KEVIN SMITH DEVELOPING 'BUCKAROO BANZAI' As a TV Series Posted by Milton Griepp on May 17, 2016 @ 1:53 am CT
Kevin Smith has revealed that he’s working with MGM, which produced the Fargo TV series based on the movie, on a TV series based on the cult hit, 1984 science fiction farce Buckaroo Banzai. In his Hollywood Babble-On podcast, Smith said that directing a Flash episode has opened new doors, and led to MGM contacting him to see if he wanted to direct a series based on Buckaroo Banzai. Smith’s concept is to do the film story as the first season, and a sequel, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, as the second season.
The original film had a great cast including John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Weller, and Christopher Lloyd. As we noted when the DVD was first released, we remember Marvel Comics, which did the comic adaptation at the time of the film’s release, telling us that 'this looks like a sure hit.' Although that didn’t happen for the film, perhaps it will now happen, over 30 years later, for the TV series.
Smith said that the next step is to shop the series to find it a network home, for which he said there’s already interest.
Amazon Close To Deal For Kevin Smith-Adapted ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ TV Series – Comic-Con
Kevin Smith’s TV version of cult flick The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension looks like it has found a home with Amazon. MGM and the streaming service are close to locking a deal that will see the Mallrats director bring the 1984 sci-fi adventure comedy to the small screens sometime in the next year, I hear.
There is no specific episode commitment yet for for the series at this development stage. Still, picking up the iconic Buckaroo will certainly increase Amazon’s Comic-Con cred, with the streamer already making a large San Diego footprint with its downtown Amazon Village and panels today for Thunderbirds Are Go and The Man In The High Castle.
If final negotiations close in the next day or so, the deal could be one of many topics the never-short-for-words Smith addresses at his Comic-Con Hall H appearance Saturday. Since revealing that MGM gave a green light to his series pitch earlier this year, Smith has already said he’d like to see original star Peter Weller and cast members John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum show up in the TV adaptation of the movie directed by W.D. Richter and penned by Earl Mac Rauch. A longtime fan of the film, Smith has also said he sees the first season of any potential Buckaroo series as a new look at the plot of the pic, using a second season to take the story to new places.
Buckaroo Banzai isn’t the only new TV Smith could be chatting about on Saturday. The Clerks director and SDCC royalty has the debut of his Comic-Con-centric AMC series Geeking Out on Sunday. The opener of the Greg Grunberg co-hosted 30-minute pop culture series will see old Smith pal and Bourne star Matt Damon strutting his stuff as well.
KEVIN SMITH PULLS OUT OF 'BUCKAROO BANZAI' TV SERIES After MGM Sues Original Creators
Kevin Smith has pulled out of the Buckaroo Banzai TV series he was developing for MGM, after he discovered on Monday that the company had filed suit against the creators of the original film, director W.D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch. Smith posted the news in a Facebook video in which he said of the project, “Respectfully, I’m out.”
Smith said he saw a Hollywood Reporter article about the lawsuit on Monday, which was the first he was aware of it. The article describes a lengthy dispute between Richter and Rauch, who assert that MGM only bought limited rights to make the original film, and MGM, which claims the pair did their work on the original film on a work for hire basis. MGM is asking the court to declare that it owns the copyrights, that Richter and Rauch can’t prevent a new TV series from being made, and that they’re barred from asserting any ownership rights.
Smith’s loyalty to the creators supercedes his relationship with Amazon, which had placed script orders for the series, and MGM, which was producing it. “The only reason I love Buckaroo Banzai is because of those two guys,” he said. “I wanted to involve them…. I don’t want to make anything unless those dudes are involved…. I’m not that guy.”
So while he spoke very positively about both Amazon and MGM, and went out of his way to say that he wasn’t criticizing MGM for the action it took, Smith also made clear that he didn’t want to be involved at this point. He did leave the door open for getting involved again if Richter and Rauch and MGM came to an agreement on the rights and still wanted him at that point.
'Buckaroo Banzai' Creators Claim MGM Infringed Copyright by Shopping TV Series
Earl Mac Rauch and Walter Richter say in court papers that the early 80s deal with MGM was a limited one. In the second chapter in the legal fight over Buckaroo Banzai rights, Earl Mac Rauch, who wrote the 1984 cult film about a neurosurgeon/rock star who saves Earth from malevolent aliens, and Walter Richter, who directed the picture, bring counterclaims against MGM over its plans to make a television version.
According to original complaint filed by MGM in November, Rauch and Richter have gotten in the way of reprising Buckaroo's adventures for Amazon Studios with Kevin Smith at the helm. After THR broke news about the litigation, Smith bowed out. Nevertheless, there's still plenty to resolve with both sides seeking declaratory relief on ownership with the creators also now adding a counterclaim for copyright infringement.
Rauch says that in 1973, he originally pitched Richter on the idea for a series of interlocking, episodic adventures. Originally, the main character was named "Buckaroo Bandy," initially conceived as a country-western singer and jet-car driver.
In the years that followed, Rauch began writing plots for various episodes, including Buckaroo's race to defeat Mister Cigars, one involving a King-Kong-like robot owned by a vicious cartel, and another that included the discovery that Adolf Hitler really didn't die in a Berlin bunker but had escaped disguised as a woman and was hiding out in a forbidding Ecuadorian jungle populated by gigantic, hairy humans.
By 1981, Richter says he had formed an independent production company that had over 200 pages of the Buckaroo Banzai saga. It was being likened to Indiana Jones.
Richter's team pitched MGM.
The creators say that MGM was only interested in acquiring a single episode and specifically passed on acquiring Rauch's larger intellectual property rights to the Buckaroo canon.
"All that [MGM's] predecessors acquired was memorialized in an April 9, 1981 agreement, which specifically provides for Counter-Defendants’ predecessor in interest to 'borrow' Rauch as a writer-for-hire from his personal holding company, Johnny B. Good Inc., to write a screenplay and two revisions based on a single episode he had previously referenced in the Agreement...," states the counterclaim (see here).
Naturally, MGM has its own view.
In its own complaint, the studio emphasized the services Rauch and Richter provided were on a "work-made-for-hire" basis with MGM's predecessor maintaining creative control over the Buckaroo Banzai project and contributing copyrightable elements. Alternatively, MGM claims that it was assigned "all exclusive rights under copyright to the screenplay and motion picture, and the characters, plots, themes, dialogue, mood, settings, pace, sequence of events, and other protected elements therein."
After the release of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, with an ending in the form of a message to audiences, "Watch for the next adventure of Buckaroo Banzai — Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League," certain rights (although obviously disputed in scope) passed to different companies including United Artists, Credit Lyonnais Bank-Netherlands, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Seagrams Universal and back to MGM. And at one point, Warner Bros. was interested in doing something with Buckaroo Banzai. A clouded chain of title may have dissuaded them.
Both sides seem to wish to reboot the property, but they aren't working together.
With MGM attempting a television series, Rauch and Richter are crying foul.
"In its creation, production, marketing, and advertising of the television series described herein, Counter-Defendants have copied the protectable elements of Counter-Claimants’ intellectual property rights in and to the world of Buckaroo Banzai and its characters, themes, other plots, other stories, ,dialogue, mood, settings, pace, sequence of events and other protected elements, including but not limited the Buckaroo Banzai Copyrights," writes the creators' attorney Kenneth Keller.
They are demanding a permanent injunction as well as available monetary damages.