“I have a sense of humor. I’m not always this lyrical, slow-moving, Southern crybaby.” If the hallmark of the film auteur is cultivating and identifying a unique style, former indie wunderkind David Gordon Green has been systematically tearing down his signature status for a few years now.
Initially known for his Terrence Malick-like and atmospheric coming-of-age tales set in the South, Green quickly switched gears, moving to a succession of studio comedies (“Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness,” “The Sitter”). While the move toward broad (though absurdist) comedy baffled many, it made a lot of sense if you were paying attention to his early goals. Despite being known for films like “George Washington” and “All The Real Girls,” Green had been talking up his eclectic taste and his burning desire to tackle disparate genres for years.
Suffering from creative A.D.D. and thirsty for different experiences, the young filmmaker put his money where his mouth was and began tackling different genres with ardent zeal. First came 2004’s “Undertow,” a ’70s-like gothic fairy tale that melded tones of horror, suspense and his impressionistic meanderings (produced by Terrence Malick to boot, Green described it as “Goonies” meets “Deliverance”). He then began adapting novels with furious aplomb which begat the drama, “Snow Angels.” Green’s vocal desire to tackle comedy, a genre he’d been hot to try on forever (see the very subtle comedy of the indie heartbreak film, “All The Real Girls” and the lighter moments in ‘Angels’) finally found him room within the Judd Apatow clique and his first summer comedy blockbuster, the stoner action flick, “Pineapple Express.” ‘Express’ and the subsequent comedies flew him dangerously close to the sun of mainstream appeal and acceptance, but again before you could pigeonhole him, he was off doing small, unannounced indie “Prince Avalanche” (which in his genre-defying way is part comedy bromance and part contemplative meditation on friendship and manhood).
When not directing, Green became a writing gun for hire over the years and the uber-prolific filmmaker churned out a ton of scripts in the early aughts, many of which never came to pass. “My hope is that I can dabble in all genres because, let’s face it, I’m a freakin’ movie geek and like a lot of different kind of movies,” he told IFC in 2008. And dabble he has. With “Joe,” starring Nicolas Cage, his dark gritty drama hitting theaters over the weekend (not without its elements of comedy either), we thought we’d take a look at the lost, still unmade and in many cases potentially abandoned film projects of filmmaker David Gordon Green.
Adapted by Green from the Brad Land memoir about fraternity hazing, the project was at one point in pre-production with Emile Hirsch attached to star, but it fell on the back burner. “I play Brad Land. I’m a junior pledging to be in a fraternity. You’ll see the inside world of it,” Hirsch told MTV in 2005. Rumor had Mike Nichols tackling the project at one point, but it seems like its moment has past. From these conversations, Green would eventually cast Hirsch in 2013’s “Prince Avalanche.”
The Untitled Motorcross Movie
A coming-of-age film about James “Bubba” Stewart, a teen “who is to motocross racing what Tiger Woods is to golf,” was written by Green for Tom Cruise‘s Cruise/Wagner Productions while the “Top Gun” star had his deal at Paramount. And the film was revving up pre-production in fall 2005, but after the whole Sumner Redstone Cruise/Paramount imbroglio the following year, the project was kicked over to Sam Jones, the director behind the Wilco documentary,”I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.”
“Confederacy of Dunces”
Green campaigned hard for the film, knocking down the doors of producer Steven Soderbergh who wrote a draft of the screenplay with Scott Kramer in 2002, but the project became logjammed. “There were too many cooks involved, too many producers, the egos of a lot of people,” Green told MTV in 2004 of the problems that unraveled the ‘Dunces’ production. “It had a lot of financial baggage [that] was propelling the budget to a place where you would have to make compromises in casting and the narrative by the time you started paying off all these jackasses.” Will Ferrell, Mos Def and Drew Barrymore were attached at one point, but don’t look for this one to start up anytime soon, if ever. “It was a circumstance where every move needed to be approved and calculated and re-approved and baggage kept getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think anyone can make it until someone gets paid off or dies,” he said (there was massive development hell on this one with Soderbergh and Kramer going as far as suing producer Scott Rudin when he tried to go out on his own with the project and it changed hands several times going from New Line to Paramount to Miramax and Disney—where there was internal friction—and eventually back to Paramount). They’ve tried to make it since, with one recent iteration with Zach Galifianakis, but it’s seemingly gotten nowhere for the same reasons.
