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.

Patrick and I returned to the ghostcave and worked our magic. We decided to not only create a pitch but since there were so many entities involved (Avi, Marvel, Sony and De Luca) we would create a document we could leave behind. A doc that would represent our story, our characters and our tone. And that’s what we did.

When we returned we were pumped. We had nailed it. It may seem arrogant to say that but DUH. Isn’t that the point? Why would you ever go back if you didn’t think you nailed it? During the initial chit chat I said something along the lines of, “We know there are several entities involved here but we think we’ve found a story that fulfills everyone’s concerns.” Avi then informed me that there was only one entity that mattered. Everyone laughed. I gulped.

And the pitch was fun!

We knew De Luca dug it. Later we heard that Sony loved it.

But in the end Avi passed. He said it was too violent.

Hate not getting the job but I’ll take TOO VIOLENT as the reason any day of the week.

Just follow the link and you decide. :)



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.

JXII would open in the past allowing us to meet past Rowan just before the military action that would lead to the secret underground base at the opening of Jason X. Rowan goes ahead to the lab to prepare. But then Jason spanks the military. A complete and utter wipeout. The boys in camo never had a chance. As Jason is just about to kill Hot Scientist girl, Uber Jason drops from a worm hole… or portal or Tardis. Run, kill, chop, slash. Hot Scientist figures out Uber is from the future because she’s like a scientist and stuff. If Uber Jason kills past Jason then metal version vanishes and both are gone. Of course, Uber Jason does not kill past Jason. Other way around. Past Jason barely survies the final fight leaving him vulnerable to the military. Movie would end with the military taking advantage and capturing Jason, locking him in chains and taking him the the secret underground facility where Rowan prepares to run tests on him. Circle of life, complete.

Are there holes? Sure. Could they be fixed? Sure. Am I gonna fix them? Nah. There’s no money in it. :)

But if I were asked tomorrow would I do it as mapped out above? No. Lots of things I’d do differently now. Brian Collins wondered in his JX review at Horror Movie A Day, why we didn’t tie Jason’s regeneration to the regeneration technology used in the future. It’s both a brilliant idea and a no brainer but we never thought of it. So if we were gonna do a follow up today there are lots of considerations created by ten years later. BUT that’s not the point of this. The point is, this is what I was thinking back in 1999: sequel on Earth II, Finale back in time on Crystal Lake.

As for now though, I’d be happy with a blu-ray. And a screening at the New Bev. :)


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…


Three months later. MBV 3D had pulled in over 100 million world wide and this was on less than a 1000 domestic screens. A fraction of the screen available today. But Lions Gate had informed us that there would be no MBV 3D sequel. We heard a dozen reasons but in the end it likely came down to politics. Still, we’d made a successful movie. Yet we were finding that overall MBV’s success was considered a fluke. That 3D was considered a fluke. That’s what we were told. Of course, every studio and their grandmother with a digital RED were planning 3D flicks so whatevs.

Therefore we wrote DRIVE ANGRY. The agents loved it and we gave it a half day polish to tweak one of the characters then it was sent to producers. We met with several but the day we met with Michael De Luca we knew within 5 minutes that he was the guy. Once Mike was with us the train took off. Mike brought us Cage and that actually led to his suggesting we come up with a take for GHOST RIDER 2. We started brainstorming GHOST RIDER between DRIVE ANGRY meetings. Later while in the Millennium Films lobby awaiting a DRIVE ANGRY meeting we mentioned to Mike our FRIGHT NIGHT pitch to Clint. Mike laughed and said, you know, I just got the rights and set it up at Dreamworks.

Next thing we knew we were dusting off the old file and practicing our pitch again. A meeting was set for May 21st of ’09 with Mark Sourian & Kira Goldberg of Dreamworks. At the same time Mike scheduled a general meeting with Avi Arad for the following week to discuss GHOST RIDER 2 (but that continuing story will get its own entry).

So we pitched Sourian. I found it an interesting dynamic because Sourian held the position De Luca held when he worked for Dreamworks. It was an odd meeting to say the least. Sourian had many questions. There was much talk of PG-13. And “family friendly”. It wasn’t that he didn’t like our take but wasn’t sure they wanted to do a true horror at Dreamworks. We were also told that it would likely come down to us and Tim Kring (HEROES), that Kring and Spielberg had met at a screening recently and discussed FRIGHT NIGHT and they were waiting on Kring’s take.

To be honest we walked out with the feeling that our rated R take just wasn’t the direction they wanted to go. But, we waited. And waited. Our world got caught up with GHOST RIDER 2 and DRIVE ANGRY, as well as half a dozen other active developments. Eventually we heard that Kring never pitched. We heard more and more talk of “family friendly” then it just sort of went away. During the DA shoot we would hear bits about it from De Luca. They were back to rated R. That was good. We would hear about hirings. Who was directing. And so forth. And while it would have been a fun gig, this is how it happens in Hollywood.

Again, I’m not saying our version is better. For one reason, I have not seen Friday’s FRIGHT NIGHT. But that’s not the point. What’s better is subjective. I dug what we came up with but this is simply a what-might-have-been story. And even if we had have bagged the job there’s no guarantee our story would have ever made it to the screen. Most journeys go through dozens upon dozens of rewrites and some go through that many writers. No hard feelings. This is the career we signed up for. And come Friday, I’ll be at the theaters, where I’ll likely take in both FRIGHT NIGHT and CONAN.

