If you heard a distinctive pounding noise coming from the general direction of Flavorwire HQ earlier this week, that was the sound of heads hitting desks when we got word that Warner Brothers is seriously contemplating the idea of turning out a sequel to Casablanca. At risk of sounding like drama queens, IS NOTHING SACRED?
Contrary to Conventional Hollywood Wisdom™, not every movie makes good sequel fodder. This may be a foreign notion in the land where brand is king, but sometimes a story told in a manner that is complete, with nowhere else to go and no reason to exist aside from generating easy money out of name recognition. And that goes double with the industry’s iconic classics — has anyone spent the past seventy years being nagged by all of Casablanca’s unanswered questions? We doubt it. But this is merely the latest of the great movies that some genius has proposed sequelizing; after the jump, we’ll take a closer look at Casablanca 2: Electric Bugaloo, and nine other proposed sequels that (thus far, thank God) haven’t happened.
Lou Lumenick at the New York Post broke the story of the proposed Casablanca sequel, in a detailed and fascinating piece that summarizes the multiple attempts over the ensuing decades to make a follow-up to Michael Curtiz’s classic. The first came shortly after the film’s original release; a treatment, titled Brazzaville (the Free French-held city mentioned by Ranault in the closing scene), was written by Frederic Stephani, and — in a perfect example of why a sequel to Casablanca is an awful, terrible, no-good idea — put forth the revelation that Rick and Renault had, ha ha, been secret Allied agents all along. Though Bogart was game, the studio disliked the treatment, Ingrid Bergman passed on the project, and it disappeared. Rick’s further adventures were instead chronicled in a pair of short-lived TV shows (one in the 1950s, another in 1983), but the sequel Warner Brothers is currently considering is based on a 1980 treatment by Howard Koch, who co-wrote the screenplay to the original film. According to Lumenick, Koch — who knew no one could ever take over the iconic roles played by Bogie and Bergman — proposed a story centered on their son, “conceived the night he renewed his affair with Ilsa in Casablanca,” who attempts to track down his disappeared father. Some have taken the project’s origination with Koch as a sign that the picture is worth making, but let’s be clear: good writers have bad ideas all the time. Hopefully Warners will learn the lessons of Return to Oz and Scarlet: leave the classics alone.
Steven Spielberg has a hit and miss history with sequels — with two Indiana Jones follow-ups in the plus column, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Lost World in the minus. But whatever the flaws of those might be, we should probably thank our lucky stars that his proposed sequel to E.T., subtitled Nocturnal Fears, never got off the ground. The original was, of course, a monster hit when it was released in June of 1982, so Spielberg and his E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison got to work on a sequel treatment, which popped up on the Internet a few years back. Dated July 17, barely a month after E.T.’s release, it focused on a second alien spaceship arriving on Earth. There are no cuddly, Reese’s Pieces-popping life forms on this one though. Per the treatment: “The aliens onboard are EVIL… These creatures are an albino fraction (mutation) of the same civilization E.T. belongs to. The two separate groups have been at war for decades!” The EVIL aliens have come to Earth to investigate the distress signal sent by E.T. in the original film, and in an attempt to find him, they kidnap Elliot and his friends, and torture them. We’re not making this up. Nocturnal Fears, which sounds less like E.T. than Spielberg’s other 1982 production Poltergeist, obviously didn’t happen; years later, when asked about it, Spielberg said “Sequels can be very dangerous because they compromise your truth as an artist. I think a sequel to E.T. would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity.” No kidding!
National Lampoon’s Animal House
National Lampoon’s Vacation begat a long (and ultimately sort of terrible) string of sequels, but it wasn’t the first film branded with the humor magazine’s name that was contemplated for series status. When Animal House was a huge (and hugely profitable) unexpected hit in 1978, follow-up ideas were kicked around. According to Splitsider, the concept they settled on was set five years after the original, during the 1967 “Summer of Love,” but the project was given the boot when star John Belushi died in 1982 — though the project’s writers reportedly did a draft after that, in which his Bluto Blutarsky character is not only gone, but not even mentioned until a toast at the end. Can’t imagine why they didn’t go ahead and make that.
