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DeVito and Lautner via Getty // Stretch via We Got This Covered
DeVito and Lautner via Getty // Stretch via We Got This Covered

Hollywood's Repeated, Inexplicable Attempts at a 'Stretch Armstrong' Movie

DeVito and Lautner via Getty // Stretch via We Got This Covered
DeVito and Lautner via Getty // Stretch via We Got This Covered

For decades, some of Hollywood's biggest studios have tried to bring Stretch Armstrong to the big screen. The film rights for the rubbery, gelled corn syrup-filled toy were first sold to Disney in 1994, and since then an absurd amount of time and effort have been spent pursuing the possibility of a Stretch Armstrong movie.

Multiple smart, award-winning film producers and executives have all at one time believed that this was a good idea. Money has been thrown at a whole battalion of established screenwriters tasked to write countless pages about Stretch and his various origin stories. Some versions have come close, but none have been made.

Culled from various sources (most notably Thomas Golianopoulos' oral history in The Hollywood Reporter), the following quotes help relay one of Hollywood's most inexplicable sagas. From Danny DeVito to Taylor Lautner, we remember the various Stretch Armstrongs that almost came to pass.

1994: DISNEY GETS THE BALL ROLLING.

“Our basic story was, a Tim Allen kind of single dad, who is a research scientist, is trying to balance his work life with raising his two kids and he’s stretched too thin, which I’m sure is the metaphor we used, and then he accidentally takes this serum and gets stretchy powers. It was a family comedy. It wasn’t really a superhero movie.”

— Greg Erb, co-writer of an early version of the script for Disney, talking to The Hollywood Reporter.

Erb’s script was in response to Disney’s distaste for earlier versions written by other well-known screenwriters. These were, according to a Disney executive at the time, “heavy on gags on stretchy arms, legs and necks—the obvious stuff.” They had wanted a family movie, presumably one low on jokes about the toy’s sole, defining characteristic.

Tim Allen turned down the role, and the script was deemed too old-fashioned. New writers were brought in to revive the project.

“My version took place in San Francisco because I wanted to use the bridge and those streets. I wanted to stretch the living hell out of him. At one point, he saves an armored truck that goes off the bridge. There were all these big fun set pieces. There is one where he stretches so high that he is past the fuselage of a jet.”

—Screenwriter Michael Kalesniko, also to The Hollywood Reporter.

Numerous actors were considered to play Stretch, including Woody Harrelson, Sinbad, and Mel Gibson. Disney eventually offered the role to Danny DeVito. He accepted, and the studio reportedly planned to pay him $10 million. His version never got off the ground, however, due in part to an unnavigable impasse: DeVito reportedly refused to do the movie if there were any jokes in the script about his height. There were, and so the project was dropped.

2009: UNIVERSAL PICTURES GREENLIGHTS STRETCH.

“Stretch Armstrong is a character I have wanted to see on screen for a long time. He’s an unconventional kind of super hero with a power that no one would want. It’s a story about a guy stretching—if you will—the limits of what is possible to become all that he can be.”

—Brian Grazer, in a 2009 press release announcing that Stretch Armstrong will go into production.

Jackie Chan was briefly considered to replace DeVito, but the project stalled. The rights to Stretch Armstrong were then sold to Brian Grazer, who didn’t do much with them until 2008, when Universal Pictures struck a deal with Hasbro to produce movies based on their toys (2012's Battleship starring Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, and Rihanna is an example of the fruits of this contract).

“In the past two years, Taylor has emerged as a real star at the global box office. He brings the perfect balance of energy and athleticism to the role of an unlikely superhero with a fantastic superpower.”

—Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley in 2010, discussing why Lautner is a perfect fit to play Stretch Armstrong.

“[Stretch is an] uptight spy who stumbles across a stretching formula, which he takes and must now adjust to in everyday life and when fighting crime.”

—The Hollywood Reporter, in 2010, describing a little bit of the new Stretch's background and motivation.

“The awesome thing with toys is, it doesn’t give you a storyline, so you get to create it. The development process for this movie has been awesome.”

—Taylor Lautner, relating awesome things about toys in 2010.

Evan Almighty writer Steve Oedekerk was hired to write the new screenplay, and Ron Howard was even briefly rumored to direct. This version of Stretch Armstrong would be filmed in 3D, and Twilight star Taylor Lautner was chosen to star as the hero. It was slated for an April 2011 release.

2012: RELATIVITY MEDIA ENTERS THE STRETCH BUSINESS.

“This origin story will be a gritty actioner introducing the character of Lucas Armstrong and the life-or-death consequences he will face after undergoing a transformation granting him superhuman abilities.”

—A Relativity Pictures press release from 2012 describing their version of the movie, which would be written by Dean Georgaris (who wrote the Manchurian Candidate remake).

Despite all the excitement drummed up by Universal Pictures, the studio abandoned their Stretch Armstrong project in 2012. Relativity Media swooped in to pick up the rights, and Taylor Lautner subsequently parted ways with the new production company. The screenplay about the "uptight spy" was also dropped.

"Stretch Armstrong is an incredible character who will make an amazing movie, and we know that Hasbro has some new ideas they are looking at. Relativity and Hasbro have a tremendous relationship, and we decided to focus on other projects. We look forward to continuing to work together."

—Relativity press release, 2014, announcing that they had canceled production of their "gritty" Stretch Armstrong movie.

As of this writing, there are no plans to make a Stretch Armstrong movie. This post will be updated if and when that changes.

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The Princess Ride: Here's What a Princess Bride Theme Park Attraction Might Look Like
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MGM

Do you fight the urge to say “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” when introducing yourself? Have you spent the past 30 years mispronouncing the word “marriage”? If so, you may be a diehard fan of The Princess Bride. The cult film (and the book on which it’s based) has inspired board games, merchandise, and countless pop culture references. Now, two theme park designers from Universal have conceived the inconceivable. As Nerdist reports, Jon Plsek and Olivia West have designed the plans for a hypothetical attraction called “The Princess Ride.

Their idea follows the classic river boat ride structure and adds highlights from the movie around each corner. After watching Buttercup and Wesley’s love story unfold, riders are taken past the Cliffs of Insanity, through the Fire Swamp, and into the Pit of Despair. The climax unfolds at Prince Humperdinck’s castle and leads up to the two protagonists riding off into the sunset. The last thing the passengers see is Miracle Max and Valerie waving goodbye saying, “Hope ya had fun stormin’ the castle!”

The ride’s designers make a living turning stories into thrilling attractions. Plsek works as a concept artist for Universal Creative, the group behind Universal’s theme parks, and West works there as a concept writer. While The Princess Ride was just a fun side project for the pair, it isn’t hard to imagine their ride bringing Princess Bride fans to the parks in real life.

For more of Jon Plesk’s concept rides inspired by classics like Dr. Strangelove (1964) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), check out his website.

[h/t Nerdist]

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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter." She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: No team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


First Look International

Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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