The writer/director penned a “stoner-counselor-at-nerd-camp comedy” for Seann William Scott. “I’m writing, a high-concept studio comedy,” Green told Indiewire in April 2006. The premise was dead-simple. “It’s about a summer camp for geniuses.” It’s possible that this script, which was being written for Universal, made the rounds before Judd Apatow had decided on a “Pineapple Express” director, and when the two met on the set of “Knocked Up,” the mayor of comedy may have likely anointed his man. Whatever happened to this project? “They took it away from me and Danny [McBride] before anybody knew who we were and had some other guy write it,” Green told us in a 2011 interview.
“The Precious Few”
A very, “Smokey And The Bandit“-like pic, the demolition derby movie was written with friend and ‘Real Girl’ actor Danny McBride and was set to re-team the director with his longtime friend Paul Schneider (star of “All The Real Girls“). “Eventually it’s going to cost a lot of money because I’ve got a lot of cars to wreck,” Green told Moviechicks in the fall of 2004. Would it ever get made? “I would love to [make it],” Green told us in 2011. “We’ve been around for a couple years trying to get it financed. Yeah that would be our flagship film if we can find a great international financier. I wrote it with my buddy when I was all drugged up on painkillers after having jaw surgery and somehow, in six days, we cranked out something we were really proud of.” Maybe one day…
John Grisham’s “Innocent Man“
Part of his now-ancient deal with the now-shuttered Warner Independent to pick up “Snow Angels,” was agreeing to write and direct a drama based on John Grisham‘s non-fiction book “The Innocent Man.” The book tells the true story of Ron Williamson, a man wrongly convicted of murder who spent more than 10 years on death row in Oklahoma. But that project was shuttered because of “legal problems,” according to Green.
“Freaks of the Heartland”
In 2008, Overture Films tapped Green to direct the horror thriller “Freaks of the Heartland,” a Dark Horse graphic novel written by Steve Niles, written by freshman screenwriters Peter Sattler and Geoff Davey. ‘Freaks’ was a series about the horrible secret of a rural Middle American town involving a teenager’s attempts to protect his “monster” of a 6-year-old younger brother and other “freaks” from their parents’ worst instincts. It never came to pass, either. “I want to do it as an animated movie now,” he said around the time of “The Sitter.” “I’ve been talking to the writer and illustrator of the comic book.” Who knows what happened there. At any rate, Green scratched his animation with the MTV comedy “Good Vibes,” which wound up getting canceled rather quickly.
“The Secret Life of Bees”
He described his adaptation of the 2004 NY Times best-seller as a period piece similar in tone to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Green explained ‘Bees’ as a much-needed breath of fresh air to MTV in 2004. “It’s a chick flick,” he said, “Which for me [would be] interesting because [‘Undertow‘] was so masculine and heavy and full of dudes. It might be nice to hang out with some ladies and have some fine china.” Producers thought otherwise and while Dakota Fanning was touted as his lead circa 2004/05 when he wrote the screenplay, the movie was made without him in 2008.
“I’ve had two goals as far as movies are concerned forever that I can remember. One of them was to [make] ‘Dunces,’ and [then] more than anything in the whole world, I really wanna do ‘Fat Albert,’ ” he admitted to MTV in the early aughts. “I got really depressed because they were about to go into production on ‘Fat Albert’ a year ago with Forrest Whitaker directing, so I was super pissed.” Green didn’t get the project and it was made in 2004 much to his chagrin.
