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The Lost, Forgotten & Unmade Projects Of J.J. Abrams

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist May 16, 2013 at 3:10PM

It's easy enough to think of J.J Abrams as some kind of overnight success. After all, it's only seven years since his first film as director, "Mission Impossible III," and "Star Trek Into Darkness," which opens on Friday, marks only his fourth film to date. And yet, even when he made that first film, he was already a brand name -- the man behind two bona-fide TV pop culture phenomena in "Alias" and "Lost," and that's only become more true since; his films have all taken at least $200 million worldwide, he's birthed several other successful TV shows, and he's taking over the Holy Grail of nerddom, "Star Wars," with 2015's "Episode VII."
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The Unmade & Future Projects

Man Of Steel, Henry Cavill

One of the most famous Abrams misses was "Superman: Flyby," his proposed script for a Superman reboot, that both McG and Brett Ratner were attached to at various times. The script was leaked to geek site Ain't It Cool News, subsequently torn apart (a heading read "You will believe a franchise can suck!"), and ultimately shelved. Abrams' script played fast and loose with Superman mythology (for one thing, Krypton doesn't explode and Lex Luthor is a mysteriously powered CIA Agent) and it was ultimately decided that a more traditional approach to the character was desired. But perhaps most interestingly, it was the fact that his script got out at all that forced Abrams into his mystery-boxed cone of silence. Abrams was so scarred by the experience that he has been paranoid about information leaking ever since. It might have been a lousy script that was never made (it doesn't read so bad to us -- one can only imagine the early 00s AICN reaction if, say, the "Iron Man 3" script leaked...), but it was fundamental to Abrams as the slight-of-hand master he is today.

At one point, Abrams was attached to do an adaptation of Hasbro toy line "Micronauts." This was back in 2009 and it seemed like the rights were a thorny, contentious issue, so it's unclear if things have been untangled enough to ever proceed. Abrams is also buddies with Edgar Wright, who has the similar-ish "Ant-Man" in active development at Disney/Marvel. Which brings us to…

"Collider." Or: the movie that made geek hearts flutter worldwide. This was a project that was to have teamed "Shaun of the Dead" director Edgar Wright with Abrams and fan favorite screenwriter Mark Protosevich ("Oldboy," an unmade draft of "Thor"). A "big sci-fi" project set up at Paramount, the project was announced last summer and we haven't heard anything since. Even at the time, Wright was booked up through to "Ant Man" in 2015, so it's likely that things are humming along in Abrams' underground bunker, away from the prying eyes of press or public.

Boilerplate

A number of the Abrams projects have simply been announced and then forgotten about (or are at least on a back burner somewhere). Abrams optioned a Wired magazine article called "The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist" with "Sneakers" director Phil Alden Robinson to adapt and nabbed the rights to "Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel" by Paul Guinan and Ania Bennett, a steampunk thing about a robot who alters history. There was also some talk that Abrams would shepherd the Hollywood debut of South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Abrams is an outspoken fan of "The Host," which a number of his films openly reference) and a cool-sounding high school-set thriller that his frequent collaborator Jack Bender was going to direct called "7 Minutes in Heaven" about the titular kids' game, except this time the kids emerge from making out in the closet to discover all of their friends have been murdered (cue ominous music). Last year, it was announced that Abrams and his "Cloverfield" director/childhood chum Matt Reeves would be producing a big time action movie (unnamed of course) for Paramount.

Last summer a pair of Abrams-produced projects were announced for development at Paramount. The first, "Wunderkind," involved Nazi hunters in the seventies (yes please!), while the other, "The God Particle," is a found footage-ish sci-fi script written by hot shit screenwriter Oren Uziel ("The Kitchen Sink" and rewrites on "Men in Black 4" and "21 Jump Street 2"). No clue on where those are now, but Abrams also has some kind of animated project in development at Paramount as well. Speaking of hot shit screenwriters, the same summer Dustin Lance Black, of "Milk" and "J. Edgar" fame, signed on to write an earthquake movie for Abrams set up at Universal. (No word on how this would have affected Brad Bird's long-in-development earthquake movie. Abrams and Bird are buds after all.)

Half-Life

Earlier this year it was announced that Ron Howard would direct a supernatural drama for Abrams called "All I've Got" (it's based on an Israeli TV movie made by the same people who created what would go on to become "In Treatment"), again for Paramount. Around the same time as the Howard movie was announced, it was also made known that Abrams had purchased the rights to the Lance Armstrong book "Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong" by Juliet Macur, a book that hasn't even been written yet. Woof. Shortly after, Valve, a videogame company that your cooler, young friends can probably tell you about, announced that they had entered into negotiations with Abrams' Bad Robot in an effort to bring either "Portal" or "Half-Life," two critically acclaimed games by the studio, to life. Abrams also claims that he wants to direct a low budget movie, either before or after he launches into "Star Wars."

On the more literary side of things, Abrams optioned "One Last Thing Before I Go," the critically acclaimed Jonathan Topper novel, possibly for Mike Nichols to direct, and he recently wrestled control of Stephen King's jaw-dropping political time travel novel "11/22/63" away from Jonathan Demme, for potential development as a television series (likely for cable). He also still might direct "Let the Great World Spin," based on the Booker Prize-nominated novel by Colum McCann (McCann is also adapting for Abrams).

More nebulously defined is a "mystery project" that Abrams was working on with super genius screenwriter Billy Ray (back in 2011), a project based on a New York Times article called "Mystery on Fifth Avenue" (about a mystery New York apartment, of course), a sex comedy called "Hot for Teacher" (Abrams has been trying to make an eighties-style sex comedy for a while now), and, even more intriguingly "Zanbato," written by "Fringe" regulars Monica Breen and Alison Schapker, which involves Japanese history and "swashbuckling robots" (yes please). Abrams has also been loosely attached to Reeves' "Invisible Woman" project, which seems to have been gestating for the past couple of decades, and an untitled low budget thriller from up-and-coming screenwriters Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken.

We just hope all of this, and "Star Wars" leaves time for one more crucial thing: keyboard solos (go to the one minute thirty mark).


-- Oliver Lyttelton, Drew Taylor

This article is related to: J. J. Abrams, Star Trek Into Darkness, Features


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