1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You was one of the prize picks from a rich selection of teen movies of that particular era. Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew, the movie starred Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger in its lead roles, with an impressive supporting cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Allison Janney, and Larisa Oleynik.
It was, in hindsight, a modest box office success, bringing in just over $50m off a $30m budget. But for those schooled on 1990s teen cinema, 10 Things I Hate About You is regularly cited as a favorite. With good reason, too: it’s a very good film, that’s stood the test of time well. It’s also one more reason why the world misses Heath Ledger.
The film’s director, Gil Junger, was making his debut with the movie, and he followed it with the less impressive Martin Lawrence vehicle Black Knight. The bulk of his directorial work since has been for television, but that’s no slight: his resume’ is a mix of interesting productions.
At a time when remakes and belated sequels were becoming more prominent, there was thus a mixture of raised eyebrows and excitement when it was revealed in mid-2012 that Junger was developing a follow-on to his most popular project. He was working on a script for it with Tim McGrath and Jeanette Issa, and funding for the movie was found from independent sources, Intandem Films and Mad Chance Productions.
The title would be 10 Things I Hate About Life, and it was clear early on that this wouldn’t be a direct sequel. Still, the naming of the project, and the personnel behind it (producer Andrew Lazar was back too), suggested heavily that this wouldn’t be entirely independent of its 1999 forerunner.
That said, the casting was different. In November 2012, Evan Rachel Wood landed the female lead role in the film (replacing the previously-announced Hayley Atwell), and later that month, Elodie Yung was also confirmed to be joining the ensemble. Further casting news followed. Thomas McDonnell signed up in December 2012, and the cast was duly fleshed out to include The Rocketeer’s Billy Campbell, Adam David Thompson, Mitch Rouse, and B J Britt, amongst others.
Vision Films picked up distribution rights to the picture, and details of the plot soon surfaced. This time, the story was to be set around a young couple who meet, as each is contemplating committing suicide. It’s unclear if there were Shakespearean roots to this one, although a dose of Romeo & Juliet seems possible. That was never confirmed, though.
What was confirmed was the start of production, and Gil Junger duly started filming 10 Things I Hate About Life in December of 2012. Things were ticking along for a few weeks, and some sites posted snaps from the set of the new movie.
Production was halted early in 2013 however, with Deadline at the time reporting that Intandem’s CEO Gary Smith was stepping down from the company. Intandem had been reporting financial losses, and it seemed it needed to make swift changes. It remains unclear whether this was related to the announcement at the same time of a delay in the production of 10 Things I Hate About Life, but the firm noted that it expected to pick up shooting in the second half of 2013.
It should also be noted that Evan Rachel Wood was pregnant, and Intandem insisted to Variety that this was the reason for the delay, and not the financial problems the firm was facing. She gave birth to her son in July 2013.
Filming was delayed a little further, but was set to recommence at the end of 2013. This is when things start to get murky.
In a subsequent lawsuit, which we’ll come to in a minute, the umbrella company for the film – 10 Things Films LLC – alleged that they “exercised their contractual right to halt production briefly” in January 2013, “but were then informed by [Evan Rachel] Wood that she would be unable to shoot again until November”. Again, we’ll come to all of that shortly.
What is clear is that Vision Films screened half an hour of footage at the American Film Market (AFM) in November 2013, announcing that filming would recommence in December, following a year-long break. Intandem, incidentally, was off the picture by this time, with Polaris Pictures now on board. It’s unclear if further investment was secured at the AFM, but it doesn’t seem likely.
A deleted post from Wireservice suggested that filming was back underway in February 2014 (it’s entirely feasible this was just an error), but there’s scant record of this elsewhere. If anything, it looked as if the film never got going again. And given what happened next, there were clearly problems. For by June 2014, the aforementioned lawsuit had been filed, and Evan Rachel Wood was firmly in its crosshairs.
The suit – that cited Evan Rachel Wood and As You Wish Productions Inc (‘a loan out company that provides Wood’s professional services’) – alleged that Wood had been paid $300,000 to star in the film, but “seemingly changed her mind about desiring to complete the film during principal photography, ultimately refusing without any legal justification to fulfil her contractual obligations and instead opting to walk out on the project”.
It noted that she completed four weeks of initial filming, and that she “expressly represented to Producer that, for personal reasons, she was unable and unwilling to continue with principal photography at present time and would be unable to recommence principal photography until approximately November 2013.”
The suit then alleged that Wood wouldn’t return, “simply disclaiming any desire to fulfil her contractual obligations altogether.” It then demanded $30 million and a trial by jury. We’re no lawyers, but that looked a bit ambitious to us.
Wood’s response was swift and resolute. In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, she called the suit a “preposterous and simply a bullying tactic from financially troubled producers,” alleging that “the production shut down in February 2013, when the producers ran out of money.”
Certainly that’d tie in with the problems that the aforementioned Intandem were having, but again, we’re no lawyers.
Wood’s statement continued, adding “even after that, Evan agreed to resume production in Nov. 2013, by which time the producers said they would have cleared up their issues. However, the producers still could not get their act together, nor did they pay Evan money that was owed.”
“Enough is enough,” it concludes. “The producers, not Evan, have breached contract.”
And that’s where the trail runs dry. We’ve tried contacting Vision Pictures and representation for Gil Junger, but received no reply. We will update this article if and when we do.
Interestingly, there’s no sign of the court case on the California Superior Court website, and the litigation appears to have fizzled out. Certainly there have been no filings or ruling sinces, and even appreciating how slowly the legal system can be, it seems as though both sides fired their arguments, and not much else happened.
As for the film? Well, at least some of it exists.
Vision Films still lists it on its website, with an approximate 90 minute running time, and it has a full trailer for the movie. Is that 90 minute listing just a holding number, or is there a rough cut somewhere? Given the amount of filming yet to be completed, almost certainly the former.
Here’s a trailer…
The site also has a synopsis too, and notes a 2014 date on it. But – as you may have noticed – the movie hasn’t appeared.
From our own digging, it seems that there’s not a completed film here. Furthermore, if the plan is to revive the project, there’s clearly little chance now of luring Evan Rachel Wood back to it, and it’d have to go back to square one, including reshooting the four weeks of material that’s already in the proverbial can. In fact, even if Wood were somehow persuaded to return, there’s the small matter of who’s going to pay for the rest of the film. We understand that 10 Things I Hate About Life has made a couple of trips to the aforementioned American Film Market, but the required investment hasn’t been forthcoming. There’s a strong chance it never will. Evan Rachel Wood is now one of the stars of the hit TV series, Westworld.
As for Junger and producer Andrew Lazar, they’re now working on a film called Dog’s Best Friend, that Variety reported started shooting in October. Junger penned the script, and there’s an eye on a franchise here. He also helmed last year’s straight to DVD movie, Santa’s Little Helper, that was shot after 10 Things I Hate About Life first went before the cameras.
It’s hard to conclude anything but that the fate of this movie is grim, and that we’ll never see it. But we’ll update this should it suddenly come back to, well, life…