Perceptive viewers of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 indie hit noticed, almost immediately, that Vincent Vega, the protagonist played by John Travolta, shared a surname with the character of Vic Vega, played by Michael Madsen in QT’s Reservoir Dogs. It’s one of those little instances, like the mentions of “Alabama” (Patricia Arquette’s character in True Romance) and “Scagnetti” (the last name of Tom Sizemore’s Natural Born Killers cop) in Dogs, that make up the “Tarantinoverse” in which all of his characters reside. But Tarantino did confirm that the characters were brothers, and talked for years about doing a sort-of sequel to Fiction and Dogs that would focus on the Vega siblings. (Well, it’d be a prequel, since both characters died in their respective films. Um, spoiler alert.) The spin-off was grist for the rumor mill for well over a decade; in a 2007 Opie and Anthony interview, Tarantino revealed that the film, which would have been titled Double V Vega, “would have taken place during the time Vincent was in Amsterdam, when he was running one of Marcellus’ clubs in Amsterdam. And Vic goes to visit him.” But in that same interview, he indicated that — because of the logical necessity of it being a prequel — too much time had passed for the project to get made. “I actually came up with a way I could have done it, even being older and dead where they all had older brothers and both of their brothers got together because the two guys died. And they wanted revenge or something like that. But now, they [the actors] are too old for that… I gotta say, it’s kind of unlikely now.” Madsen, however, apparently didn’t hear that last part; as recently as 2010, movie blogs were picking up his insistence that The Vega Brothers or Double V Vega or whatever it would have been called was still going to happen. “I’d be Vic Vega’s twin brother,” Madsen explained in a radio interview. “He’d be Vincent’s twin brother and we’re both on a flight from Los Angeles, having just been released from prison, and neither one of us know that we’re the twin brother of the other one and we’re both on our way back to LA to avenge the death of our brothers.” Good heavens, that sounds awful. But here’s what’s important: though several sites took this as confirmation that Tarantino was still considering the project, it’s basically the idea that Tarantino mentioned and dismissed three years earlier. Any confirmations since have come from Madsen — who, let’s face it, doesn’t have much else happening these days.
The Usual Suspects
While we haven’t seen a sequel to Pulp Fiction, we certainly saw plenty of mid-’90s films that imitated its gun-blazing, fast-talking, twisty style. Without question, the best of the bunch was The Usual Suspects, the ensemble crime mystery that became the breakout film for director Bryan Singer and co-star Kevin Spacey. But the latter has spent the past few years making some questionable choices — which could be why he was reported, in 2005, to be anxiously returning to his most iconic role. Chazz Palimentari has also mentioned the sequel, which he says would be titled Searching for Keyser Soze, insisting around the same time that “They’re past the talking about it stage.” Well, they apparently never got past the past-the-talking-about-it-stage, and good for them; The Usual Suspects has one of the great endings of recent moviedom, and tampering with that kind of perfection is a recipe for disaster. In more recent years, Spacey has apparently come around to the same thinking; “I know every couple of years, they keep coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, you should make a sequel to The Usual Suspects,'” Spacey said last year. “And I go, ‘Hmm, no. Let’s leave that alone. Let’s not do that.'” Amen.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 film was a triumph of both technology and storytelling, a smart and funny noir riff that imagined a 1940s-era Hollywood cohabitated by real people and animated characters. A box office smash, it seemed like prime material for a follow-up, and writer Nat Mauldin penned a prequel, Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon. Set during World War I, it detailed how Roger saved Jessica from the Nazis, and in the process discovered that his father was Bugs Bunny. Sounds delightful, no? (Non-shocker of this whole story: Maudlin went on pen the much-derided new straight-to-video sequel to A Christmas Story.) That film never made it past the script phase, though the film’s characters eventually turned up in animated shorts that Disney attached to films like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Dick Tracy. A few years later, a new concept was floated: Who Discovered Roger Rabbit, which would trace the character’s rise to fame on stage and screen. Disney’s go-to composer Alan Menken was hired to write songs, and test footage was shot in 1998, but the proposed mixture of CGI, animation, and live-action would have been too expensive, and the project was dropped. It didn’t die, though; just last month, Zemeckis said he’s still keen to make the movie, telling Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman, “I have a script at Disney, and we’re just waiting for all the executive changes to settle down there.” Well, if we may appeal to the Disney brass: For all that is good and holy, pass. Bob Hoskins has retired from acting, and even if it’s a prequel, his absence would be felt. What’s more, Zemeckis hasn’t made a good movie in well over a decade (and yes, we’re including Flight), and his forays into motion-capture animation have been, to say the least, underwhelming. Do what’s right, Disney. Turn it down, p-p-p-leeeeease.
