Ghost Rider What IF

(pic from Deviantart-ist ~joker5063)

I have not seen GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. But I had a blast at CRANK. I love LUTHER so Idris Elba’s presence pleases me and it’s no secret I adore Nic Cage and would happily punch heads on his behalf. BUT… for about twelve minutes, Patrick and I thought we might actually get the chance to make GHOST RIDER 2.

I’ve written similar entries in the past. You can find a screenplay that birthed both MESSENGERS and MESSENGERS 2: THE SCARECROW. There’s also a post explaining how Mark Haslett and I were attached to COWBOYS AND ALIENS for about three minutes. And then my and Patrick’s pitching the FRIGHT NIGHT remake at two different companies. Since they are the most recent three entries in the Essay section I won’t bother linking.

So let’s talk GHOST RIDER 2.

First off, I still have my Ghost Rider #1 and my Marvel spotlight #5. I always LOVED Ghost Rider because he wasn’t squeaky clean. Ghost Rider was supposed to torment the innocent but chose to use his powers to punish evil. And his head caught on fire.

Here’s the quick and dirty version to catch you up.

Patrick and I wrote DRIVE ANGRY. Our agents sent it to producers. We met with those who responded favorably. The moment we met with Mike De Luca, we never met with another. Patrick and I were in manlove.

Then we sent DRIVE ANGRY to studios. MOST everyone reacted with excitement. Even the passes were favorable. Except the company that brought you DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON said it was too violent. It should be noted that the economy was not good at the time. Studios weren’t making the movies they used to make. In fact, one Studio Head told us “When we were making 40 films a year this would be a no brainer but now that we’re making less than ten…” Although we had interest De Luca decided to send the screenplay to Nic, who responded the same day. He loved it. Once Nic was attached the falcon finally hit lightspeed. Deals were made, locations discussed… it was happening.

During one of our many meetings, De Luca, who had produced Ghost Rider, suggested we come up with a pitch for Ghost Rider 2. We said yes with much enthusiasm. So Mike set a meeting with Avi Arad that we might meet and discuss the franchise. And we had a blast. We met Avi and his son Ari (who sat with me and Tom Jane during the My Bloody Valentine premiere). We talked superheroes and what made Ghost Rider different. We talked through what Vilains we could legally draw from. It was a perfect meeting.

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Jason XI and XII

In answer to a Twitter thread from last night between Robert Fure, Brett Gallman, Mike Breiburg, Fred Topel, and Tyler Foster…

Ignore the fact that Jason X opened at 6.8 million and was considered a bomb (that’s 1.8 million more than Drive Angry for the kids keeping score). When I started working on it I always had delusions of grandeur that we’d shoot two follow ups. Why two? Well, before Jason X was just a squirt in daddy’s pants, much of the time spent at Cunningham Films was spent working on versions of Freddy Vs. Jason that would never see the inside of a theater. One of the best scripts, in my opinion, derailed after SCREAM opened at 6.3 million (that’s 1.3 million more than Drive Angry) but grew to 100 domestic. Suddenly FvsJ HAD to be self aware like SCREAM. Those self aware drafts never worked but SCREAM had truly changed the face of horror. AND rumors started floating around that Kevin had always designed SCREAM as a three picture story. I wondered if that was BS but either way it was a brilliant way to create hype and anticipation for two more movies. So, I figured why not do the same with Jason X?

The opening of Jason X was supposed to take place sometime after FvsJ. At least in my mind the plan was to never name a date of Jason’s freezing so that the present day storyline (FvsJ, FvsJ 2, etc.) could continue without JX getting in the way.

At the end of JX, Uber Jason’s remains would end up on Earth II.

In JXI he would be brought back in a lab from DNA that survived reentry. Or magic. Or religion. Or lightning. What? Those too far fetched? The bulk of the story would take place on Earth II in a Bladerunner city (that was the original take by the way but deemed too expensive to shoot). Unable to kill the varmint who can’t be killed, Earth II survivors send him back in time to kill his former self thus wiping his existence from History. What? Too far fetched? The object of JXI wasn’t to see that plan fulfilled, but to simply get him into the worm hole. Thus, someone eles… sometime eles’s problem.

JXII would open on a young, pregnant but barely showing Pam… as Uber drops from a wormhole. Or portal. Or Tardis. But Uber stalking young Pamela “Conner” was considered a bit too Terminator so a plan B was created.

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Peter Vincent

An email to our agents sent on January 30 of 2009:

“We’re nearly finished outlining FRIGHT NIGHT for Monday. Also DON’T DRIVE ANGRY, a pitch tailored for Paseornek if MBVII moves forward.”

As I mentioned in the last entry, a Hollywood filmmaker normally has to NOT get a dozen jobs to get one. FRIGHT NIGHT would be one of the dozen that Patrick Lussier and I would not get. I’m not saying what we would have done would have been be better than what will hit the theaters on Friday. I’m just saying this is what might have been.

In January of 09 Patrick and I were contacted by Roy Lee and Sonny Mallhi about a FRIGHT NIGHT remake. OR as a disgustingly high number of kids today will tell you… DISTURBIA with Vampires. Clint Culpepper at Screen Gems controlled the FRIGHT NIGHT rights.

To set the stage, MBV 3D had been released mid-January. We were getting some hype. Izzie was small. And cute. But not as cute as the Macbook Air and the rolled up pee pee diaper behind us.

So Patrick and I put together our take for FRIGHT NIGHT the remake. We’d do the same thing we did with MBV. Update it while keeping classic elements. Make it scary and make sure the characters were smart. Especially the villain. For instance, you don’t order a pizza then kill the deliver boy. Same as you don’t order a hot hooker then kill her in your upstairs bedroom. Be smarter, Jerry. Our remake rule simply followed what Carpenter did with THE THING and Cronenberg did with THE FLY. Update it while keeping classic elements.