So, without more banter, click on the link to read our take of FRIGHT NIGHT if you so desire. But do remember, this was never intended to be “read”. This was our pitch guide. We verbally pitched this half a dozen times and this document was how we learned the story and the pitch. It’s likely got type-os and fill-in-the-blank bits of logic. But we’re never gonna see a dime from it so I ain’t gonna be making no free polishes. :)

This isn’t a Science, it’s the movie biz. Enjoy. :)



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.

I had a contract with Sean, several over the years. My deal was that Sean would pay me a thousand bucks every two weeks. IF we got a movie made then I would get a bonus minus the money (plus interest) Sean had paid me. While my deal was for a thousand every two weeks, what he paid me was two thousand a month. Clever. On his part. Do the math. Eventually I got paid the difference but it wasn’t until we were negotiating year 2’s contact. My contract stated that Sean owned everything I wrote. Except limericks. So during year 2 negotiations I told Sean that Mark and I were going to write Western Front and we wanted to own it. He thought it a waste of time so he agreed.

(I interrupt this post to brag about the fact that Bill Fichtner just called me.)

Mark and I got to work. We wrote it in my apartment in Korea Town. Our goal was big budget, action, fun. A gold mining town constantly on the verge of attack from the local Indians. A band of bank robbers enter town. Miners uncover and enter a buried space ship. We finished and we really did love it.

Sean read it and really didn’t like it. Noel didn’t like it either. But that was fine. Mark and I still believed in it.

Until we got kicked in the face. A week later Steve Odekirk sold a pitch for COWBOYS AND ALIENS to Dreamworks for 1.5 million. The title said it all but it was the same premise. Shortly after and likely due to the buzz, a long forgotten Fox script called GHOSTRIDERS IN THE SKY made a resurgence. Meanwhile, Mark and I, utterly unknown jokers with no agent or real contacts felt… well sad. Very very sad.

It was over.

But not for Mark. He simply wouldn’t give up. Somehow, I forget how long after, but Mark ended up having drinks with Greg Noveck at Platinum Studios (not to be confused with Platinum Dunes). In the middle of their second Martini, Noveck told Mark they were having script troubles with COWBOYS AND ALIENS and Mark said, “Well, here’s ours” and handed him WESTERN FRONT.

They read it immediately. Which rarely happens. But more importantly they loved it. Which freaked the higher ups because Noveck shouldn’t have read our script without paperwork protecting them. So we went in and met with them and happily signed the paper stating that if they had the exact same ideas that it was okay and we couldn’t sue them. The funny thing was, they didn’t really have notes. A few type-os. And they went on and on about how we’d solved problems they had been struggling with draft after draft.

We would polish it then the script would be sent to William Morris, Universal and Dreamworks as they were all attached. When Mark handed in our little type-o polish to Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (his whole company was based on comic book properties from Europe and he had owned the comic for “Men In Black”), he asked if we had an agent. Mark said, “No but we want Rob Carlson.” Rosenberg replied, “Great! He’s our agent too so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

For a few days, Mark and I were soaring. It was euphoric. The guys at Platinum were pretty stoked too. Our script did what they had been trying to do. We felt like heroes. As though the next step was simply a matter of letting everyone else in on the celebration. How crazy. This was it. We’d worked hard and not only were we getting our foot in the door but we were about to play ball with the big boys.

A couple days later I was telling the story to a Dean Lorey and he stopped me and said, “You know, Rob Carlson is also Odekirk’s agent.” That gave me a bit of pause. It would be tough for Carlson to back us over his 1.5 million dollar writer.

Next we heard that Universal had passed. No reason given.

Then we heard that Dreamworks had passed. No reason given.

And like that it was over.

Much later a sympathetic suit told us that in retrospect, we likely never had a chance. From the start Spielberg’s mandate had been to do ALIENS in the west. Our aliens were humanoid therefore the higher ups deemed our script unworkable.

When I look back, this one hurt. This was back at at time when studios still paid 1.5 million for a pitch. Universal, Dreamworks, Spielberg, William Morris… this was a career maker. We did it right. Our instincts were right. Mark even brought it back from the dead and had us sitting with the producers who owned the rights, who had been struggling with the script, who believed we had the best story. But then it just all went away.

But everything happens for a reason I suppose. So, I put Jason in Space.

In the tiniest of ways we are part of the COWBOYS AND ALIENS story. Although we’ll never be discussed on the DVD, or discussed at Comicons or listed on Wiki. Therefore, I attach the script. Written 13 years ago.

Just click the link and enjoy the read.

Without further ado, WesternFront.


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.


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.

Movie came out…and years later, JR Young came across the above linked draft of Scarecrow. And read it. Next thing I know, I’m meeting with them about doing a “prequel”.

It should be noted that Wheaton had right of first refusal. That meant they should have gone to him first. And if he didn’t want to do it then they could come to me. But when he heard I was doing it, he didn’t rock the boat. It wasn’t until a year or more later that I learned this. Mark = good guy.

I mean that. In fact, he could have gone back to them while they were in production and forced them to make it write. Financially right. But Mark didn’t want to rock the boat I was in. Did I mention good guy?

So, I got hired to write a screenplay back in… was it 02? Then I got fired. The movie got rewritten and came out. Years later I was hired to rewrite what I originally wrote as a prequel… Messengers II: The Scarecrow.

For the most part screenplay to the prequel is very near to the original screenplay for Scarecrow (later titled Messengers). Although the ending of said prequel took a drastic change.

But the link is above if you are inclined to study the difference.

All in all you cannot say it doesn’t make for an interesting journey.