The Unmade Films of Kevin Smith
Superman Lives, The Green Hornet, and sadly Clerks III: here’s a rundown of the Kevin Smith films we’ll probably never see...
This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Kevin Smith has always had to fight to get his films of the ground. He started his filmmaking career by maxing out multiple credit cards to self-finance Clerks, and more recently, legend has it, it was only Johnny Depp’s decision to come on board as a wacky supporting character that allowed Smith to secure financing for his walrus-centric horror flick, Tusk.
Smith has, across his career, been offered several wild jobs (he rejected a chance to pen Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian back in the ’90s), and he’s also signed up for a lot of projects that never got past the script phase.
The latter camp of could’ve-beens is what we’re talking about today.
The 4:30 Movie
Kevin Smith having ideas that would never be realised on screen is a tradition that predates even Clerks. Although details are scant, Smith’s pre-Clerks feature would’ve consisted of three half-hour chunks containing entirely independent stories. This structural idea, according to one fan’s report, came from Smith watching edited-down versions of classic films on broadcast TV.
That same fan, linking to evidence in a podcast episode that no longer exists, claims that one of the 30 minute segments would have featured a post-apocalyptic war where the deaf literally prey on the blind. Those are all the details we can find, making this Kevin Smith project the biggest curio on this list. A strange anthology movie featuring massive concepts condensed into chunks? That could’ve been great.
The story of this one is hilariously odd, and no one tells is better than Mr. Smith himself. In the video above (and the second chunk of it, which you should be directed to at the end), the filmmaker tells of the time he was commissioned (around 1996 and 1997) by Warner Bros. to write the script for their Superman relaunch Superman Reborn.
Smith came on board, retitled the film Superman Lives, and got to work putting a script together under the watchful eye of producer Jon Peters. Infamously, Peters didn’t want Superman to fly or wear a cape, and he did want him to battle a giant spider in the third act. He also wanted Braniac to fight polar bears and have a cute Chewbacca-like pet. There was talk of a gay robot too.
Tim Burton came on board to direct, and Nicolas Cage signed on to for the lead role. Soon after, Burton said he wanted to bring in his own people to write a script, and Smith left the project.
Burton’s version never made it to screen either, and eventually Warner Bros. made Superman Returns instead. Jon Peters, meanwhile, found a place for his giant spider third act showdown in Wild Wild West. Smith ended up directing “Supergirl Lives” an episode of The CW’s Supergirl series.
The full story of Superman Lives is revealed by all the players, including Smith and Burton, in a documentary entitled The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? It’s well worth a watch.
We wrote our own defense of Smith’s work on Superman Lives right here.
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man TV show (based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin) starred Lee Majors as Colonel Steve Austin, a former astronaut given bionic implants and employed as a secret agent. Over 90 instalments were made between 1973 and 1978, with a few TV movies following later.
Between 1995 and 1998, Smith worked as the writer of a big screen adaptation of the series. It would’ve focused on a different bionic man, Barney Miller, who appeared a couple of times in the TV show but wasn’t the main focus.
As Smith’s fans have reported online, there was trouble behind the scenes, with three sets of executives helming the project at different points while Smith was writing.
The film, perhaps unsurprisingly given that tumultuous environment, was never made. Smith’s script lived on though; it was adapted into a comic entitled The Bionic Man. You can read the first issue for free right here, or order the whole thing here.
After Smith departed the movie, the Farrelly Brothers and Chris Rock took a stab at a more camp and comedic script. That one didn’t get made either. Last we heard, Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg were hot then cold to the property, with The Departed’s Bill Monahan working on a script. Nothing came of that either.
Around 1997, Kevin Smith was working on Fletch Won for Miramax. It was a prequel to the Chevy Chase-starring Fletch movies, which, for the uninitiated, were crime comedies about a newspaper reporter drawn into weird mysteries. They were based on a series of novels by Gregory Mcdonald.
In a series of tweets in 2012, which you can read in full here, Smith revealed exactly what went wrong with Fletch Won.
For five years, Smith worked on an “insanely-faithful-to-the-book” origin movie chronicling “Fletch’s first big story at the newspaper.” Smith intended to cast Jason Lee as the young Chevy Chase. Harvey Weinstein, who was producing for Miramax, wasn’t convinced Lee had an audience. The film stalled.
Then Smith was offered to direct a Disney movie starring Ben Affleck (which ended up being Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, sans Affleck), which caused a big contract dispute. Smith was under a first-look writer-director agreement at Miramax, but the gig with Disney wouldn’t have been a writer-director project, just a director job, so Smith believed he should be able to take it.
Weinstein then made a play to stop Smith from siding with Disney: he offered to speed Fletch Won into production, with Affleck as the star. He even said he’d match Affleck’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past salary. Production offices were opened, and the budget for Fletch Won shot up to $50 million. But then Affleck passed up the opportunity, preferring to stay faithful to Disney, and Smith’s Fletch film got canned. Disney got cold feet about Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and the movie was made with a different team years later.
