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