One of the reasons Charlie Kaufman hasn’t made a feature film since 2008’s “Synecdoche, New York” is his unfortunately failed attempt to mount the meta movie musical, “Frank Or Francis.” Slated to star an impressive ensemble including Jack Black, Nicolas Cage, Steve Carell, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Kline, Catherine Keener, Paul Reubens, and Jacki Weaver, the movie would’ve been a Hollywood set tale about a pretentious filmmaker and his online his nemesis, with characters including a fat-suit-wearing comedian who is also known as The Emcee, and Richard’s Head, a superwiz computer-brain programmed to write hit screenplays. It’s pretty bonkers on paper, but with that cast, you’d think it would get made. And it nearly did.
A few years back, Black revealed that money was holding things up. “We are just about 10 million dollars shy of the cost to make it, so if anyone out there reading this can scrape together a cool 10 mil, this thing can happen,” he said. That didn’t come to pass. Instead, Kaufman pivoted toward “Anomalisa,” got crowdfunding support, and is now set to be part of the awards season machine. However, he says “Frank Or Francis” could maybe still roll, and he explains why it fell apart.
“It could still happen,” Kaufman told Uproxx. “It would have to be reinvented, though. We had a whole cast and we were headed into pre-production. So, I’d have to get people back and who knows if they would be interested anymore. But, at this point, we don’t have any money, so that’s a secondary concern.”
I would think, and hope, that the cast above would come back to the movie in heartbeat if the financing got lined up, but it seems no one in Hollywood, particularly in this climate, wants to fund this kind of picture.
“I had the most extraordinary cast for ‘Frank or Francis.’ Extraordinary. I mean, it was like crazy. And the reason I kept hiring more and more crazy, well-known people was because it was the only way I was going to get any money. Even then I couldn’t get money,” he said. “…2008 was a disastrous year for the economy. Everything changed in the business after that. No, really. Sony Pictures made ‘Adaptation.’ Not like Sony Classics, Sony Pictures made that movie. They would never make that movie now. It’s impossible for them. It’s a different business. And if ‘Synecdoche’ made $100 million, it would be a different issue. But, it didn’t.”
It’s a fair assessment, however, there’s also one other reason we haven’t seen Kaufman movie in years — he’d prefer to direct his own scripts. “I could envision it, but it’s my preference to do it,” he said of someone else possibly directing his scripts. “I want to do it. And it’s probably one of the reasons it’s been difficult to get anything done in the last seven years, because I’ve attached myself as the director to the things I’ve written.”
“Anomalisa” opens on December 31st.