I fully understand that Hollywood studios are businesses and not altruistic forums for artistic creation. I also understand that as a result when the very first sequel was successful it apparently resulted in the greenlighting of just about every sequel idea that was forthcoming from risk averse and even lazy production divisions. But with “Evan Almighty” I cringe to imagine what the latest artistic sequel outrage Hollywood has in store for us. While I am not a fan of government intervention in anything the time may well have for the federal intervention to step in and put a stop to “sequel abuse.” While I realize that suggestion will not be taken seriously by anyone, the rationale for such action is self evident. Movies like “Evan Almighty” are an incredible waste of resources and energy to produce and time and money for those unfortunate enough to have been subjected to viewing it. Fortunately I was able to cut my losses to some extent when I fell asleep shortly after the five minute segment involved the apparently neverending struggle of Steve Carell to remove his amazingly tenacious nasal hairs. While I am a fan of Steve Carell, I cannot imagine what focus group insisted that we needed to see more of his inside of his nostrils.
The thing is I know I am not alone in being a big fan of both Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell. I was present when Morgan Freeman and Willie Nelson held a press conference in Durant, Oklahoma to celebrate the opening of a biodiesel production plant, a cause near and dear to my heart. I will therefore hope that it is their agents that were responsible for their participation in “Evan” and suggest that they change representation or at least have them caned.
For those of you that know, you are already aware that I have not been a fan of sequels for a long time. You might even be aware that I have what may well be seen as self interest in that I am the author of several screenplays, all of which were, at least at the time they were written based on, shudder, new ideas. One of those ideas, “Remember Flight 93,” was an idea that had been kicked around for a while at a number of different studios. And because it was based on true events there was no intellectual property that I could really secure regarding it. In fact, at one Pitchfest event in Hollywood a studio rep came right out and asked me if everything in the script wasn’t already more or less in the public record and couldn’t they just rip it off if they wanted to. I had to answer yes. Unfortunately for the American people, the result was a number of Flight 93 based movies and made for television movies, which were with the exception of the one on the Discovery Channel, pretty awful. And this for the what was unarguably the greatest and most inspiring story of American courage of this century.
Another script is based on a somewhat altered legend concerning the amazing Amazon River dolphins and another the mix of legend and fact that have accompanied the so-called “Spear of Destiny” through the ages. Even though the one based on the Amazon River dolphins placed in the quarterfinals of the Fade-In Screenplay contest and was shopped to studios all over the world neither it nor the one based on the Spear was based on any kind of sequel and was therefore something that Hollywood could not already assign any kind of potential dollar value to up front. And mine are not the only new ideas that Hollywood refuses to look at as long as there is any kind of sequel idea that remains theoretically possible. I remember reading the screenplay of a fellow writer that was the most wildly funny romantic comedy I have ever seen as well as the most hair-raising true story of an retired? U.S. intelligence operative. Because I interact with fellow writers I have access to amazing stories that tragically, most Americans will never know of until Hollywood is willing to take a chance on some unknown quantities.
Although I am not a Marxist, in the days of the old Soviet Union, an artist needed to show that his work contributed to the overall welfare of the nation before the party would support it. While that stipulation did not allow for pure artistic expression, I feel some sympathy for the idea that art ought actually have a point or have some reason for its existence. While making money clearly is a point for the studio at least, the antithesis of the Soviet idea now seems to be in control. If in some ways today’s sequel based movies inspire, inform or even entertain it is more due to accident than intent.