The Black List 2009: The Most Popular Unproduced Screenplays
by Alex Billington
December 11, 2009
The Black List for 2009 has finally been unveiled today, courtesy of both EW and Deadline Hollywood. This list is "compiled every year from the suggestions of 311 film executives, each contributes the names of up to ten of their favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2009 and will not be released in theaters during this calendar year." Scripts had to receive at least five mentions to be included on the Black List. I've highlighted the top 10 (or rather, top 11) below, but the full list contains 97 scripts in total. You can find more info on the official website, blcklst.com, or read on for the top scripts.
1: The Muppet Man
By Christopher Weekes
What it's about: The life and times of the late Jim Henson, the man behind Sesame Street and The Muppets.
What it's like: The Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, but with puppets. This moving story depicts the life of a creative genius, with occasional surreal appearances by the likes of Kermit and Miss Piggy.
Status: Set up at The Jim Henson Co.
2: The Social Network
By Aaron Sorkin
What it's about: Chronicles Mark Zuckerberg's complicated journey towards creating Facebook. Sorkin depicts both the founder's motivations for starting the largest social network in the world and the human casualties that came with his profound success.
What it's like: The fascinating biographical elements of Shattered Glass meets the courtroom drama of Kramer vs. Kramer, without the tears. Sorkin cuts between Zuckerberg's heated depositions with his former Harvard colleagues who claimed he stole Facebook from them and the chronological retelling of the company's trip to becoming a billion-dollar enterprise.
Status: In production for Sony Pictures. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg while Justin Timberlake portrays Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Zuckerberg's idol. David Fincher is directing.
3: The Voices
By Michael R. Perry
What it's about: Jerry, a schizophrenic worker at a bathtub factory, accidentally kills an attractive woman from accounting. While trying to cover his bloody tracks, Jerry starts taking advice from his talking (and foul-mouthed) cat and dog.
What it's like: Watching the lovable pig from Babe join forces with American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Some may be turned off by the script's twisted sense of humor — Jerry has friendly conversations with his victim's severed head — while others will get a kick out of its sheer audacity.
Status: Vertigo Entertainment is trying to package the film with a lead actor. Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) is developing.
By Aaron Guzikowski
What it's about: When his young daughter and her best friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day, a Christian survivalist named Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands, imprisoning and torturing a suspect whom the police have set free. But does Dover have the wrong man? And if he does, who really has his little girl?
What's it like: Silence of the Lambs meets Mystic River. A terrifying, riveting read. Vivid, unforgettable characters, a bullet-fast plot, and scenes that mine our deepest psychological fears. Lock the doors and windows (and go to the bathroom) before turning the first page.
Status: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) directing for Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros.
5: Cedar Rapids
By Phil Johnston
What it's about: Tim Lippy is a small-town insurance man who's somehow made it to middle age without having quite done anything. Everything changes when he unexpectedly gets the chance to represent his company at the Cedar Rapids insurance convention, where comedy ensues, of course.
What it's like: The 40-Year-Old Virgin meets Napoleon Dynamite. A sad, but not pathetic, middle-aged man comes of age in the Midwest. A speedily told story with romance and action and some legitimately funny jokes.
Status: In production, with Miguel Arteta directing and Ed Helms playing Lippy. John C. Reilly, Alia Shakwat, Anne Heche and Sigourney Weaver co-star.
By David Scarpa (The Day The Earth Stood Still and co-wrote The Last Castle)
What it's about: An adaptation of Alan Cowell's 2008 book The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder, chronicling the life and strange death of Alexander Litvinenko. Remember in 2006, when that ex-Soviet spy was allegedly poisoned with radioactive tea at a London sushi joint? That's him.
What it's like: The script evokes Born of the Fourth of July, Silkwood, and Robert DeNiro's history-of-the-CIA saga The Good Shepherd — but in Russia, with spies. Using Litvinenko's final days as a framing device, Scarpa's script flashes back to pivotal passages of Alexander's adult life: training and serving as a KGB agent; trying to staunch the growing influence of Russian mobs as a Russian super-cop after the fall of Communism; and boldly deciding to publicly accuse his superiors of trying to assassinate a Russian business tycoon, as well as facilitating the rise of Russian president Vladimir Putin through acts of terrorism.
