Thursday, September 23, 2010

John Carter of Mars: From 1991-2006

I'm still reading the last script that has appeared online but I figured that it might save time to go ahead and for the benefit of those few readers I get to fill out the rest of the history of the film's long trip to the big screen. Hopefully I got most of it right, if not someone will please let me know.

I last left off with the hiring of director John McTiernan and the script by Bob Gale in 1990-91. We now jump ahead to '92 where yet another screenwriter has come on board-Sam Resnick, who had written the script for a made for TV version of Robin Hood that McTiernan had produced. It was around this time that Disney also decided to cast the two leads with none other than Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts both approached. (I guess it shows how different Disney is today-at the time they were going after the two biggest movie stars on the planet while the upcoming Andrew Stanton film has two of the biggest unknowns as John Carter and Dejah Thoris.) But here's where things fell apart. According to what I've heard Cruise disliked the script and passed while McTiernan had just scored a major bust with the Sean Connery turkey Medicine Man. Afterwards he left to helm the infamous Last Action Hero.

Surprisingly though that wasn't Disney's last attempt. The studio brought on two new screenwriters to tackle the film-well known fantasy novelist George R.R. Martin (whose novel A Game of Thrones is set to be a HBO series next year) and sci-fi novelist Melinda Snodgrass around 1993-94 (I'm guessing.) I haven't seen their script nor has anyone else that I know but Martin talks about it here, even though he gives the impression he doesn't think much of Edgar Rice Burroughs or the series itself.

After that, well nothing until 2000 when the ERB fan newsletter The Gridley Wave announced that Disney had dropped the project and the film rights were up for grabs. The rights were eventually snapped up by Paramount around 2002-03. And unlike Disney they didn't waste any time attaching a director and writer: Robert Rodriguez, the indie wunderkind behind El Mariachi and the Spy Kids series and writer Mark Protosevich, whose only credit at the time was the Jennifer Lopez thriller The Cell (since then he wrote the Will Smith I Am Legend and is a writer on the upcoming Thor.) Two other names were also mentioned in connection with the project at the time-Aint It Cool News mastermind Harry Knowles, who was attached as producer and legendary artist Frank Frazetta. In his tribute to Frazetta posted here Knowles mentions that while his health prevented any contribution artistically, Frazetta had agreed to oversee the concept artists working on the project. Well this first attempt fell apart, thanks indirectly to Frank Miller (Isn't that been the case for so much?) Prior to starting, Rodriguez has just finished Sin City and wanted Miller to share co-directing credit, something the Directors Guild of America objected to. In response Rodriguez resigned from the guild, which led Paramount (who apparently has a company policy to use only guild members) to have to replace him.

Our next director and writer brought on board also I'm sure raised eyebrows-Kerry Conran, who had just helmed Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and writer Ehren Kruger, best known for thrillers like The Ring and Scream 3. This one also fell apart but for reasons that I have not ever discovered. I'm sure Sky Captain's poor box-office probably played a factor. Interestingly this one seems to have had the most work leak out online-the script, test animation by Steve Meyer, concept art by Raafel Kayaan, and some recent photos of a Thark sculpture by FX artist John Cox. (Most of this I have linked to in previous posts and the review of the script is coming soon.)

The final stab at Paramount came once again with an unlikely director-a pre-Iron Man Jon Favreau. He brought on board writer Mark Fergus (who after his time on the project would co-writer the scripts for Children of Men and Iron Man, as well as Favreau's upcoming Cowboys and Aliens.) This time around it was the studio that pulled the plug. Now I've heard conflicting reasons for this-a corporate shakeup at the studio; a new head at the time who disliked the project; Paramount deciding to save money and resurrect their own sci-fi property Star Trek and Favreau leaving to do Iron Man. I had hoped that Favreau would have returned-especially after the brilliant work on Iron Man but obviously that wasn't to be. We did get to see some of the artwork for his version by artist Phil Saunders (used above and again linked in previous posts).

And that brings us up to 2007, when Disney reacquired the rights, hired Andrew Stanton and the film now set for 2012. And let's not forget Asylum, who beat them to the punch and got their version out last year (since I'm sure Stanton and Disney will act like their version is the first version ever made.) It's been a long road to get to this point and we'll just have to wait and see if the wait was worth it.

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