This year’s Black List, next year’s most anticipated films
When Franklin Leonard created the Black List—an annual list of the most popular unproduced scripts circulating around Hollywood—it was a way to see what trends were coming, what sort of projects the execs around town were favoring, and who would be next year’s breakout star. Past Black List favorites included scripts for Lars and the Real Girl, (500) Days of Summer and Juno. Snow White and the Huntsman landed a huge script deal after appearing on last year’s list, which also featured Margin Call, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Crazy Stupid Love, Your Bridesmaid’s a Bitch and Gangster Squad. Also featured last year was the script for The Hunger Games which seemed odd as there was little chance that movie wouldn’t get made.
This year the list features Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which is already in pre-production, with filming set to begin in January and Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Samuel L. Jackson on board. My question is why is this movie on this list? I get that the Black List is basically a compilation of film executive’s favorite reads, but there is that key word---UNPRODUCED. At least when The Hunger Games was featured, its status was still in development. It was inevitable but not final. Django Unchained is just a few weeks from beginning principal photography. It’s not unproduced. It is very much produced. Which means the Black List has been compromised; it can now be used to generate buzz for projects that are already getting plenty of coverage in the entertainment press.
Traditionally the Black List has been used to suss out budding talent among writers. Now, it’s a marketing stunt. Does Tarantino really need the ego stroke of being included on the Black List? (You know what, I take that back—of course he does.) At least Django Unchained didn’t top the list. No, that honor goes to Graham Moore’s The Imitation Game, a biopic about mathematician and World War II code breaker Alan Turing, who later committed suicide after being prosecuted for being gay. That project is a slam-dunk piece of Oscar bait and is sure to attract a string of high-profile actors to the role of Turing. The second most voted-for script is When the Street Lights Go On (I foresee a name change), about the after effects of murder in small town in the 1980s. Also Oscar baity, it’s already placed with Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment.
The fairy tale trend gains steam as not one but two Pinocchio scripts landed on the list, and there are the requisite vampires and zombies, most notably Maggie, about a family helping their daughter accept her inevitable zombiefication after being infected. I could see that getting made, especially if Warm Bodies is a success. Second runner up Chewie tells the making-of story of Star Wars from the perspective of Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca. The script must be pretty good to rank so high on the list but that sounds like the kind of thing that looks a lot better on paper than on film. Also featured is Grace of Monaco which is already garnering a lot of casting attention.
Looking less likely to happen are Jane Got a Gun (bad management), Friend of Bill (it’s one of two “alcoholic gets his/her sh*t together” projects but the other, The Last Drop, already has money behind it), Bad Words (we’re past the spelling-bee-movie thing), and Gaslight (the Jack the Ripper wave is still a couple years away). Most likely to star Tom Cruise: The Hitman’s Bodyguard—the best bodyguard protects the best assassin in order to save his wife. Please. Cruise would play both parts if possible. Also, his production company is already on board.
You can read the complete 2011 Black List here. Which projects would you like to see?
(Lainey: Attached - this cover of the Django Unchained script was leaked on Twitter months ago. You know he loves it that you think he handwrites it all.)