REPAIRMAN JACK MOVIE NEWS Historical note: Years ago I sold film rights to THE TOMB to Beacon Films/Touchstone Pictures. The idea has been to title the film "Repairman Jack" and turn our guy into a franchise character. The project has spent 20+ years in development hell, chewing up 6 writers whoíve churned out reams of scripts. This section contains years of updates on the Repairman Jack movie project until I finally gave up adding to it. Now they're looking into a TV series. Whatever.
3/5 - How the teaser trailers might have looked:
John Cusack as Jack
Edward Burns as Jack
5/6 - a summit meeting between the screenwriter, a director, the two producers, and the studio was set for today but called off when the writer got called away. Rescheduled for June.
6/3 - well, the June 10 meeting of writer, director, producers, studio that was moved from May 6 now has been moved to June 15
6/14 - they met, there were no fist fights, they've decided to meet again. Nothing new decided.August - and now it's vacation time when everyone leaves town.
10/16 - lunch with Chris Morgan. Who seems to think Jack should be a TV series. Certainly there's enough material to carry it for years. Let's see what Beacon says...
5/14 - spoke to the head of production at Beacon Films. They're still working toward making Jack a movie franchise - and we all still like Ryan Reynolds for the part.
1/15 - a rambling conversation with Suzann Ellis, Beacon's head of production, about where they're going with the "Repairman Jack" script (I can't say); we wind up talking about one of my favorite films, which she co-produced for Dreamworks: "Galaxyquest."
3/23 - contact with Beacon - nothing of any interest to report.
2/17 - email from the head of production at Beacon about what's in the works. Await word from someone I'm not at liberty to name. Sorry to be so cryptic, but that's the way these things go.
6/11 - lunch in Santa Monica with Army Bernstein and Suzanne Ellis of Beacon Films, and producers Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush. Pretty much a rerun of the December meeting without Jason Barhydt from Relativity. The same old tug of war between who can best play the part and who can fill the seats overseas. With P&A (prints and advertising - which can run more than the entire production budget) so expensive now, and DVD sales slumping, overseas box office is critical to a film's profitability.
12/5 Ė In from San Diego and made it to West LA in time to meet with the Beacon folks at this tiny sushi place called Hamasaku that they all swear by. Good thing I had precise directions because itís in a strip mall on Santa Monica Blvd thatís difficult to get into: once I was there, the place is tucked so far back in a corner that for a moment I feared I was at the wrong mall. So, we had a semi-blocked-off area of the restaurant to the six of us: yours truly, Army Bernstein, head honcho of Beacon, Suzann Ellis, president and head of production, producers Barry Rosenbush and Bill Borden (the High School Musical
guys), and Jason Barhydt from Relativity Media. Beacon and Relativity have partnered up on the Jack film. This is a good thing because they are THE major player in Hollywood these days. Check out Relativity's filmography
. I canít go into the details at this point. A lot of sensitive matters were discussed and snarky comments made about people and companies and strategies. I can say that things are looking better than they have in a long time, maybe better than ever. The big studios are having money troubles and are cutting back production. That leaves openings for flush companies like Relativity to fill. It also leaves more actors looking for the security of a franchise. Relativity wants the Repairman Jack franchise to happen. So thereís a convergence of factors that seems to be working in our favor. Later on, Barry called and we post-mortemed the meeting. Although he never uses the ďOĒ word, he seems cautiously (very cautiously) optimistic. This is encouraging because Barry is very much a realist, maybe verging on pessimist. Heís been around. He paid lots of dues on the way to the astounding success of High School Musical
. He knows that Murphyís law rules Hollywood. So I came away more optimistic than going in (there - I said the ďOĒ word), but thatís a relative statement. I was very dour - one might even say cynical, bitter, and depressed - going in.
11/14 - a conversation with Beaconís head of production. Theyíve hooked up with Relativity Media now. She tells me the latest director theyíre talking to (heís done some big pictures and has worked with Beacon before). We make a date for lunch December 5 when I hit LA on the book tour.
8/18 - word from Beacon that they're meeting with a company tomorrow that is interested in partnering with them, and will be going over directors. They think it "could be terrific news for the project." I have no idea what this means.
The hunt for a director continuuuuues...
5/23 - Even before publication, film folks are starting to sniff out Jack: Secret Histories
. The problem is, Beacon Films holds character rights. I spoke to Beacon and they have no plans for teenage Jack (theyíre still trying to find a director for grown-up Jack), but they want to retain right of first refusal. Fair enough, I guess.
