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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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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
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Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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Move Over, Star Wars Land: A Star Trek World May Be Coming to Universal Studios
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As Disney gears up for the 2019 openings of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at both its Florida and California amusement parks, there may be some sci-fi-themed competition on the horizon. According to Disney and More, there’s a rumor out there that Universal is planning a fourth Orlando theme park, which will include a land dedicated to all things Star Trek.

The blog also states that there have been rumblings that a Star Trek stage show at Universal would take the place of the now-defunct Terminator 2 3D show, but that’s just one option, with a Bourne Identity attraction being the other. Instead, the potential Star Trek show could be expanded to a whole area of the rumored fourth park, with a focus on a recreation of a sci-fi city, according to the site.

This rumored park would be the most high-profile Trek attraction since Las Vegas's Star Trek: The Experience (as seen in the main image). Housed at the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008, Star Trek: The Experience included a restaurant based on Quark's bar from Deep Space Nine and the popular Borg Invasion 4D, which was an attraction that combined motion platforms, live actors, and a short 3D film to simulate a Borg takeover.

Any potential Star Trek land would be much further off than Galaxy's Edge's fall 2019 debut in Orlando. But with two new Trek movies on the horizon, and Star Trek: Discovery returning to CBS All Access for a second season in 2018, the venerable sci-fi franchise might just be able to ride a wave of momentum to become real competition for Star Wars—if not at the box office, then at least as a theme park.

[h/t Screen Rant]

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