When you hear people talk about “the Hollywood machine” it’s best to picture a contraption with a conveyor belt leading to a steel chute full of hammers and spinning blades. Good scripts are like adorable lambs who look at you with big, trusting eyes as you tearfully place them on the belt and assure them that they’re going to a big multiplex theater upstate where all the popcorn is free and none of the usherettes have acne. One man who knows the ins and outs of the machine better than most is supernerd Kevin Smith. While some of his scripts have staggered into cinemas, many more have become clogged in the cogs and gears. If he’s still got the fight in him, here are five Kevin Smith projects we’d like to see him resurrect.
What was it?
Fresh from the success of his early projects and with the script for Chasing Amy circulating through Hollywood, the Kevin Smith of 1996 was starting to be taken seriously as a writer. Superman Lives was the first big franchise property to which he was attached.
Smith’s script for the 1998 project involved Brainiac sending Doomsday to kill Superman after blocking out the sun, Mr. Burns style, to render him powerless. After the plan succeeds, Superman is revived by The Eradicator, a Kryptonian robot. Now powerless, the resurrected Superman is forced to create a robotic exo-suit for protection out of the Eradicator itself.
Smith had a few casting hopes as well, and had his eye on Ben Affleck for the Man of Steel. Affleck would have starred alongside Linda Fiorentino as Lois Lane and Jack Nicholson as Lex Luthor (hells yes). Smith’s longtime collaborator Jason Mewes would have starred as Jimmy Olsen.
So what happened?
Well, In a nutshell; John Peters, hairdresser-to-the-stars turned movie producer, is a certifiable lunatic whose insane demands transformed Smith’s script into an incoherent mess. His rules for Smith’s script included supes never being seen in the traditional suit (“looks too faggy”), no flying (“It’s horseshit”) and the inclusion of a fight with a giant spider. Desperate to work on Superman, Smith did his best to accommodate him. Smith’s withering appraisal of John Peters’ producing talents was a famously high point in one of his Q and A’s:
The true nail in the coffin came when Tim Burton became attached as director and ordered an almost complete re-write of the script. A studio more interested in toy sales than storytelling combined with a peppering of unenthusiastic production members and indecisive studio heads meant that the project was eventually abandoned. The whole debacle eventually became the fantastic documentary The death of Superman Lives, a hugely entertaining look at the creative Sarlacc pit that is Hollywood.
Will we see it?
No amount of finger-crossing is likely to resurrect this one. With DC seemingly determined to keep Superman on his current gritty trajectory, we’ll be lucky if his next film installment doesn’t see him shooting heroin underneath a bridge. Fantastical (if slightly daft) scripts like Smith’s are probably a thing of the past. But there’s also hope for a comic book or animated adaptation. It should also be noted, Kevin Smith did direct a recent episodes of Supergirl in which the episode was titled “Supergirl Lives” a homage to his failed Superman script.
BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION
What is it?
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth dimension was a quirky, genre-hopping 1985 cult classic that pitted Banzai, a multi-talented rock musician/physicist/test pilot/neurosurgeon against the Red Lectroids, aliens from Planet 10. For Smith, bringing Buckaroo Banzai back into our dimension was a very personal project. Speaking on his podcast, Smith’s excitement about the idea bubbled over:
“It’s one of my favorite movies in the world and largely responsible for the weird shit that I make, because that movie was supposed to be one thing but it did it in another way. It just did it very off-center. I’ve loved it for years”.
Smith was approached with the project after the success of his work on The Flash TV series. The reboot was to have been a TV series rather than a film, with the first season being a re-imagining of the events of the original film. The second season would bring us the sequel, “Buckaroo Banzai Versus the World Crime League”, a film tantalisingly hinted at in the closing moments of the original movie that never materialized. Just as exciting as the project itself was the team Smith hoped to assemble to shoot each individual episode, which included Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino.
So What happened?
Lawyers happened. MGM mounted a lawsuit against Buckaroo Banzai’s original creators over rights issues and the project was shelved after the ensuing legal wrangling. Smith claimed that the lawsuit was a bolt out of the blue as far as he was concerned:
“I was caught off-guard [by the lawsuit]. I literally had no idea. It blows, man, because that’s the closest I’ve [come] to having my own show so far.”
He dropped the project, after making statements which imply that he has no desire to be attached to a show with so much bad blood flying around. Smith had always envisioned working closely with the original creators, and seemed surprised at the studio’s move to cut them out of the loop:
“I don’t want to make anything unless those dudes are involved. They had the vision. All we’re doing is taking their amazing vision and making a TV show of it…What I’m saying is, respectfully to all parties involved, I’m out.”
Will we see it?
It’s a strong “maybe, but not for a while” on this one, with the lawsuit that saw Smith ousted from the project having shunted the whole deal into legal limbo. Until the red tape is stripped away we won’t see Banzai ride again, and even if we do, a burnt-fingered Smith is unlikely to be at the helm.
RANGER DANGER AND THE DANGER RANGERS
What is it?