Right after Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith wanted to reteam with Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, and Jason Lee for a movie entitled Name. They would all play completely different parts, but it would still be tied to Smith’s View Askewniverse, as Smith told Jeff Goldsmith in a podcast interview years later.
“It was always porn-bent,” Smith said of his script. “It didn’t become Zack And Miri [Make A Porno], but Zack And Miri took its place years later.”
The story would’ve started with a guy and girl in a relationship. They break up, the girl leaves town and she ends up starring in pornography. As Smith describes, “So many people like come up to the dude all the time, like, ‘Did you see your lady’s movies?’”
Some time later, when the male lead is engaged to someone else, the leading lady “arrives out of nowhere in a rainstorm and she has to hide out at his house, and so they rekindle a past.” It becomes clear that she’s “the wall he never got over.”
It sounds like Affleck and Adams were interested in the lead roles, but Smith, in his own words, “let it get away.” And the chances of a reprisal are slim, according to Smith: “Years later I’m like, ‘Ahhh, you should do that,’ but I’m past that now[…] that’s the domain of someone in their 20s.”
The Green Hornet
In 2004, Smith was hired (again by Harvey Weinstein and Miramax) to write and direct a Green Hornet movie. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about it, too, when quoted in Variety:
“I dig the fact that he kicked off a run of billionaire playboys who decided to put on a mask and fight crime and that he was Batman before there was a Batman […] I always said I’d never do a superhero film, based on my limited experience writing on Superman Lives and having to answer to the studio, Jon Peters, the comics company and eventually a director. Then there’s a fandom that gets up in arms if you even try to stray from their character. Here, there is simplicity in the character and the situation.”
Actually making the movie proved to be less simple though. Smith walked away from the project in 2006, citing the reason that he didn’t think he’d be able to direct the action elements well enough. He told Bleeding Cool: “I was very, very amped to make it until I realized I wasn’t talented enough to make it.”
Jack Gyllenhaal was Smith’s pick for the lead role, but of course it ended up being played by Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote the new script with Evan Goldberg. Michel Gondry wound up directing.
Smith’s script, once again, wound up becoming a comic book. You can see some teases here, or order the whole volume here.
Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers
“I think it would be kinda cool to go larger budget and shoot some effects on that one,” Smith said in 2008, talking to MTV News about a film project he was lining up entitled Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers. He’d already sneaked a logo for its titular hero into Clerks II.
MTV quotes a Variety article (which doesn’t seem to be available anymore), in which Smith described the project as “a comic book/sci-fi movie in the vein of Flash Gordon.” It sounds like this was meant to be Smith’s next movie after Cop Out, but it never materialized.
“Reaper [the CW show he shot the pilot for] made me feel a bit more confident when it comes to effect shoots,” Smith told MTV, before adding, “When it comes to one like Ranger Danger I [used to think] maybe when I’m 50 I’ll be ready for it… But now I feel like it’s easier to work through things.”
But years passed and an official announcement never came. The last word Smith said about Ranger Danger in a 2012 interview with Crave:
“Well, now I can do it as a cartoon. Now I can do it as a web series if I want. It’s no longer just you have to do this one thing. I don’t know about anybody else, I’m sure it’s exciting for other cats; I hate taking tens of millions of dollars. That’s scary, man. It really is. Especially when they’re gambling on a dopey idea you had, like a make pretend idea. So for me, I kind of feel like I’d almost rather do that anywhere but have the pressure of ‘Here’s $50-60 million. You’ve got to make this movie gross.’ I don’t know if it will. So at the end of the day, if I want to do it, I feel like I can do it comics, animation, web series, any number of things, TV now.”
So far, Ranger Danger hasn’t been produced in any of these formats. A shame, because the title alone is brilliant..
Hit Somebody is a hockey comedy named after a song, and it was once said to be Smith’s final film. It’s shifted a few times throughout its shelf life, changing from one film in two, and then morphing into a TV miniseries at another point.
Empire described the plot once as “a touching tale of a Canadian farmboy who dreams of stardom with a stick and a puck, but has no discernible talent in that direction. He’s good at hitting people though, and the big teams are ‘always in need of a goon.’”
The most recent update about the film came in December 2014: Smith said he’d found a way to get the film made while chatting to Kim Ledford, head of the production company Star Stream. It just so happens that Ledford’s former boss used to “work tangentially in the world of the NHL [National Hockey League]”, as Smith explained to SlashFilm.
So Smith got the Hit Somebody script to Ledford’s hockey contact, and suddenly a plan was afoot. Smith told SlashFilm that they “were able to kind of pull the budget together. So in the fall of 2015, we head up to it looks like Northern Ontario and start shooting Hit Somebody.”
