Director jail – the purgatorial netherworld that keeps a good filmmaker trapped in paralysis for years at a time after their last film loudly flopped — is a funny thing. Some end up there literally: Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were famously imprisoned last year, while John McTiernan and Roger Avary haven’t seen their careers exactly set alight thanks to real-life brushes with the law. Most of the time, though, you wait years for a misunderstood British ‘auteur’ to resurface – Lynne Ramsay finally re-emerged at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with “We Need to Talk About Kevin” – and several come along at once. No, we’re not talking about a new project from the talented Jonathan Glazer. It’s one from Phil Claydon, who Deadline reports has been tapped to helm a new project, “Miserable Excuse For a Hero,” an adaptation of the book by Bob Powers with the longer title, “You Are a Miserable Excuse For a Hero”. While usually the news that a smaller British director who hasn’t landed a gig in two years has finally got a project off the ground would be news for celebration, Claydon’s last film was called “Lesbian Vampire Killers,” a cinematic abomination that still makes this writer wake up screaming in the middle of the night in a cold flop sweat and pining for his blanky. The director hasn’t made a film since.
For those unfamiliar with the film, “Lesbian Vampire Killers” was touted at the time as an “homage” to the British Hammer horror films of yore, and apparently inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe was, in reality, a cheap, vile sex comedy with a streak of casual misogyny and homophobia thrown in for good measure. A lame excuse to launch the careers of sitcom stars Matthew Horne and James Corden to a wider audience, it was clearly intended to replicate the success of what “Shaun of the Dead” did for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s careers. Here would be the salient place to point out that Phil Claydon ain’t no Edgar Wright, and his second feature film was greeted with a wave of hostility from the British press unseen since “Sex Lives of the Potato Men” stunk up cinema screens back in 2004. Needless to say, it barely did any business outside of its native U.K.
Whilst “You Are a Miserable Excuse For a Hero” would see Claydon dipping his toe back into the comedy pool, he’s on steadier footing this time around. The 2008 novel, which had its rights snapped up a couple of years ago, was generally well received upon publication, and its script is written by D.V. De Vincentis, whose previous screenwriting credits – “Grosse Pointe Blank” and “High Fidelity” — speak for themselves. Its plot revolves around a 30-year-old man who, after a blind date with a woman he barely knows, must cough up $50,000 dollars in ransom money to ensure her survival after she’s inopportunely kidnapped less than 24 hours after their first encounter. The producers are Mark Gordon and Jennifer Todd, responsible for “The Matador” and “Alice in Wonderland,” respectively.
The director also has the ’80s action throwback “Dan Minter: Badass For Hire” on his plate, so we’ll see which one runs first. Whatever happens, it’s pretty clear Claydon’s staging a jailbreak.