Terry Zwigoff hasn’t always had the best relationship with Hollywood. His films tend to be prickly human portraits (“Crumb,” “Ghost World“) that don’t make for easy marketing, and the biggest commercial film of his career, “Bad Santa,” saw him enter a heated battle with the Weinsteins, who wanted to soften its sharper edges (read our candid interview with Zwigoff for all the juicy details). After he flopped with 2006’s “Art School Confidential,” Zwigoff hasn’t made a feature film since, but it’s certainly not for lack of trying. In fact, it sounds like he’s had one movie after another fall apart.
Speaking with Vanity Fair, the filmmaker runs down the list of projects that nearly got made or just couldn’t get the pieces in place, and it’s all a bit staggering. Some of these we would’ve really loved to see. Here’s what he had to say:
It’s been very difficult for all filmmakers trying to make small- or medium-budget movies. It started in 2007 — the housing bubble, the subprime mortgage crisis. The Hollywood business model shifted. They weren’t interested in making a modest amount of money, like $10 million. They wanted to make a billion.
So you can shoot your movie on your iPhone, or you can be one of the 10 guys making a Marvel film. I don’t have any interest in that, nor would I know how to do it. But what have I been doing? Am I pacing the house? Waiting for the mail? I’ve taken on whatever writing or development jobs I can that allow me to stay in San Francisco.
For instance, I was contacted by Johnny Depp, who was interested in adapting a book called ‘Happy Life.’ It was about a guy who visits an old folks’ home and falls in love with an older woman. I saw it as an opportunity to write for Jeanne Moreau. I worked on it with Jerry Stahl. We met in L.A. at Depp’s suggestion, and we both were like, “I don’t know about this — but gee, it’s a lot of money, okay.”
There was another project called ‘The $40,000 Man‘ all set up at New Line, and then [sighs] they had a regime change once I turned my script in. Then I had a deal to adapt a book by Elmore Leonard. I was sent it by his granddaughter. This was around 2010; the book was called ‘Maximum Bob‘….We had the deal, we had financing, we started adapting. Then we get a call: “Hang on, we just found out there was a short-lived TV show, and we can’t separate the rights.” [Laughs.]
Then there was something called ‘Edward Ford‘ [written by Lem Dobbs], something of a legendary script. It had the reputation of being the greatest script ever, which I don’t quite agree with, but I liked it very much. We had Michael Shannon attached to play the lead, then the money fell through. But it was such an uncommercial script, I sorta attached myself to it knowing it would never be made.
By the way, that’s not all. Other pictures at one time brewing for Zwigoff included “Lost Melody” starring Nicolas Cage, and “Justice For Al” starring Fred Armisen. But it’s not all bad news for the director: he’s currently got a show in Amazon‘s pilot season, “Budding Prospects,” and should it make the cut, we’ll be seeing a lot more from him.