4/3 - a lengthy chat with Beacon's head of production about the travails of finding a director. The problem is that a number of previous and inferior versions of the script have circulated through Hollywood during the film's dozen or so years in development hell, and people think they've already read it - and didn't like it (with good reason). But they haven't read this new and vastly improved version that sticks to the novel. The big challenge is getting people to give it another look. They persevere.
The hunt for a director continues.
1/21 - word from Hollywood on the Directors Guild (DGA) agreement with the studios is that it's pretty much a done deal, awaiting only a vote by the membership to make it official. This will speed an end to the Writers Guild strike and probably head off an actors strike. So maybe things can get moving again on the RJ film.
Nothing happens in Hollywood during December, especially with the writers on strike.
11/6 - email from head of Beacon production saying we probably won't make much progress on a director until after the first of the year.
NOTHING new to report on the film. Been on the road so much I've talked to no one in Hollywood this month.
I've been so busy writing that I've had next to no contact with Beacon other than to hear they're going to wait till they have a director to announce the star. But someone with excellent sources scooped everybody. BK Akitas learned that itís going to be Ryan Reynolds and posted it on the website's Forum
for all to see.
8/28: Suzann says they've decided to wait until after Labor Day. You might have already read the article by now. If it's out and you haven't, go to the NEWS page on the website and (I hope) you'll find it there. 8/16: Suzann tells me they're debating whether or not to hold off on the article until after Labor Day. Seems everybody who's anybody in Hollywood is out of town during August. 8/7: A call from Suzann Ellis, head of production at Beacon. They're planning an announcement in the trades that they've finally found their Repairman Jack - and they're gonna name him. They need some puffery from me on sales figures and popularity, etc. I send them what I can. They're not sure when the article will appear.
6/25: Spoke to the head of production at Beacon. They had a meeting with a hot German director last week that they like a lot. Theyíre going to meet again. Meanwhile, heís not the only director in their sights. 6/7: Spoke to Beacon today. The star-director-studio package is still being pieced together. Still canít name names but it continues to move forward.
5/2: Email from Barry Rosenbush that we have a new HWMNBNUPOD (He Who Must Not Be Named Under Pain Of Death). Beaconís choice for Jack (HWMNBNUPOD) read the script and wants to play Jack. I still cannot utter his name until heís signed.
4/23: Barry says the script should be going to the prospective star this week. 4/13: An email from Barry Rosenbush telling me who theyíre getting ready to go after to play Jack. He then swears me to secrecy. (Iím not being coy here Ė Iíd love to tell you Ė but this is how the game is played out there.) 4/6: Barry and I have a longish talk. The next step is up to Beacon: whether to put together a director-cast package and take it to a studio, or partner up with a studio first and then put things together. Theyíll be approaching "nothing but A-list actors and directors." 4/5: I get a copy of the script in .pdf. Only a few of the changes I wanted have been made, and a thing or two I liked have been cut. But itís all minor, so Iím shutting my yap. The important thing is that everyone has signed off on the script. No more putzing around with it. That very big step is behind us. 4/3: Barry Rosenbush sent me a copy of the script tweak in Final Draft format, but my Final Draft program wonít open it. Very frustrating.
3/28: Chris emailed to say he finished all the notes and the fixed-up script is going into the studio today. 3/13: Called Army Bernstein. Heís happy with the script and happy that Iím happy with the script. With all this abounding happiness, itís time to move. The question now (as I understand it) is whether to put together a director-cast package and take it to a studio, or partner up with a studio first and then put things together. But the first step will be for Chris to incorporate my notes and Armyís into the script before it gets shown around. 3/7: Sent in 5 pages of nits (mostly nuances and gun stuff) and how I think they can be fixed. 3/6: Barry Rosenbush (whoís in Utah filming "High School Musical 2") asked me to go through it and pick every nit I could find, so thatís what I did. 3/3: I read the script while in Baltimore and I LOVE it. Itís the Jack we know and (I assume) love, folks. 3/2: With the subject line "Repaired Man Jack," Chris Morgan sent me the latest script as I was leaving for Horrorfind.
