Monday, October 01, 2018

The sad (but typical) saga of STAR SPANGLED ADVENTURE

Several readers asked about STAR SPANGLED ADVENTURE. I featured studio coverage on Saturday. They wanted to know why it didn’t get made after such glowing coverage.

The short answer: it’s HOLLYWOOD.

Randal Kleiser directed a big hit movie called THE BLUE LAGOON. Columbia pictures wanted a sequel. Randal wasn’t immediately interested. So the studio made him a development deal. They gave him money to develop possible scripts to direct. The studio was hoping that eventually LAGOON 2 would come from this mix.

David Isaacs and I were making the rounds pitching movie projects. This was like 1981. We met with Randal who responded to our comedy pitch – a coming-of-age story about kids in a rundown amusement park. David grew up in Florida and knew the state was full of them. It would be a class war between the Brett Kavanaugh kids who were the wholesome “Up With People” singing group and the outcast kids who had to dress in character costumes.

We wrote the screenplay. He loved it. The studio, headed by Frank Price, passed. Why? They had no intention of greenlighting a Randal Kleiser comedy. Price wanted BLUE FUCKING LAGOON 2.

So that’s why it was never made.

Why didn’t another studio make it? Because Columbia never put it in turnaround. So we couldn’t take it elsewhere. They just ate the cost and buried it.


Interestingly, a few years ago I bumped into a Columbia executive who was there at the time. I hadn’t seen her in 30 years. When she heard my name the first thing she said was STAR SPANGLED ADVENTURE. She had remembered that script. Everyone loved it except the one man who could make it.



Peter said...

And the irony is that Kleiser never did make a BLUE LAGOON 2. Columbia made a sequel, RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON, in 1991 which bombed.

Going by what you've said above, does this mean Columbia still own the script? Could you not get your contacts to get it considered by the current studio regime or at least revert the rights to you and David? It just sounds like such a fun movie.

But when we live in a time when something like Night School hits the number one spot, maybe studios don't want smart comedies.

Jit said...

Would it be possible to make Star Spangled Adventure NOW?

Lisa said...

What does - "They just ate the cost and buried it". I didn't get it.

Can someone please tell me.

Dhruv said...

Thanks for the post Ken.

Columbia never put it in Turnaround means that they bought it and kept it with them, rather than allow others to make it?

This is the sad part, that many good scripts never get made due to such people being at the helm.

I just opened the book of writer Joe Eszterhas and re-read the making of 'Jagged Edge'. He doesn't have a good word for Frank. He was referred to as 'Sphinx', an expressionless humorless guy. He is actually a failed writer and always had 2 "creative" assistants who nodded to each and every suggestion of his to the writers. He tried to ruin the ending with his own version, but they wait till he gets fired from Columbia and then make the movie with the original ending. But that didn't stop Frank from foul mouthing the ending to anyone who listened to him. The movie was a hit, but Frank kept saying that it would have made 30 million more if they had listened to him.

E. Yarber said...

I could tell you four similar stories that have happened to me, one of them involving a project shut down a matter of weeks before production had been scheduled to begin. I can even pinpoint four separate people who turned out to be the weak link that broke the chain. Unfortunately, it's possible to do everything right and still end up with nothing to show for it.

While I could tell you four similar stories that have happened to me, at the same time I can't. People outside the business simply don't understand how the process can go south at any number of points, that it's not a easy path from someone accepting the initial concept to success. You can't compete with the cliches people assume about how simply Hollywood works.

Today, it's like those mishaps never happened, and if I try to talk about them all I get are condescending looks like I either imagined the whole thing or must have done something fatally wrong on my own without noticing it, even though I could tell you at least forty similar stories that I've seen happen to other people. Just be grateful I know better than to go into details here.

Dan Sachs said...

Isn't that the 2009 movie Adventureland?

Mike McCann said...

With recent reforms, recording artists now regain the rights to their creations in 37 years (IIRC). Is there a legal process that would enable you and David to regain the right to that script?

Seems crazy that a studio or other distributor could, in effect, bury a concept forever.

VP81955 said...