Status: Warner Bros. has optioned the script.
7: L.A. Rex
By Will Beall (based on his novel of the same name)
What it's about: Rookie LAPD officer Ben Halloran gets partnered with scarred and tobacco-spitting Officer Marquez, and the unlikely team hit the streets of L.A. on the brink of a gang-rivalry explosion. Amid run-ins with the Mexican mafia, brutal gang murders, and corrupt cops, we soon find that Halloran may not be as squeaky clean as his brand new badge.
What it's like: Training Day combined with the brutal violence of The Departed. L.A. Rex is as much a cop story as it is a graphic portrait of underground crime in Los Angeles.
Status: Paramount Pictures has optioned on behalf of producer Scott Rudin.
By Ellen Rapoport
What it's about: Wesley Robbins, a 30-something single attorney with an unhealthy obsession with coupling up, thinks she's found the perfect man. But when he doesn't call for days after the first time they sleep together she freaks out and sends him a scathing email, only to learn he's been laid up in a Mexican hospital with some broken bones. On a whim, she and her girlfriends travel down south to erase the email before she ruins what she believes could be her one true love.
What it's like: The Hangover meets The Sweetest Thing, but in a good way. This equal parts raunchy and sweet script has LOL moments and the potential to be a big hit, especially with audiences loving movies today with complicated female protagonists.
Status: Isla Fisher is attached to star with Mark Gordon and Jason Blum producing at Universal
9: The Gunslinger
By John Hlavin
What it's about: When a Texas Ranger is horrifically tortured and killed, his sharp-shooter older brother, Sam Lee Hensley, plots revenge against the mysterious, sadistic leader of a notorious drug cartel. Sam Lee's quest for vengeance will cost him seven years in prison, his right hand and one eye. It will imperil his young nephew and wreak havoc on the lives of those who love him. And it will not bring him peace.
What it's like: No Country For Old Men fused with Death Wish, graced by the melancholy of Unforgiven. Violent, macho, and action-packed, it's as fun as a Dirty Harry script, but the remorse and grief of the central character linger long after the final gunshot.
Status: Warner Bros. and Andrew Lazar producing
10 (tie): By Way of Helena
By Matt Cook
What it's about: Set in the south at the turn of the century, Texas Ranger David Kingston and his Mexican bride are sent down to the mysterious town of Helena to investigate the multiple Mexican bodies washing up in the river. What they discover is an idyllic-like town where everything is not as it seems.
What it's like: Pleasantville meets High Noon where dueling-pistol showdowns take on a whole new meaning and the definitions of righteousness and morality are twisted into unrecognizable concepts.
Status: Purchased by Russian filmmaker-producer Sergei Bodrov (Kavkazskiy plennik)
10 (tie): The Days Before
By Chad St. John
What's it about: A man from the future keeps hopping one successive day into the past desperate to stop a vicious race of time-traveling aliens from wiping out humanity.
What's it's like: This lightning-paced, time-travel adventure is Back to the Future meets Independence Day meets Demolition Man accompanied with a gargantuan production budget.
Status: Warner Bros. has optioned it and a few big-time action directors have circled it but no one is yet attached.
We've heard about a few of these scripts before (like The Social Network and Prisoners and Cedar Rapids), since they've already been picked up and are heading into production next year (or even this year). But there are always all kinds of other gems hidden deep within the Black List, especially those that aren't in the top 10. For example, just take a look at the titles for some of the screenplays on here (I've included their rank in parentheses next to each script for reference): The Robotard 8000 (#28), A Fistful of Quarters: The Legend of Nolan Bushnell (#47), My Sister is Marrying a Douchebag (#63), Norm: The Movie (#66), and No Blood, No Guts, No Glory (#69). Head over to Deadline Hollywood to see the full list.
Reader Feedback - 17 Comments
I would of seen the Muppet Man, since I love his work. But the rest...I like L.A. Rex, The Gunslinger and The Days before...The others sound OK for Hollywood scripts!
