Buckaroo Banzai, wasn’t he on TV once? Kevin Smith’s announced TV series retooling of the 1984 cult classic The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The 8th Dimension hit a major snafu. The director of Dogma is about to see his faith shaken.
Smith was set to make a series out of Buckaroo Banzai with MGM that is slated to be produce through Amazon Studios. W.D. Richter, the director of the original film, told Film Buff Online that the rights to the Buckaroo Banzai character is in its own dimension. This might explain why we never saw the promised Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League sequel.
Richter says the rights to Buckaroo Banzai might still belong to Earl Mac Rauch, screenwriter of the who created the character. Rauch wrote Wired, the John Belushi biopic, and New York, New York, from Martin Scorsese. Rauch wrote Buckaroo Banzai comic books between 2006 and 2009 for Moonstone Books.
Rauch’s 57-page treatment to MGM head David Begelman for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which was called “Lepers From Saturn,” included half-completed drafts called “A Buckaroo Banzai Sampler.” When Begelman got fired and formed Sherwood Productions, MGM let him take the script with him.
“Mac’s original contract is about the shortest I’ve ever seen in the motion picture business,” Richter Film Buff Online. “It’s about four pages long with a few lines going onto a fifth page. It’s for a draft and two sets of revisions based on an original idea by ‘The Writer’ which the contract calls ‘The Property.’ And [Mac] is hired to write and deliver a first draft screenplay and two sets of changes, based on ‘The Property.’”
“Rereading Mac’s MGM agreement recently when the new series was announced to see if Mac had any royalties built in, it occurred to my non-legal eye that the document does not acquire ‘The Property,’ it simply hires Mac to write a screenplay based on it,” Richter told Film Buff Online.
Richter says MGM does not actually own the rights to the character itself.
”[The] Agreement’s simple, blunt language acknowledges the existence of two entirely separate intellectual properties,” Richter told Film Buff, “one they called ‘The Property’ and one they called ‘The Work.’ Crucially, ’The Work’ is a technical term in the Writers Guild Basic Agreement with all the studios, is defined as only “what the writer is engaged to write”, and a screenplay is all that Mac was engaged to write in the MGM contract. [Then-MGM studio chief] David Begelman basically commissioned a screenplay based on a piece of literary material that MGM didn’t own and then David Begelman went off and made and released a movie based on it. It’s the equivalent of releasing a movie based on a Stephen King book but forgetting to buy the book from Stephen. And a highly regarded property lawyer agrees with us.”
“We’ve asserted all of this to MGM, and they’ve reflexively disagreed,” Richter. “And I understand that. They’re not going to say ‘Oh yeah, right! Sorry.’ I’ve gone through all my records and archival material and we’ve demonstrated that Begelman was clearly not just pitched one episode as if it were a stand-alone movie. He was presented with ‘The Buckaroo Banzai Sampler.’ He was told it was a whole world, and shown written examples prior to his commissioning the screenplay from Mac.”
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension starred Peter Weller as a the title character who was Einstein, James Bond and Batman all rolled into one, along with John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Clancy Brown, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd.
When he first announced the reboot, Smith said The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is “one of my favorite movies in the world and largely responsible for the weird s‑‑‑ that I make, because that movie was supposed to be one thing but it did it in another way. It just did it very off-center.”
“Basically, you just do the entire movie for season one, and then season two you finally do the sequel we’ve all dreamed about: Buckaroo Banzai Versus the World Crime League,” Smith said on the podcast, which you can listen to the here:
Whether this leaves Kevin Smith holding his own Thruster is yet to be seen.