As a writer looking to sell rom-com scripts, that's depressing.

Laura said...

I wish the movie had been made. It was the time for that kind of movies like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and other comedies with teenagers.

Even now there is no good movie set in 80s. If made now, surely will get a good response, if not in theaters, then on net.

Theo said...


Yes, good scripts like "STAR SPANGLED ADVENTURE" are locked up but scums make a comeback.

Mel Gibson is also getting a role in Mark Wahlberg's movie " Six Billion Dollar Man".

And Polanski too is making a comeback.


DBenson said...

My understanding is that any time there's a management change, the first order of business is to kill any projects of the previous regime, lest they succeed and make the new guys look bad. Even an old regime might be reluctant to let a promising script go elsewhere, lest its success come back to haunt them (Did anybody get fired for turning down "Star Wars"? Had the impression it was shopped everywhere.). So there is an incentive for executives to kill some of the things they pass on.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I agree, VP81955. When writers with Ken and David's reputation and body of work can't sell a script, what chance do the rest of us have? People wonder why I have a "why even bother to try" kind of attitude. Its because success in show business is such a crapshoot. Its a lot like playing the lottery. Yes, some people do win, but the majority never do because the odds are so overwhelmingly against you. So, I guess there's no point in putting on pants. Might as well go back to bed.

James said...

Look on the bright side. It would have been rewritten three times for credit and three more by ghosts, become Paulie Shore's directorial debut, and today it would sitting next to OC & STIGGS in oblivion. You'd be bitter and angry every time someone mentioned it, because you're tired of explaining that it wasn't our script goddammit that got made, not our idea at all.

Alex Bell said...

It’s hard to find someone more cynical (and rightly so) than Ken, but even he didn’t mention what I was told by another insider. Sometimes a script is bought (for big bucks) by a studio BECAUSE it is great and they don’t want another studio to get it and have a hit. And yet Studio #1 has no intention of making it ever (for any number of stupid reasons).

To me, this is one of the sickest things Hollywood does. I can’t believe writers can’t demand the script be returned to them if not made in some reasonable period of time (5 or 10 years). What good is a union if this kind of thing happens.

Can you imagine—A woman hears Ken’s name 30 years later and instantly remembers that wonderful script that was buried—-to make a sequel to one of the stupidest movies ever made. Jesus Christ, how can they endure such insanity?

Marty Fufkin said...

Not sure if you want to revisit this again on your blog, but I'm really curious. Did Columbia actually pay you for the script? If they did, I can see how they can claim ownership. But if they didn't pay for it -- if all you did was merely pitch it -- how come you couldn't take control of your own work and take it somewhere else? Sounds like a fun (and funny) plot. Would be great if you could make it for Netflix or one of the other streaming channels.

John in NE Ohio said...

Given the timeframe and general theme, you also missed out on SSA2:Animals in Paradise, and also the straight to vid SSA3:The Next Generation, and SS4:Animals in Love.

Andy Rose said...

While studios do sometimes sit on scripts for entirely selfish and ridiculous reasons, sometimes they also want to hang on to the rights for intellectual property concerns. Maybe the Columbia executive doesn't go for the script overall, but thinks the idea of a comedy that takes place in a theme park is a good idea. He might see a different script later where he thinks, "This is good, but it would be better if it happened in a theme park." Now, they've already got the uncontested rights to that idea... no problem. Or maybe he believes that the theme park concept is one that someone else is likely to have eventually. He might sit on the script, wait until he hears about the green lighting of another theme park comedy at a different studio, and then say, "Hey, that's our idea... but I'd be happy to sell you the rights to this script so you can have it in the clear."

MikeN said...

Call the amusement park Blue Lagoon, and it gets made?

Mike said...

Ken, do you agree with so much importance being given to talk show hosts or other Hollywood celebrities?

Many say that Jimmy Kimmel is being used out by the Government to reveal about aliens existence. You can see his interviews with many Presidents where he pointedly asks about them.

Sort of preparing us for the day.

Why not openly give a statement to the public? Why use a talk show host?

This topic came to my mind when I read what Bernie Sanders said today.