2/28: Word from Chris that the completed script will go in at the end of this week (that means March 2). 2/14: A call from Barry Rosenbush about the latest meeting with Beacon. Everyone is on board with Chrisís changes. They expect his rewrite in early March. 2/8: Email from Chris asking for suggestions for "characters or items to inject for the fans. I told him we need: - A lady with a dog in the background. - A large-framed bearded old guy with a cane in the background - Food stains on Abe, an Entenmann's box on the counter. - Abe's blue parakeet Parabellum. - Overflowing, stacked shelves at Abe's. Must feel claustrophobic. - Dead ferns in Julio's front window. - "Neat stuff" in Jack's apartment along with the old oak furniture. - The Semmerling. (Some of these might be more trouble than theyíre worth, but worth a try) 2/5: Hereís a partial list of what screenwriter Chris Morgan intends to do in his revision. (Iíve edited out references that will be meaningless unless youíve read the previous script.) 1) A Character pass on Jack Ė Jack will be tweaked throughout the script in most scenes. He isn't the local hero everyone in the neighborhood knows and loves in this draft. Jack will be more morally-ambiguous and "invisible" all around and dirty up some of his actions and his views. And toward that end: 2) A new really fun, vicious intro for Jack that will also serve to introduce the idea of Gia earlier into the script...and will also pay-off in an amusing scene later in the story. 3) A character pass on Kusum Ė make Kusum less of a diabolical, moustache-twirler, and make him conflicted about the path he has chosen to obtain revenge. Jack and he will have far more in common than before, which makes their struggle more interesting. 4) layer elements from the books into the story Ė all background, subtle stuff, but meaningful for the core audience of fans. 5) clarify the Rakoshi myth; 6) rewrite the finale: In the final action set piece, it's just a cargo ship. 7) detail how Jack gets the necklace at the end of the script, rather than it just appearing in his hands. 8) smooth out some of the more jarring scene transitions in the script to give it a better flow. Army Bernstein wanted to know if these were okay with me. I said absolutely. Letís do it. =Now=.
1/29: Email from Chris Ė he still hasnít finished the Diesel script. Swears it will go in this week and then he can start of Jack. 1/12: Email from Chris Morgan saying heís got the Vin Diesel script just about wrapped up and should be able to have a "Repairman Jack" draft on time. DECEMBER 2006 12/1: Long phone conversation with Chris Morgan as we walk through the Repairman Jack script. Donít expect much to happen this month. NOVEMBER 2006 11/30: Email from Chris Morgan. We set up a time tomorrow night to walk ythrough the changes in the RJ script. 11/29: Barry Rosenbush calls to say that Beacon and Chris Morgan have reached agreement on his rewrite and that heíll be getting started within the next week or two. They hope to have the final script by the end of the year or very soon after. Weíll see. 11/21: Spoke to Beacon and theyíve hit a little glitch in getting the final changes into the screenplay. The writer, Chris Morgan, is contracted with another studio to do Vin Dieselís next movie; the studio suddenly moved up the production date so heís had to scramble to get it finished before the end of November. Which means he canít work on the Repairman Jack script yet. So we wait. Some more. Again.
10/27: Things seem to be progressing but have slowed due to negotiations with Chrisís agent about the rewrite. 10/13: A conference call with the same gang, plus screenwriter Chris Morgan whoís on board for the revisions. Reaction to my comments and changes has been generally positive all week (but that could mean theyíre just being polite). Theyíre looking at Australia to do principle photography with a second unit to shoot exteriors in NYC. Barry says heíll put together a list of Australian directors. They discuss the possibility of using Weta Digital for effects. We close with Chris saying heíll go through the script, make notes, and get back to Army next week. 10/9: I spend the morning typing my revisions and additions into the Final Draft file of the script, then send it off to the Beacon gang. 10/8: On the flight home I pore over the script and scribble mucho notos. 10/6: The day of the powwow with Beacon. It's a long one and I'll skip the details. I leave the meeting feeling pretty good. This is starting to look like it might happen at last. Barry, ever the realist, says, When weíre both sitting in a production test eating catered food and film is rolling and the checks have cleared, then you can believe itís happening. Heís right, of course.
9/20: Barry Rosenbush calls to say that heís set up a meeting between with the Beacon honchos for October 6 at 2:30. Iíll report on that next month.