But fall 2015 came and went, as did fall 2016 and 2017. Smith has made Yoga Hosers and episodes of The Flash and Supergirl in that time, but he hasn’t made Hit Somebody. Details are scarce as to why.
Clerks III is another film that Smith and his fans have been talking about for years. At various points, Smith said it would be his next film, but each time he moved onto something else. And then last year, Smith posted a lengthy update on his Instagram feed.
“Sadly, Clerks III can’t happen (one of our four leads opted out of the flick),” Smith wrote, before explaining that he’s been working on Jay and Silent Bob Reboot for the past month instead. It’s a follow-up to Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, which will see Smith and Jason Mewes’ characters heading “back to Hollywood to stop a brand new reboot of the old Bluntman & Chronic movie they hated so much.”
A bit of detective work has led me to a theory about which lead has opted out and made Clerks III impossible…
The four leads you couldn’t make a Clerks sequel without are obviously Smith himself, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran (who plays Dante), and Jeff Anderson (who plays Randal). The fact that a Jay and Silent Bob movie is plausible confirms that Smith and Mewes are both game. And the script page that Smith teased on Instagram clearly includes Dante. So it might be Jeff Anderson that doesn’t want to return. And without Randal, you simply don’t have Clerks.
Searching for Kevin Smith’s handle, Clerks III and Jeff Anderson on Twitter brings up a tweet from 2012. In it, Smith writes, “The minute Jeff Anderson signs on, my last cinematic effort as a writer/director will be Clerks III.”
Smith has long since stopped talking about retirement, but Clerks has apparently been put out to pasture. Sad times.
In the same Instagram post that revealed Clerks III’s sad fate, a nail also went into the coffin of Mallrats 2. The film that would’ve brought Jason Lee back to the role of Brodie Bruce was rejigged into a TV series last year, and Smith had been pitching it to networks with Universal. But, as it turns out, this process has been fruitless.
“I’ve pitched said sequel series to six different networks only to find no takers thus far,” Smith wrote. “Mind you, I’m not complaining: Nobody gets to make EVERYTHING they wanna make in this business (do they?).” Over 2500 words into this article, I can confirm that Smith’s assessment is correct.
“Since I sold Clerks and Mallrats years ago, they’re owned by others, which limits my moves with my own material,” Smith elaborated. “I don’t mind: back in the day, all I ever wanted to do was sell my stuff so I could be in the movie biz in the first place. So I don’t own Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, or Dogma… But I DO own Jay and Silent Bob.” Hence Jay And Silent Bob Reboot.
A couple of fun facts we know about the Mallrats sequel we may never see: it would’ve been called MallBrats, referring to a younger generation of shopping center slackers. Among them would’ve been Harley Quinn Smith playing Brodie’s daughter, Banner Bruce.
It’s probably a bit soon to write this one off altogether, but after the announcement of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, it’s clear (after a quick Twitter search) that I’m not the only Smith fan eager to know what’s happened to Moose Jaws.
Pitched simply as Jaws with a moose, this one would’ve been the third flick in Smith’s True North trilogy, which so far includes the Canada-skewering horror comedies Tusk and Yoga Hosers. Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp, and Harley Morenstein are all expected to return to close out the incredibly odd series.
There’s even been talk of Smith combining his True North trilogy with the View Askewniverse by finding a space for Jay and Silent Bob in Moose Jaws.
Smith has twice announced filming commencement dates for the film: first he cited July 2016, before naming an earlier slot in May 2016. Production is yet to actually occur though, and it’s unclear now what this one’s status is.
We expect Jay and Silent Bob Reboot will require a lot of time and attention from Smith, but Moose Jaws could theoretically be next in line.
Honorable mentions: Arrow, Buckaroo Banzai and Helena Handbag
Before we wrap things up, let’s quickly mention the projects from other mediums that Smith has spoken about but not yet made.
He’s expressed an interested in bringing Onomatopoeia, a DC Comics villain of his own creation, into the CW’s TV universe. He even explained to Den of Geek UK exactly how he would translate the character to the screen, with Arrow being the show he’d most like to write and direct it for.
Also on TV, Smith was attached for quite some time to a remake of the sci-fi comedy movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. But he backed out of the project in November 2016, when the studio behind it, MGM, filed a lawsuit against the original creators of the property. Smith did say he’d be willing to return if they could solve the legal squabbles, though.
And finally, possibly the greatest unmade Kevin Smith idea of all: Helena Handbag, which would feature, in Smith’s own words, “Mankind teaming up with Hell to save existence from extinction at the hands of a Rapturing giant Jesus.”
“I realized there was no way to write this inexpensively as a feature film,” Smith explained on Facebook in January 2014. “So… I started reshaping the Helena Handbag script as a piece of musical theater, with Book Of Mormon as my spirit animal. And holy shit… does THIS feel right!”
We’ll be sure to let you know if the status changes on any of these.