By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 8, 2011 at 2:53AM
If you'll beg our indulgence for a second, we've got a pitch that we want to put out there, one that we think is our ticket out of this film blogging racket. It's called "Rick," and it's a prequel to the all-time-classic "Casablanca." See, Rick Blaine, as played by Humphrey Bogart, is one of the all time great screen heroes, but you don't really get that much of his backstory. When told that he came to Casablanca "for the waters," a baffled Captain Renault asks "The waters? What waters? We're in the desert." To which Rick replies, in one of the all-time-greatest pieces of screenwriting, "I was misinformed."
So really, there's something dark in his past, it's clear, but you've got plenty of room to play with. So we can start with Rick in the States, watching helplessly as his young wife and child die during the Great Depression, and then you can push forward to his anti-Fascist adventures in Ethiopia and Spain, before revealing his great romance with Ilsa (who's, like, a total dead ringer for his dead wife) in Paris. The world's your oyster really. All you need is to attach Gerard Butler as Rick, and you've got $200 million banked at the box office, and maybe a Golden Globe nomination or two.
We say this for two reasons. Firstly, when the day comes, and it will come, that some soulless, creatively bankrupt LA parking attendant pitches an identical premise, we've got grounds to sue, and prevent the project from ever coming to fruition. And secondly, because yet another entirely pointless prequel project, filling in backstory where none was needed, is moving forward, in the shape of "Pan."
The pitch, from "Alice in Wonderland" producer Joe Roth, "Breach" writer-director Billy Ray and "G.I. Joe" star Channing Tatum, started to do the rounds last week, hot on the heels of other revisionist takes on childhood icons, including "Oz The Great and Powerful," "Jack The Giant Killer," "Red Riding Hood," "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," and the various duelling Snow White projects. It didn't take long for the project to be picked up: Heat Vision report that Sony are in negotiations to acquire the package, having beat out two other suitors, for somewhere around the $1 million range.
The project was initially touted with the eye-rolling title "Peter Pan Begins," but seems to have streamlined down to the more minimalist "Pan", a name shared by a rival script at New Line once linked to Guillermo Del Toro, which sees Captain Hook as a police detective tracking down a child kidnapper -- one that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" animation director Ben Hibon signed on to direct late last year. The Ray/Tatum take will see Pan and Captain Hook reimagined as brothers, something which really makes no fucking sense when you think about it.
Ray will write the script, but it's unclear (and probably unlikely) that he'll direct, while there's no word if Tatum is just producing, or if he'll also appear -- as hilarious as we find the idea of C-Tate prancing around in green tights, we imagine the Hook role is more likely. It also suggests that Sony are gluttons for punishment, having been behind two expensive Neverland-themed disappointments in the last twenty years, 1991's "Hook" and 2003's "Peter Pan."
We're not surprised in the least that the project has sold, but it's still depressing, and goes to show the bandwagon mentality that cripples Hollywood. Leaving aside the fact that no good prequels have been made, EVER, the impressive underperformance of "Robin Hood," redeemed only by its international take, shows that the success of "Alice in Wonderland" doesn't mean that every character of legend should be immediately greenlit. Prequels, and 'reenvisionings,' are lazy, empty, dramatic dead-ends, and audiences are going to get sick of them almost immediately. Help us, Megan Ellison, you're our only hope.