8/18: Itís official: The too-young, well-known actor, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death, (HWMNBNUPOD to his friends) who wanted to play Jack and for whom the part was being retrofitted is now figuratively and literally out of the picture. I have been asked not to name him at this time and I will respect that request. But eventually you will know, I promise. I received a call from Barry Rosenbush. Theyíve started working on a budget for the film, which is a good sign. A certain someone at the studio still has "character issues" about the script. Sheesh. I definitely need a meeting with the studio honchos when I hit the Left Coast in October. Despite the runaway success of "High School Musical" (he was executive producer) and his intense involvement in the sequel, Barry remains steadfastly committed to bringing Jack to the screen. Heís one of the good guys out there in LaLa Land.
7/28: Using a 2003 script thatís very close to the novel, Barry Rosenbush has been working with my Hollywood agent to put together an actor-director package for the film. The agency supplied him with a list of their actors 25-30 years old and a list of their action-adventure directors. He had a sit-down with Beacon today. Army Bernsteinís going to take the script and the lists and get back to him in 7-10 days. 7/18: Some disturbing news: Disney / Touchstone (with whom Beacon has a distribution deal) is undergoing a major shakeup. In a decision to skew their output toward more "family-friendly" films, theyíre reducing their edgier Touchstone releases to 2 or 3 a year, axing 650 jobs, including president Nina Jacobson. (This is the woman who told M. Night Shyamalan that his script for "Lady in the Water" needed an overhaul. The artiste left Disney in a huff. For those of you who donít follow movie grosses, "Lady" tanked at the box office. This is one smart exec. Why are they letting her go?)
Late June: Well, studio head Army Bernstein seems to have rethought his very hands-on approach to the film and handed the reins back to Barry Rosenbush and Bill Borden. Barry retrieved an earlier, close-to-the-book script from 2003, had it spruced up, and sent it to me for a look. I like it a lot. Iíd like to see Kusum a bit more conflicted, but otherwise itís a non-stop action yarn with lots of crisp, clever dialogue. Heís talking to one of the major talent agencies about putting together a director-star package ASAP.
5/29: Well, I canít get a straight story yet, but Iím hearing rumbles that things are in flux at Beacon as far as the Repairman Jack movie goes. Does this mean the new script has been ditched? Does this mean that HWMNBNUPOD is stepping back? Stay tuned. When I hear, youíll hear.
4/21: Joel Fieldsís update on the movie (such as he knew) was that everyone seems happy with where the script is and that studio head Army Bernstein is going to meet with HWMNBNUPOD in person within the next two weeks to put the draft into his hands. Then...who knows how long before we get a decision?
Late March: Screenwriter Joel Fields delivered the "Repairman Jack" rewrite early Ė before the end of the month. Maybe weíll hear something definitive in April. Most likely not. 3/1: I heard from the head of production and from Joel Fields, the screenwriter. Joel met with Army Bernstein, head of Beacon, earlier in the month to go over HWMNBNUPODís reaction to Joelís draft of the script. Then on 2/28 he spent several hours with Army going over notes on the script. He feels they now have a direction for revisions. If all goes well the new version should be in Beaconís hands in 4-6 weeks. Joel thinks the script keeps getting better ‚Ä" which is not always the case (or even common) in the rewrite / revision process, and generally a good sign. Or not. Remember, itís Hollywood.
2/1: Spoke to the head of production at Beacon who tells me that Beaconís headman, Army Bernstein, met with HWMNBNUPOD and got his notes on the script. She was setting up a meeting between scripter Joel Fields and Army in early February to go over the notes. Joel's latest episode for Commander in Chief is filming sometime then and Army's got Firewall stuff going, so it may well be a little later. Donít need a crystal ball to see yet another rewrite in the works.
1/4: Barry Rosenbush confirms that He Who Must Not Be Named Under Pain Of Death received the new script before the holidays, but no one knows when heíll decide.
12/15: Barry Rosenbush wrote to tell me that Joel Fields has handed in the revised RJ script to Beacon and itís now in Army Bernsteinís hands. From there itís supposed to go to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death. (Maybe a happy new year; maybe not.)
11/21: Got an email from Joel Fields, apologizing for missing lunch. According to him heíll have the rewrite done on time. 11/18: On my LA trip I was supposed to have lunch on the 18th with Barry Rosenbush and Joel Fields (respectively the producer and the latest scripter on the Repairman Jack film) but Joel is also a writer for Commander in Chief and had to beg off because of some last-minute script emergency. So it was just Barry and I at Cafe del Rey by the marina. Gotta love Barry. Heís intelligent and well read and so unHollywood. He says Joel will deliver his rewrite within the next 2 weeks so that He Who Must Not Be Named Under Pain Of Death can read it over the Christmas holidays. I figure weíll know sometime in January if weíve got a star. Yoiks. If he says yes, the movie is a go. If he says no, well . . . who knows? Weíll either be dead in the water or itís back for another rewrite. I hate this.
