Fire Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams from a project and just watch the internet erupt. Petitions, barrages of emails and letters and websites springing up like born again Christians seeing the light at a revival.
Fire Volker Schlondorff and…crickets. I notice it’s been hours since news leaked that he was sacked from Pope Joan, and there’s nary a Victory for Volker website registered anywhere. You lazy bastards, the guy made The Tin Drum! It’s got a fucking Criterion Collection DVD and everything. Represent the masters, dammit!
Problem is, you’re probably wondering exactly what Pope Joan is, since you just checked your Naughty America subscription and noticed it’s not on the page. This is the long in development adaptation of Donna Cross’s novel about the woman who disguised herself as a man and eventually captured the Papal throne with her ass.
In other words, it’s a remake of Just One Of The Guys, with Franka Potente in the role Joyce Hyser made famous. Or, since the legend has already been filmed once, you could say it’s the role Liv Ullman made famous, but I think there’s a statue of limitations on any Liv Ullman fame, and it ran out at least five years ago. (Shut it, Bergman fans, I love Cries and Whispers, too.)
The film has gone through a couple of production companies, bankruptcy, a lawsuit against John Goodman (I’m serious) and now the firing of Schlondorff, after the director made disparaging comments about German financiers’ tendency to produce mini-series length versions of films. Those television rights are crucial to getting a feature made, and since the Pope Joan action figures and video game aren’t going to fly off the shelf, production company Constantin Film planned to do what worked for Downfall: sell an extended television cut to ensure the viability of the project.
When Schlondorff complained about the practice ("On the whole, it’s a slap in the face of film history to say there is
no difference between major motion pictures and TV miniseries and that
every feature has enough edited material to extend it into a two- or
three-part TV miniseries.") he was sacked by Constantin for "damaging the trust between the filmmaker and the company and of making the financing of the film more difficult."
The filmmaker later called films made under these deals ‘amphibian films’, which I think is just wonderful, if not worth getting fired for. It seems evident that Constantin is overreacting, which makes you wonder what other problems they had with the director.
Development hell: it’s not just for the secular anymore.