“One in the Chamber”
“I’d also like to start a straight-to-video action company that just does genre movies. Me and my friend Darius [Shamir] just finished the script called ‘One in the Chamber,’ ” he told STYD in 2008. “It’s just a guy going to get his kidnapped son out of prison. Give me a couple million bucks to go explore some schlock. I’d like to be the next Roger Corman. He would have his hand in freakin’ ‘Piranha‘ but also in Fellini. I like that idea. I would love to do some genre stuff but also some crazy intimate, no-budget movies. That’s my problem. I only have one me, and I have a limited number of years before I die, and the biggest problem is that I like to do a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with movies and movies are very time-consuming, so you have to make choices, and that’s really frustrating.”
“Shockproof Sydney Skate”
Green adapted the novel for director/actor/producer Sidney Pollack. Hailed as the “Catcher in the Rye” for the ’70s, about a young “shockproof” boy who develops a problem when the girl he loves and his mother, a lesbian, develop crushes on each other. No news has evolved on this project since he first talked it up in 2004. The adaptation is probably in a drawer somewhere and Pollack passed away in 2008, but it’s interesting to note filmmakers like Soderbergh, Malick, Pollack and Judd Apatow all noticed Green early on.
“Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles”
A spy novel that Green became attached to as a director according to an interview with author Will Clarke. “Out of the blue, a New Zealand screenwriter, Grant Morris [‘Heroes‘ TV show writer], called to option it. He then got Michael London [‘Sideways‘] attached as the producer who got David Gordon Green to attach as the director. And then to my utter surprise, the three of them set the project up at Paramount Pictures.” It’s possible the author was talking out of his turn because nothing ever turned up here.
Yep, a remake of the 1982 comedy “Six Pack” starring Kenny Rogers as a down-and-out race car driver who gets his stock car career back on track thanks to the help of a teenage orphan (a young tomboy-ish Diane Lane) and her five car-crazy young brothers who act as his unlikely pit crew. It was set-up at 20th Century Fox and Green wrote a screenplay, but eventually, the studio went safe, moved on without Green and attached Kevin James to star as the lead.
Untitled Western Project/Untitled Science Fiction Project
Green had a Western project about heroin addicts in the Wild West that he’s “trying to get going” and a science-fiction script that he’s “had [around] for years,” he told Indiewire in 2005. He told Moviehabit the latter project was a “[Andrei] Tarkovsky-esque science fiction that will be three hours long,” that apparently is a vehicle for Paul Rudd (the actor was eventually cast in “Prince Avalanche”). So the Western? “Nobody will finance that shit. I’ve been trying to get that made for ten years,” Green said circa “The Sitter.” “Maybe down the line but I have to be more commercially viable than I am right now.”
“Ice Station Zebra”
Circa “Your Highness,” Green was going remake the 1968 John Sturges thriller “Ice Station Zebra,” in which Rock Hudson and Ernest Borgnine engage in a literal Cold War during an Arctic rescue mission. “I just finished [the] script for Warner Bros. that’s a big military movie,” he told us in 2011. “And I got to go camp out on the arctic circle with the Navy and explore those kind of… you know just the lingo and the politics of what’s going on in the arctic right now so it truly is a passport. Like literally Warner Brothers says, ‘Do you want to get on a jet with the Navy and get on a submarine?’ and you’re like, ‘absofuckinglutely!‘ ” Whatever happened, it didn’t pan out. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is now on that directing gig.
“No, it doesn’t make a lick of sense,” Green told MTV in 2008 about his would-be remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic. “But it’s wicked. I love it, plot holes and everything. ‘Suspiria’ is a classic for me. I want to be scared. I want to be afraid.” An Italian producer approached Green about the remake, perhaps knowing his eclectic taste, and he was more than game. Green’s version had Natalie Portman in the lead at one point, but he had to rethink it after the actress starred in psychological horror “Black Swan.”