Lazarus from Sparta...DETHKLOK RULES!!!!! on Dec 11, 2009
4: Prisoners By Aaron Guzikowski What it's about: When his young daughter and her best friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day, a Christian survivalist named Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands, imprisoning and torturing a suspect whom the police have set free. But does Dover have the wrong man? And if he does, who really has his little girl? What's it like: Silence of the Lambs meets Mystic River. A terrifying, riveting read. Vivid, unforgettable characters, a bullet-fast plot, and scenes that mine our deepest psychological fears. Lock the doors and windows (and go to the bathroom) before turning the first page. Did you copy this from a press release? This sounds terrible.
John on Dec 11, 2009
see this? this is the originality that hollyweird skips, for a remake, and such.
Xerxex on Dec 11, 2009
Just went through the 97 scrips....and boy ae the best ones on this page. I urge any movie fan to go on the link and read through the list...took me about half hour. It's hilarious to see how execs see movies in one light and screen writers another. Some titles are just plain WTF! There's one called and I swear " MY SISTER IS MARRYING A DOUCHEBAG " and one is '' THE TRUE MEMOIRS OF AN INTERNATIONAL ASSASSIN '' There's a lot of cop films, thrillers and just plain dumb ass comedies. But a few titles caught my attention like " JIMI " a biopick on Jimi Hendrix and " THE GIRL WITH THE RED RIDING HOOD " which is a gothic retelling of the fairytale as per the info on the list. There's also a few comic book related scrips there and history filcks and several spy related stories. All in all a haphazard list of films that will either entertain or just plain fail. Oh and " Buried " with Ryan Reynolds is there to. You have got to read the comments from the people in the biz, they give us an Entourage style insight in the biz I've always died of knowing! Thanks Alex for the list and link!
Lazarus from Sparta...DETHKLOK RULES!!!!! on Dec 11, 2009
Somewhere on the list around #20 or so is a film called Z for Zachariah. I read this story when I was in 8th grade about 30 years ago and it's one of those that, if I had become a filmmaker, I would have made into a movie. It's the story of a girl who lives in a small mountain town and the farmland her family lived on goes untouched by a nuclear event and only she survived. Then a wounded, dying man in a radiation suit arrives on the property... Great story and I'm so looking forward to it getting made!
Mat on Dec 11, 2009
Jim Henson. Now that would be interesting.
Quanah on Dec 12, 2009
"is Back to the Future meets Independence Day meets Demolition Man" Ands thats pretty much what a movie producers listens to all freaking day...
Dreckent on Dec 12, 2009
LA Rex was a good book.....if they stick to the book it will be a brutal movie.
Scott on Dec 12, 2009
Londongrad by David Scarpa, yeah he an ultimate kiss-ass, his lazy writing ruined The Day The Earth Stood Still, but I would give him a chance, if Londongrad ever happened.
Xerxex on Dec 12, 2009
'The Muppet Man" should be directed by Spike Jonze.
brou on Dec 13, 2009
i dont really see any appeal in jim henson.... Just sayin.
Meatcarnage on Dec 13, 2009
Fistful of Quarters is on my list of movies that would be awesome. Meat, Henson was really an interesting character. Most people don't know anything at all about him, but his life is actually tailor made to be a movie. Humble beginning, passion for film, animation and puppetry that drove his entire career and life, and sudden, tragic death. I'd go see it, but I also love pretty much all of his work. More people should tell stories with puppets. #3 - The voices - sounds like it took some inspiration from "He Was A Quiet Man" that came out a couple years ago. He has conversations with his goldfish in that flick. Kindof a cross between Office Space and Falling Down... kinda... Good flick.
Squiggly_P on Dec 13, 2009
As I did last year, over the course of the next two weeks I'll be providing detailed analyses of each of the top 10 scripts (including the two tying for #10) over on my blog, stanhasissues-dot-com. The coverage for "The Muppet Man" is up now.
Stan on Dec 14, 2009
Cool! Now I've got a list of movies to watch! 🙂
Bathroom Suites on Jun 2, 2010
Great point!! I will follow you 🙂
Bathroom Suites on Jun 2, 2010
yes a list for all of us to check out
angular cheilitis on Jul 9, 2010
Of course so much of the movies that come out have to be able to pay back the huge amount of money needed to produce them. It is so refreshing to have a list of quality movies based on the fact that they are quality, not that they a bazillion dollars to market them or have the money to keep them playing in the theaters.
angular cheilitis treatment on Aug 11, 2010
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