Sir Ridley Scott is shopping around a new Encyclopedia Brown franchise, setting up an auction for the movie rights to the popular series of books about the boy detective. Sadly, Donald J. Sobol, the old man who writes those things, is less than pleased.
One thing at a time. Producer Howard Deutsch bought the multimedia rights to Brown way back in 1979. In that time there’s been an HBO TV series featuring the white boy with a black boy’s name (his full moniker is Leroy Brown), but little else. There was some talk about a big screen movie starring – I shit you not – Chevy Chase as Brown, but that fell apart once the parties involved went into rehab and sobered the fuck up.
Now Ridley and Deutsch see a real future in the character’s big screen career, no doubt fueled by Harry Potter’s continued success. "In the case of ‘Encyclopedia Brown,’ we have a classical hero and heroine who just happen to be kids," Scott told the New York Times. "They are ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, and that makes these books attractive."
What Scott and Deutsch plan to do, though, is to make an action adventure movie, and not a mystery movie. Anyone who has read any of the 23 books published over the last 42 years (Encyclopedia Brown and the Missing AARP Membership Card coming to stores in 2006!) know that Encyclopedia Brown and friends solve small mysteries, like missing milk money and the secret of who touched Bugs Meany in his bathing suit area. Some big, huge Goonies-like adventure isn’t what the character is about, and moreover it’s not even interesting anymore. What would be interesting, and different from most movies, would be a small-town, small-time mystery that explores the lives of 9 year olds with honesty and humor. But hey, then you couldn’t have a 150 million dollar budget and plenty of toys!
Anyway, Sobol is pissed – again. He’s been suing the shit out of anyone involved with Encyclopedia Brown outside the book world for 25 years, and he’s not ready to stop yet. He sued Deutsch way back in 1983, and that was settled out of court. He sued HBO as well, with the same result. "The rights are going to expire, and I will then take over," Sobol said. "If someone starts to produce movies in a year, and I take back the rights, they’re going to be stuck."
Deutsch said: "I’m a little blown away to hear that he said that about me. This was resolved in a manner that I thought was amicable, and subsequently I’ve had conversations with him with respect to the property." Mr. Deutsch said that he, not Mr. Sobol, owned the rights for "many years into the future, and I’m sure that Donald did not mean to say what he said." I am impressed that Deutsch managed to not be quoted as saying Sobol is a crazy old coot.