Therefore in our version Roddy McDowell WAS Peter Vincent. But Vincent had died of old age after a long distinguished career as the star of over a hundred Hammer Films. Roddy’s face would be prevalent throughout the film. A handful of Peter Vincent’s movies had been remade by Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins. Her seductress Vampire Hunter and his no-nonsense detective sidekick. But even they were flirting with the end of their careers as their last remake, Fright Night 4D: Smell the Blood, didn’t do so well at the box office. Like many horror icons, they end up working the convention circuit.

We pitched Roy and Sonny. They loved it.

Next we pitched Nick Phillips at Screen Gems. He loved it.

Finally we returned to pitch Clint Culpepper.

Not two minutes into the pitch he stopped us. He said he knew everyone in the room got it, but he didn’t get it and there was no reason to waste his or our time. Patrick and I sat quietly while some of the others attempted to make a case but ten minutes later we were out of there. There was talk that Roy might try to get the rights and go to LGF, but that was the last we heard of FRIGHT NIGHT. Until…

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Cowboys and Aliens

Here’s the thing most people don’t know… to get one job as a writer, you have to NOT GET dozens of others. And many of those not gotten gigs are movies that eventually get made. Some turn out great. Far better than I would have done. Some turn out dismal. But that’s how she works out here.

Many know the story of Halloween 3D. We got the gig. Wrote the screenplay. Project was put on hold until after Drive Angry and only just now are we finally restarting the engines. But during that downtime, I never shared the screenplay. And that’s because… we sold it. It was no longer ours to share.

BUT…of those dozens of gigs you don’t get… you do all this work. You break the story. Many times you write an outline. Then there are rounds and rounds of notes. Rewrites. And more rewrites. All this work for free and most of the time you don’t get the job. Some examples. The Fly. Ghost Rider 2. Fright Night. I could go on on on. But the point is… I can actually share those outlines and screenplays because no one ever bought them. They are still creator owned. And since the movies are being made or have been made then that means the scripts and outlines are deader than dead. They’ll never get made so why not share?

So first, let’s talk about COWBOYS AND ALIENS.

We must jump into the TARDIS to do this proper. I don’t recall the date we actually started discussing but it was well before Jason X.

This was even before the EverQuest addiction. The oldest script I have on hand (which doesn’t mean the oldest written) was dated Nov 5, 1998 and it was titled WESTERN FRONT.

I co-wrote it was my friend Mark Haslett who was Sean Cunningham’s VP of production. I was Sean’s staff writer chained to a desk in the maid’s room. For Sean I mostly wrote anything that wasn’t horror. This was back when nearly all studios, producers and movie entities were too snooty for horror. SCREAM had opened at 6.2 million. A flop. The first flop to reverse due to word of mouth. When it hit 100 million studios took notice but it still took a little time for all of them to start screwing the corpse.

During this time Mark and I would dream of all the marvelous things we would do when we “made it.” We would brainstorm story after story. One such story we came up with was a western. What if gold miners in and old west town, constantly at war with local Indians, dug up a buried space ship? And that’s how WESTERN FRONT started.

We pitched Sean. He said you couldn’t mix genres. Sean had a lot of rules. He had no interest but Mark and I thought it could be huge.

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Scarecrow to Messengers… and back

The story of the Scarecrow is a nutty one. Here are the big beats.

The project was conceived at Blue Star (started by the son of one of the heads of Revolution Studios) a production company that developed movies for Revolutions Studios. Apparently the project was about to be scrapped. Although I had never heard of it, many genre writers had gone in and pitched. Revolution studios and producers didn’t like anything they heard. This just happened to be one of those times I called my agent begging for anything so she sent me their way. I met with Derek Douchy who was Todd Garner’s exec at the time. They wanted The Shining on a Farm.

On the drive home while chatting with Dean Lorey (we were likely planning our next Quake 2 frag session), I told him what I was thinking. We bantered and by the time I pulled up to my apartment, I called Derek back and told him I had the pitch.

I went back the following day and pitched the Horror version of A Beautiful Mind.

I got the job.

Following is what I wrote. It’s my second draft and my favorite.

ScarecrowFirst

This is when I met Patrick Lussier. He was brought on as director having just completed reshoots for their Darkness Falls. Patrick added a more supernatural flair to the story. Everyone loved the script. I had turned it in the week of the Darkness Falls Premiere. So… at the premiere I was enjoying the praise. I gotta say, it felt very nice. The following week … crickets. Turns out, Todd Garner, who was head of production didn’t like it. So the praise quickly went away. It’s a job security thing. I get it. I didn’t then.

Stuart Beattie was brought in to rewrite me. I like Stuart. Good writer. Aussie bloke.

His draft came in and Revolution decided they did not want to be in the genre business so they put the project into turnaround. It should be noted that currently Revolution is more or less in the “out of business” business. I don’t say that to be catty. Well, perhaps a little. But I grew up in this business back when everyone except New Line and Dimension looked down their noses at Horror. Scream changed all that. And everyone got on board. Sadly, Revolution just couldn’t grasp the idea of making genre films. Least not back then.

Turnaround means you put the whole project up for sale for the price of your cost. And/or you drop the price just to recoup some of your costs. 9 times out of 10 this means the project is dead. But Mandate and Ghost House grabbed it. Mark Wheaton was brought on and a year or so later The Messengers was born. It was…completely different from my story.

It still took place on a farm. Same character names. That was about it.

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