Well, details are fairly patchy about Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers. One thing we know is that it definitely has nothing to do with the Danger Rangers, the friendly 80’s cartoon characters who used to constantly pop up to teach kids about road safety, or to confuse you when you’re trying to research an article on Kevin Smith projects.
First hinted at in a T-shirt worn by Randall in Clerks 2, Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers is Smith’s long-awaited Sci-fi comedy epic. Described by Smith as “kind of a dick and fart joke movie in space”, Ranger Danger was pitched to fans as a modern-day Flash Gordon, with all the attendant camp, cheese and hilarity.
So what Happened?
The answer lies somewhere between “he matured as a filmmaker” and “he got bored of the idea”. From what we can tell, Ranger Danger was never really much more that a half-finished script that got edged out of Smith’s upcoming project list by more interesting fare.
Will we see it?
Almost certainly not. Back in 2012, Smith joked that he could turn the idea into a cartoon or web series to save on what could be a $50-$60 million budget, so he probably isn’t taking the idea all that seriously. For our part, we think that a Buck Rogers style sci-fi comedy epic could be a great antidote to the slew of mopey, brown sci-fi misery in the theaters these days, but Ranger Danger probably isn’t going to be it.
What is it?
After Superman lives, this is probably the biggest what if? On the list. Back in 2004, Smith wrote a reboot of The Green Hornet, the 60’s TV crimefighting show that starred Van Williams and a young Bruce Lee. Smith also announced his intention to direct the movie himself.
In Smith’s film Britt Reid, The original Green Hornet, is killed. The masked vigilante mantle is then passed to his useless celebutante son Britt junior, who struggles to cope with the burden of his father’s ass-kicking legacy. The film never got very far past the development stages when Smith was involved, but we do know that he approached Jake Gyllenhaal with a view to getting him to play the lead. Eventually, Smith would drop out of the project, leaving Seth Rogen to take over in 2007. Rogen rewrote the script and, although there are plot similarities between Smith’s version and Rogen’s, it is unclear how closely the version that made it to cinema mirrored Smith’s original vision.
So what happened?
Smith got a case of cold feet, or, as he puts it: “I was too chicken-shit and gay-in-love with my own characters to try something outside my comfort zone.” At the time, Smith felt he was better suited to dick-jokes-in-diners movies, and was intimidated by the pressures of a big-budget, effects-heavy comicbook action movie.
Will we see it?
You already can! Albeit, not as a film. Smith’s green hornet story got translated into comic book form. Released by Dynamite comics, Smith describes the miniseries as “the Green Hornet film that might have been.” The story covers the passing of the Green Hornet Torch from Britt Reid to his son Britt jr, much like Smith’s script, with the first 10 issues covering his intended story for the movie.
FLETCH WON/SON OF FLETCH
What was it?
Fletch was a popular 1985 comedy action thriller starring Chevy Chase as Fletch, an LA reporter who is paid a huge sum of money to bump off an aviation company’s vice president. Fletch’s investigation into this suspicious assignation gave Chevy Chase the chance to stretch all of his comedy muscles, playing multiple characters and working with a variety of props. The film went on to achieve cult status, and retains a die-hard fan base that a lacklustre sequel did nothing to dispel.
Smith’s idea, Fletch Won (at one point in development Son of Fletch), would be a prequel, based on the first sequential novel in the Fletch series by author Gregory Macdonald. It would star Jason Lee as a young Fletch, with an appearance by Chevy Chase, possibly as an older Fletch narrating his early adventures.
So, what happened?
Star power and lack thereof. Smith was adamant that Jason Lee was the young Irwin Fletcher and, according to him, spent up to six years trying to convince his bosses at Miramax of this. They were sceptical and demanded someone with more pulling power at the box office. When My name is Earl finally made Lee a household name, Smith went back to them with the same deal, only to be told “he’s too old now.”
Combined with the stresses of directing and editing Dogma and helping his friend Jason Mewes through his heroin addiction, this disagreement eventually sunk the project, at least as far as Smith was concerned.
Will we see it?
Maybe, but definitely not with Kevin Smith’s name on it. The history of the Fletch won production cycle is a nightmare that would have had Kafka in tears. Since Smith, the project has gone through two potential directors and three leading actors, with no hint of it ever reaching theatres. The most recent development was an “aggressive” buy-up of the rights to all 11 Fletch novels by Warner Bros. but that was in 2011, and little movement has been detected since.
These projects may have died slow and painful deaths (for the most part) but Smith is far from done taming the Hollywood beast (he still has at least one working limb). Two of Smith’s most anticipated projects will see us back in familiar surroundings, with Clerks 3 and a Mallrats 10-episode TV series both underway. Perhaps most intriguing of all though is Moose Jaws. It’s the final installment in the True North trilogy that included “Man turned into a Walrus” twitter-joke-turned movie Tusk and hockey horror-comedy Yoga Hosers. Smith describes Moose Jaws as “Jaws, but with a moose.” With a mind brimming with can’t-fail ideas like that, it’s sure that Smith will be bringing us hit after hit for years to come.