Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unproduced Scripts

I mentioned recently that a terrific script doesn't always turn into a terrific movie and that sometimes a mediocre script becomes a fantastic movie. Regardless, when I read a wonderful script (a rarity), I get really excited about the possibility of working on something with so much promise.

What I didn't mention is how often a fantastic script doesn't even make it into production. Sometimes it's because everyone thinks the script might have made a great movie two years ago, but there've been enough time-travel-love-stories produced just recently. Maybe it would have been a great movie if real events hadn't outpaced it. Or maybe, the sun and the stars and the moon just don't line up correctly. For whatever reason, there are some awesome scripts that bounce around forever and ever and ever and still never get performed in front of a camera.

About 20 years ago, a friend of mine optioned a movie from an unproduced writer. It didn't have a title and we just all called it The Baseball Movie. The script was utterly magical. Like a Stephen King story, it took a completely implausible premise and then completely sucked you in. The story centered around two aliens who come to Earth with the goal of playing professional baseball. We discover that there are hundreds of alien civilizations and they vacation on each others' worlds according to individual or species preference. They've known about Earth for eons, but nobody ever comes here...and they hide themselves from humans as well. You see, they all consider Humans to be annoying at best.

But the one thing Earth does have is...baseball. The most perfect sport in the Universe. And on occassion, aliens have come to Earth disguised as Humans so they can play the great game. The story begins with our two heros arriving on Earth and getting walk-on tryouts with the NY Yankees and making the team. They're disappointed to discover that their "teammates" are money grubbing, jaded and strictly in the game for themselves. They proceed to infect the team with their own love of the game and turn things around. Ultimately, it's discovered that they are aliens and there's a court case over whether or not they should be allowed to play. Hint: MLB doesn't have any specific rules against aliens being on a team.

Anyway, this all sounds hopelessly corny...but it wasn't. There was something about the script that just worked and I know it could have made a wonderful movie. The only problem was that the orignal script was over 140 pages long. (110-120 is the usual length). My friend paid a number of writers to try their hand at re-writing it and each attempt was a dismal failure. I don't know what that piece of magic was in the original script, but the re-writes all managed to lose it.

Another script I fell in love with actually went into Pre-production. I don't remember the name, but it was a story that was going to trace Frankie's story from the mid-forties up into 1999 or so. As a teenager, he sees Frank Sinatra perform and he's hooked. Not only does he start to dress like Sinatra, he starts a regular correspondence with him. Weekly letters go out to Frank telling him how things are going, asking advice, complimenting him on his latest achievements. And no return letters ever appear. This does nothing to disuade our hero.

When he takes his first job out of High School, he meets and befriends a one-eyed, Jewish Black guy named Sammy. And as time goes by, they unwittingly add a Joey, Peter and Dean to their circle. The story goes on with them never quite noticing that they've formed their own Rat Pack (even though everyone else sees it). Eventually, Frank gets to meet his idol Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas which culiminates in Sinatra beating the shit out of our hero.

O.K. I might not be explaining that one very well, but trust me, it was a great script with some terrific people attached to the project. If I recall, the Sinatra Estate was cooperating and that would have greased the skids to an amazing degree. I don't remember why this one fell apart and I'm surprised nobody else ever picked up the pieces and got it made.

Who knows? Maybe one or both of these will be resurrected some day. I'm officially available to work on either.