“I didn’t want to make the Natalie version anymore. So I re-envisioned it,” he said in 2011. So he went back to the source material, a novella called “Mine-Haha” by Frank Wedekind. Christof Gebert a sound production mixer who has worked on many of Green’s films, adapted the work, and the director mounted up a new version with Isabelle Huppert, Janet McTeer, Michael Nyqvist and pre-“Man of Steel” Antje Traue attached. It seemed to be moving forward with a shoot date and everything, but producers got nervous and pulled the plug. “Someone needs to do something very artful with that project,” he said last year noting it was dead with his involvement just months later. “I’m just excited at the thought of making something elegant, and graphic, and classy at a point in the horror genre where everybody’s making films raw, and found-footage. I want something to contrast that, but anybody that’s interested in horror movies has no interest in that right now. At least, not with my involvement. But maybe someone else will do it.” So chalk that one up to creative differences and producers wanting to go the safe route.
Just before “The Sitter” hit theatres, Green lined up a gig writing and directing an adaptation of Evan Mandery‘s novel “Q.” The story focuses on a man who is visited by a future version of himself who warns him on his wedding day not to get married to his wife. He listens to himself but spends the rest of his life regretting the decision and tries to fill the void that remains, as future selves continue to advise him. It would’ve been a blend of many genres—sci-fi, drama, romance—but that was pretty much the first and last of any news about that project.
“The Prince Avalanche” Remakes/Hit The Road Jack
Green’s 2013 film “Prince Avalanche” with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch is a remake of the 2011 Icelandic film “Either Way.” Green didn’t even meet the filmmakers of the original until his version debuted at Sundance last year, but they hit it off so well they concocted some harebrained scheme to keep remaking it over and over again with different versions set in different locations.
“We all conceived of three other very interesting ideas of ways of how to do different [versions],” he said during a Sundance interview for “Prince Avalanche.” His assistant director on the movie, Atilla Salih Yücer] is “Turkish and he wants to remake it in Turkey,” Green said. As for his own remake of the remake? “I want to remake ‘Prince Avalanche’ in Australia with two aggressive ex-prisoners working on the side of the road, but it’s not a comedy,” he said last summer. “It’s called ‘Hit the Road Jack‘ and is more of an action movie where they beat the crap out of each other. It’s more of an aggressive masculine thing because Australia is where all the men live. Men have disappeared across the planet except in Australia.” We’ll see if this ever gets made or if it’s just an idea the filmmaker got rather excited about.
Miscellaneous: the Western, Ronson, Science-Fiction, Medieval
“I could be attached to a million [projects], but I don’t know if anything will ever be made with my name on it. I just want to try and make [films] that are distinctive and play on a realistic ball field where I can be creative.” Believe it or not, there’s even more Green has been linked to. He’s been contemplating directing a horror that his friend and fellow filmmaker Craig Zobel (“Compliance”) wrote. Perhaps to scratch his “Secret Life Of Bees” itch he was set to direct a big-screen adaptation of “Little House On The Prairie” but who knows what happened with that. According to the always unreliable Wikipedia, Green was once attached to a project called “The Legend of Ronson,” but that’s probably apocryphal, because good luck finding details.
Earlier this year it was reported that Green would direct a thriller with Chris Pine called “The Line,” but it seems like that was just a loose idea and not something concrete yet. “I have no idea where that one came from,” he recently said. “I talked to Chris on the phone once about it. He’s cool. And I like that ‘Jack Ryan’ movie.” Lastly, there was also that Barefoot Bandit movie (eventually called “Taking Flight” and later set for Robert Zemeckis), about the real-life case of Colton Harris-Moore, a modern-day Robin Hood (of sorts), who escaped juvenile detention at the age of 18 and became quickly known for an audacious, rogue lifestyle living in the woods of Washington State. “Dustin Lance Black‘s written it and it’s fucking awesome,” Green said in 2011. “I don’t know if I’m going to direct it but we’re investigating all options on it.” But it looks like those options ran out.
Any of these you hope get revived? Let us know below.