Tim Burton’s 1988 hit was immediately earmarked as sequel material, but Burton wasn’t yet the sequel and remake machine that he later became, and wasn’t yet interested in rehashing old stories. So, when pressed by Warner Brothers, he proposed the worst sequel idea he could think of: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. According to screenwriter Jonathan Gems, “Tim thought it would be funny to match the surfing backdrop of a beach movie with some sort of German Expressionism, because they’re totally wrong together.” The concept was that the Deetz family from the original effort moves to Hawaii, only to find that the tropical resort father Charles (Jeffrey Jones) is developing sits on an ancient burial ground, so Beetlejuice is summoned to help scare the spirits away. He also wins a surfing contest. This was going to be a real thing. The best part of the story is that the studio was all-in on Burton’s purposefully terrible idea, and even signed Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder before Burton took over their Batman franchise. Cut to: twenty-plus years and many terrible films later, and now Burton is suddenly all into the idea of another Beetlejuice movie, and has put Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author Seth Grahame-Smith on the job. Rumors have varied as to whether it would be a straight-up continuation or a reboot, but we can be fairly certain of one thing: it will suck.
David Fincher’s 1995 serial killer flick was a big hit for New Line — and rather an unexpected one, given that it’s a stylish yet unrelentingly grim picture that ends (spoiler alert!) with its hero presumably institutionalized, and his wife’s head in a box. But hey, why let that get in the way of a potentially lucrative franchise, eh? So seven years later, the studio took a screenplay called Solace by Ocean’s Eleven scribe Ted Griffin, retro-fitted it into a Se7en sequel by changing its lead character into Morgan Freeman’s Detective Lt. William Somerset, and retitling the picture (wait for it) Ei8ght. Luckily, Solace was a perfect fit for the Freeman character — except for the part where he has psychic powers that he apparently just never got around to mentioning in the first film. Thankfully, Fincher dismissed the idea about as frankly as possible (“I have less interest in that than having cigarettes put out in my eyes,” he told a Film Society of Lincoln Center audience), and the project never came to be, though the Solace script has since been rewritten again, back into a non-sequel, which will reportedly shoot next year with Anthony Hopkins in the lead.
Yes, yes, we know, they did a Ghostbusters sequel — and a not terribly good one, either. Yet the forces behind it (primarily co-writer/co-star Dan Aykroyd, the Michael Madsen of this story) have been threatening for over twenty years to do Ghostbusters III, which has become one of the most written-about movies that will hopefully never exist. The barrier, the firewall, the lone holdout has for years been Bill Murray, who spoke for most discerning Ghostbusters fans when he reportedly returned the shredded script to Aykroyd, noting that “No one wants to pay money to see fat, old men chasing ghosts!” (That story may be apocryphal, but if it’s not true, it should be.) Aykroyd said in February that Murray’s absence meant the project was “in suspended animation,” but he apparently rethought his commitment to continuity; Ghostbusters III is reportedly on track for a summer 2013 shoot, with director Ivan Reitman at the helm, a reworked script by Men in Black 3 scribe Etan Cohen, and… no Bill Murray. Not to worry, though, Aykroyd insists: “We’ve got a brilliant new writer on it and we’ll be passing the torch on to a new generation” — i.e., trying to distract from Murray’s absence by bringing in new, young Ghostbusters like Bill Hader, Will Forte, and Anna Ferris. Yeah, there’s no way this won’t be terrible.
The Big Lebowski
The Coen Brothers have never made a sequel, and stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman seem to be doing all right these days, and the first film is such a wonderful free-standing cult object, we can’t imagine who would actually want or benefit from a follow-up to The Big Lebowski. Oh, what’s that, Tara Reid? You’ve got something to announce? Yes, most of Hollywood got together last year to point and laugh at the former Bunny Lebowski, who announced that the whole cast was coming back together for The Big Lebowski 2, forcing her publicists to offer a correction that basically boiled down to, “eh, our client’s not all that bright.” When asked about the rumor, co-director Ethan Coen grinned, “I’m glad she’s working on it.” And that seemed to be the end of it — until last summer, when CBS Los Angeles posted an item confirming a greenlight for The Big Lebowski 2: The Dude Goes to Washington. Their source? An item on a parody site called “Super Official News.” The CBS affiliate corrected their story (“We are now told that this story is bogus!” the correction went, indicating that these ace journos “had to be told” that a story was bogus that came attributed to “The Ass Press”), prompting Movieline to note, “the CBS Los Angeles piece has no byline, but I imagine the author might deflect with ‘new shit has come to light’ or ‘lotta ins lotta outs, lotta what have yous.'”