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Would We Have Been Better Off With Robert Smigel's Version Of 'Green Lantern' Starring Jack Black?

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 20, 2011 at 8:13AM

Hal Jordan Conjured Up Superman & 5 More Things You Need To Know About The Unmade Comedic ScriptBefore Ryan Reynolds put on the CGI suit as Hal Jordan in "Green Lantern," the franchise was eyeing a completely different direction. Way back in 2004 Robert Smigel -- best known for his TV Funhouse shorts on "Saturday Night Live" and the creator and voice of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog -- had penned a comedic take on the character that had Jack Black set to star. In that incarnation, Black would've played a reality TV star who gets chosen to wear the power ring with comedic results. Needless to says, fans weren't so hot on this idea and while that version never got off the ground, we've always wondered what his film would've been like. Well, thanks to Vanity Fair, now we know.
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Hal Jordan Conjured Up Superman & 5 More Things You Need To Know About The Unmade Comedic Script



Before Ryan Reynolds put on the CGI suit as Hal Jordan in "Green Lantern," the franchise was eyeing a completely different direction. Way back in 2004 Robert Smigel -- best known for his TV Funhouse shorts on "Saturday Night Live" and the creator and voice of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog -- had penned a comedic take on the character that had Jack Black set to star. In that incarnation, Black would've played a reality TV star who gets chosen to wear the power ring with comedic results. Needless to says, fans weren't so hot on this idea and while that version never got off the ground, we've always wondered what his film would've been like. Well, thanks to Vanity Fair, now we know.

The magazine recently caught up with Smigel who was more than happy to dish on his script and while it admittedly does sound like a pretty bad idea of a movie (though as a graphic novel it could be amazing), there is something so outrageous about it, we can't help but wonder what the end result would be. Even if it was a disaster, it certainly would've proved to be fascinating. But here are some of the things that caught our attention about this unmade script.

1. Green Lantern Would Have Saved The Day By Conjuring Up a Green Superman
As we noted in our review, one of the weakest elements of "Green Lantern" is the bizarrely limited imagination of Hal Jordan. With green power ring enabling him to conjure up with green mist any weapon or tactical equipment he might be need, Jordan boringly uses ramps, springs, catapults and machine guns in his effort to fight Parallax. In Smigel's script, the inexperienced Jordan would've whipped up somebody who truly knows how to save the day.

"I was writing sequentially and it got to this thing of a [yellow] asteroid headed toward Earth. So [Hal's] idea is: 'Oh, I’ll just push Earth out of the way.' He does it and people are trying to tell him not to do it, but he had gotten really cocky at that moment and he does it and then, of course, there are natural disasters all over the planet," Smigel says. "It’s something he can only fix by reversing time so I thought, 'Oh, yeah, he could just conjure up Superman, because he’s seen that movie.' [Laughs.] You’ve run out of abilities, so you conjure up the best superhero that exists and let him solve the problem. Then the whole sequel could just be him sitting around watching the green Superman do everything. The laziest Green Lantern in history."

2. Green Lantern Would've Had A Fanny Pack For His Wallet
What happens to Hal Jordan's clothes when he goes green? Does the suit cover up his clothes? Is he naked under there? How does he get dressed again? Pressing questions indeed, but Smigel, his concern was where the superhero would put his wallet while in battle.

"[Laughs.] That’s the part of my mind that’s like, 'What would the stand-up comedian observe that is silly about this character?' That part of my brain was looking at that," Smigel explains about how the idea came into his head. He also says his Hal Jordan would've been into being a superhero for the girls, not necessarily to save people.

"One thing that I liked was that he has this girl he wants to impress. He’s flying around looking for any kind of danger and there’s nothing. He sees a guy on a scaffold and knocks the guy off the scaffold and then flies in to save him right outside the window where this girl works," he explains. "He saves the guy, everyone is cheering, but they’re confused because he flies away with the guy so he can fly right in front of the window of the girl."

3. Jack Black Initially Wasn't Interested In Playing A Superhero Role
Smigel was hired by Warner Bros. specifically to write a comedy take and was told to pen it with "with Jack Black in mind.” But he wasn't officially attached, but after reading Smigel's script, he began to change his mind.

"He wasn’t attached at all. I know him—he’s done a few of my autism benefits—so I asked him if he was interested, and he actually said that he wasn’t," Smigel revealed about the early stages of his involvement. "He wasn’t really interested in doing any type of superhero thing. After I wrote the script, he read it and did want to do it. So, to me, that was the validation I take from the experience. I turned Jack around enough that he wanted to do a movie."

4. Robert Smigel Totally Gets Why Fans Weren't Pleased To Hear Green Lantern Was Going To Be A Comedy
Once word got out that Jack Black was going to star in a comedy version of the beloved Green Lantern comics, fans were incensed and Smigel was ready to the face heat.

"I wasn’t surprised at all. I mean, if I were a die-hard Green Lantern fan, I would have waited many years watching all of these other superhero movies like 'Daredevil' get their turn and I would be very frustrated to hear that it’s finally going to be done as a comedy," Smigel said. "I wouldn’t just feel screwed; I would also see it as a personal affront that the superhero that I’ve been worshiping is looked at as a joke. So I could see people being angry, and I expected it."

5. Believe It Or Not, Robert Smigel's Script Was A (Loose) Adaptation Of "Emerald Dawn"
While he took the whole premise of a random human being chosen to "take the oath" to a comedic level, Smigel reveals that he did a lot of research and that his script was actually loosely based on the late '80s "Emerald Dawn" storyline, a retelling of the Hal Jordan origin story.

"I did a lot of research. You know, I only knew Green Lantern on a very superficial level and I had seen a few cartoons as a kid and I was aware of it. I never had read the comics, so I immersed myself in Green Lantern comics from every era—partly because I wanted to take the world seriously. It wouldn’t be funny unless the actual legend and the world of Green Lantern were accurate," Smigel explained. He adds that, "...Actually, my movie is an adaptation of the first chapter of a story called 'Emerald Dawn' from the 80s. I mean, it’s a very loose adaptation, but a lot of the villain elements I took from it: in my version, Sinestro is a major villain, and this was at the time of all of the controversy of the Patriot Act and the way we were responding to terrorism in the mid-zeros."

So a funny version of Hal Jordan with an underlying political message? Hmm...

6. The Movie Ultimately Fell Apart Because They Couldn't Find A Director (Or Something Like That)
With Warner Bros. already putting the writing on the wall by asking Smigel during development if he would be interested in changing the superhero to somebody who wasn't Green Lantern, the phone just eventually stopped ringing and the studio moved on with a more mature version of the character.

"I meet with Jack and the producer. Jack gives a long list of directors that he would be happy to work with … and then there’s just no traction," Smigel said about the end of the project. "It just sort of petered out and we found out that they just changed their minds and wanted to do a serious Green Lantern. I never got a direct phone call about it. That’s sort of how Hollywood works."

Well, that's how it goes. If you want to read Smigel's script you can go right here but note, it's a first draft and Smigel says he's did a hefty rewrite on after getting notes from a concerned Warner Bros. He hasn't seen Martin Campbell's film yet (or even read the script sent to him by the writer's guild) so he has no opinion on how the franchise turned out. But after witnessing the Ryan Reynolds vehicle ourselves, perhaps a fanny-pack wearing Hal Jordan isn't such a bad idea after all.

This article is related to: Films, Actors, Super Hero Films, Jack Black, Green Lantern, Robert Smigel


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