EDITORIALS

The Muppet Man is a Good Script, But Will It Ever Get Made?

by
December 14, 2009
Source: LA Times, SlashFilm

Jim Henson

Just last week the 2009 Black List was officially unveiled, and at the top of the list was a script called The Muppet Man, a biopic about Jim Henson. Some 47 different producers and execs around Hollywood chose it as one of their favorite screenplays of 2009 and apparently it's an amazing script (according to others like Brendon Connelly of SlashFilm). But will it ever get made? Since the Black List was announced, two articles have popped addressing this issue - the first one in the LA Times, the second one on SlashFilm. There's an interesting story behind how writer Christopher Weekes wrote the script and what it specifically contains.

Weekes original script, which he sold to the Jim Henson Company years ago, was written "mostly out of his imagination, basing it on a series of photos he'd studied and whatever strands of information he could find on things like Wikipedia." Weekes also explains why he wanted to write it: "Even though I was just 10 when he died, Jim Henson had been this Walt Disney-like figure in my life, and I wanted to create a version of him as seen through these kind of rose-colored glasses," he told the LA Times. Apparently it's a "dark, character study" that even has certain Muppets like Kermit the Frog drinking and smoking. Here's how the film opens:

"The first scene, for example, sees Kermit wake up from a 'drunken nightmare' to find an empty whisky bottle on the bed stand and 'a three day growth giving his felt chin a strongly pronounced six o'clock shadow.' Kid's fare? Maybe not - well, not unless cleverly and sensitively handled."

When the script was sold to the Henson Co., they weren't happy with it. They "wanted to turn the story into more of a Muppet romp - even a musical - and excise the Jim and Jane Henson relationship." Beyond the dark elements, as we mentioned earlier, they were worried that he had written a script "about one of the most enigmatic and private of contemporary artists without having ever met or even read much about him." And if all of that isn't problematic enough, there are a handful of legal issues holding it back as well, namely that he uses Muppets in the movie when those rights are still owned by Disney, not the Henson Company.

The LA Times also got in touch with Lisa Henson, the daughter of Jim and Jane Henson who helps run the Jim Henson Co. She thinks that the problem can be resolved by "combining two different visions." But she's also representing the Henson Co. and not Weekes. "It was a very gutsy move on [Chris's] part to write this script, and we recognized the enthusiasm," she says. "But it would be irresponsible to make a biopic that would be all made up." So the script in the #1 spot on the Black List may never get made. Last year's #1 was The Beaver, the year before that it was Recount. Scripts like Juno and The Road have also been on there.

I haven't read The Muppet Man yet, but I'm curious whether Weekes' version, that's potentially inaccurate and more of a fairy-tale, would turn out better if left untouched; or whether the version that will probably be created by Disney and the Jim Henson Co., pulling some elements from Weekes' script, will be just as good. As in, would you rather see the script that got 47 votes and topped the Black List made into a movie as it was written, or the version that the rights holders' want you to see (and meets all their legal requirements)? I'm guessing the version Weekes originally wrote would be much better, but I haven't read it yet. Thoughts?

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  • Mark
    Sounds interesting. I'd want to see it preferably the original untouched version. I don't need it to be accurate to real life events, just as long as it's a good film.
  • Caitie
    I think one of the most interesting and sometimes rather sad part about the black list is the scripts don't exactly have a shoe in to get made. The guy who wrote this might have just written it for the heck of it and it turned out to be amazingly great. Of coarse I have not read it yet but so far it sound pretty good. If it were me I would just go ahead and make it and just not advertise it to be "accurate".
  • Alec Kitner
    Read the LA Times piece and see how Slash Film once again does little more than rewrite articles and add a clip. I've read the script too Brendon. Aren't you clever?
  • Timothy
    The original script sounds brilliant. I'd love to see *that* film. not the version Disney or the Henson's would make, though.
  • El Guapo
    I am also very interested in seeing this movie. It reminded me of Ed Wood. I love that movie and I dont know how accurate it was and it was semi dark with hope/dreams pushing forward. I say we all pitch in a couple of bucks and hire someone who knows how to "bend" a few arms in Hollywood to get this made.
  • whomever
    Anyone got a link to a site housing the Blacklist scripts?
  • SlashBeast
    Cool. Hope this gets made.
  • Voice of Reason
    "NO" to drunken, smoking Muppets. "Haha, gee, thats funny," but that's selling out the Muppet Characters in efforts to sensationalize what could be a false biopic. And that doesnt seem worth it, let alone appealing to anyoine who's a fan of The Muppets. Jims dark Id resides within all of Muppets in some way or another that there's no need to go that far.
  • Dreckent
    I was mildly interested after reading about it in the blacklist article, but after realizing what this is really about, cant wait to see it. Sounds aweeeeeesome! Oh... and fck Disney!
  • d.w. mckim
    If you're guessing Weekes' version, then you definately need to read the script. It's horrible and the only reason it got the buzz it did was a combination of the concept and the way one can't help look at something truly awful like a car wreck. Even before it was cnfirmed by one of those recent articles it was obvious that Weekes wrote it by doing a self-taught wikipedia study and little else. Henson's is a story that should be committed to film but NOT Weekes' telling.
  • I'm totally with #10 on this one. A telling of Henson's story that's almost 100% fiction and only close enough to what happened to make people think its not fiction would be a train wreck, even if the story was entertaining on screen.
  • Yumz
    Just finished the script and I must say, I was definitely impressed with what I read. The script has a few problems with the love interest angle and a few others, but you cannot deny this spec's power. I don't want to see a Disney/Henson biopic, because I know exactly what it's gonna be - A musical fantasy about Jim creating his company that doesn't go into any real emotion Jim ever felt during his actual life. I don't even see how Henson/Disney could touch on his death as a beat in the story. Weekes script touches on so many levels, including his death, and with a few rewrites, this can be an oscar-worthy script. I want to see a more real and gritty view of Jim's life. And if you read the script you would know that this is a tribute to Jim Henson, not something that exposes Jim as some degenerate or whatever conclusion you have about his real life, that's still unknown. The last 20 pages are amazing, as most people who've read the script agree with. With a few scenes moved around and the right dramatic tension pulled off, this is going to be one of the most dark, sadly, but happily painted portraits of a man who loved his work.

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