, "man of disguises" he was on TV.
Were in Russia again. And its all about the formula for cold fusion. But were allowed to have fun here. A plane lands in Red Square, for Christs sake. The movie was stuffy and boring. Hensleighs script was loose and full of action. And the Saints relationship to the lonely female scientist makes sense. Instead of whats shown in the movie, where Val Kilmer made sure Elizabeth Shue fell in love with him like women do with him in real life: look into his eyes and drool.
3. ALIEN III - written by D.T. Twohy.
I mention this script because, despite that it was David Finchers first film, ALIEN III never worked -- and this script does.
James Cameron and the writers of the first film (Dan OBannon, Walter Hill and David Giler) made sure that we cared for the people in their scripts before they were taken out by those pesky little aliens. In ALIEN III we never meet anyone and the second half of the film shows nothing but people running down indistinguishable corridors. Not only do we not know where we are -- we dont even know whos being chased.
Twohy, who also wrote and directed PITCH BLACK and wrote TERMINAL VELOCITY, tries to give the ALIEN series some new flavor by eliminating Ripley (which I dont like) and staging it in an outer space jail.
A group of inmates bond and, after seeing the alien, decide its time to break out before the thing starts killing everyone.
Smart idea. It all comes down to whether or not the subsequent scenes of breaking out and fighting aliens are interesting. And they are here. Very much so.
Twohys prison was smacked together with Vincent Wards desire to make an ALIEN film about priests and you got whatever the hell ALIEN III was.
Thats my list. Written in one sitting. So say what you will. Ill be happy to hear your comments and suggestions and, if I can, Ill try to quickly set up a new top ten, as chosen by the fans of this site.
-- Darwin Mayflower.