10/22: Joel Fieldsís new script is in. Army Bernstein, head of Beacon, has already given him notes and Joelís back at work on the tune up. This is startlingly fast for Beacon. Iím gathering that theyíre toning down the rakoshi angle and beefing up the Kusum role as an evil man with extraordinary powers. Iím not happy with that, but after ten years Iíve seen so many "concepts" and "angles" come and go that Iíve become uncomfortably numb. I am curious to hear what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death will think of it when he sees it.
9/13: Heard from Joel Fields who says heís chugging along on Act 3 (scripts typically have 3 acts) of the Repairman Jack script. Told me he really enjoys working with Jack. (So do I. Thatís why Iíve finished #10 and will most likely do 4 more.) Letís just hope the final product appeals to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death. (Yeah, right, thatíll happen. After ten years of this I know thereís GOT to be a problem that requires another rewrite.)
7/15: Army Bernstein, the head of Beacon Films, has approved Joel Fieldsís much-rewritten treatment for the new screenplay. Which means that Joel is now off writing it. The script is being modified to accommodate He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death. Iím told itís "still very much in the spirit of the Jack we know and love." Figure 6 to 9 weeks for a draft. 7/6: Someone told me that Hollywood is a place where people have meetings to decide on when to have a meeting. And so, meetings continue between Beacon Films, screenwriter Joel Fields, and HWMNBNUPOD (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death). Thatís all I can talk about now. The glacial progress continues.
5/22: Everyone at Beacon seems to like Joel Fieldsís treatment for his revision of the script. Now we need the head of the studio to sign off on the rewrite and weíre off to the races Ė again. Hope to have more for you next time. APRIL 2005 4/14: Barry Rosenbush toldd me that Joel Fields has survived a number of meetings with the Beacon Films gang. Everyone is on the same page (for the moment) and Joel has gone off to write a full treatment of the aspects of the script he is to address Ė mostly character development. I donít know about anyone else, but Iím "very excited."
3/2: Barry Rosenbush informed me that Joel Fields has been hired to rewrite the "Repairman Jack" script. Joel was in Manhattan in March and we got together on the 9th at a little place in the Flat Iron district. Mostly we talked character. Thatís the main reason Joelís been hired: To flesh out Jackís character. He seems to have a firm grasp on Jack and I have a good feeling about the work heíll do.
2/2: Dare I say it? I sense . . . momentum. The hot young star first mentioned earlier ("He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death" -- or HWMNBNUPOD) remains interested in playing Repairman Jack. If fact, he's been spotted around LA wearing a Repairman Jack cap. HWMNBNUPOD has been meeting with the producers. Beacon has decided (yet again) to find a new writer. Seems Chris Morgan, who did the latest round of revisions (#1,062 thru #1,075) has commitments that won't allow him to complete the script in the window Beacon is working with. Co-producer Barry Rosenbush informs me that they've settled on a new screenwriter. After the lawyers and agents finish their thing, and after a round of meetings, he'll be able to start tapping the keyboard.
Late January: The target date to start filming in Shanghai is this summer. (Stop laughing. I don't believe it either.)
12/18: Nothing new. But then, not much gets done in Hollywood between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. The hot young star previously mentioned [who shall henceforth be referred to as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Under-Pain-Of-Death" (or, for those close to him, HWMNBNUPOD)] remains interested in playing Repairman Jack. Some of you might be concerned about a mid-late twenties actor playing Jack, who's in his mid thirties. Have no fear. This is Beacon Films we're talking about. By the time they get around to exposing some film, HWMNBNUPOD will be just the right age. 12/2: A new development: The Repairman Jack movie was languishing in the wake of the disappointing new script. Now it's building steam again after a young, big-name star has said he wants to be Repairman Jack. (Don't ask me who (if I tell you I'll be killed.) His youth (no, it's not Frankie Muniz - he's not that young) will necessitate some significant rewriting, but his involvement has lit a match under the project. But this is Hollywood and I've ridden this roller coaster before. Best thing to do is put it on the back burner and not think about it until something happens.