So amidst countless budgetary battles which left him over-worked (as they could not afford a writing staff to help him out) and completely exhausted, Frank Darabont last month shockingly decided to quit as showrunner of AMC's The Walking Dead and cited his eagerness to get back into full time feature film-making. Much of the success of the terrific zombie show we put down to Darabont's imagination and willingness to always think with a big screen mindset and although we shed many a tear at his departure just weeks into filming on it's second season, clearly what is The Walking Dead's loss is going to be cinema's gain. Darabont has been making feature films now for 16 years. His debut, the iconic prison drama The Shawshank Redemption is regularly cited among the very top films of the 1990's with towering performances from Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. He followed that up with another Stephen King adaptation curiously also set in a prison, the sci-fi tinged psychological horror/drama The Green Mile, then a nostalgic tale of yesteryear with his Frank Capra-esque small town American movie The Majestic, before returning to another King adaptation with The Mist. It's been four years since Darabont unleashed that last film onto us and despite coming close to directing a Kurt Wimmer draft for Law Abiding Citizen (eventually helmed by) he hasn't really flirted with anything for the big screen. Though in his past he does have a few unrealised projects lurking and perhaps now is the time to bring out a dusty old screenplay and give it the light of day... and there's definitely one or two projects we would love to see his name attached to. With that in mind, here's five projects we would love Frank Darabont to direct next;
1. The Dark TowerIt's funny how two totally unrelated cataclysmic events can come about at the same time and effect people in just the right way... at least that's what we hope. King fans will of course know it as Ka (fate, for those uneducated by the King novel)! Just as Darabont's time with The Walking Dead was coming to an end, the news also hit that Ron Howard's attempts to bring Stephen King's legendary magnus opus sci-fi/horror/western series The Dark Tower to the big screen had completely come crashing down at Universal. What was planned of course was a 3 film epic that would also include at least 1 but probably 2 lengthy Game of Thrones-styled t.v. series' in between the films that would fully flesh out the world that King so vividly created in his much loved novels but despite the attachment of A-lister Javier Bardem, the ambitious project, perhaps THE most ambitious since Harry Potter franchise was birthed, always looked vulnerable to get the chop. And it's demise always did seem inevitable. Now from what we have heard, Howard is still desperate to make The Dark Tower with his regular screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and fulfill the t.v. and film route but without Universal's financing and no studio yet making it known they want to muscle in and drump up some cash, well it just doesn't seem like it's gonna happen. We imagine it won't be long until Howard gives up the ghost. So then what happens with The Dark Tower? Well out of everyone in the film industry, I think it's fairly safe to say that Frank Darabont is the most qualified to to bring the series to life given his perfect streak of stellar King adaptations, perhaps the only filmmaker that truly understands how to properly direct his novels into great and faitful feature films. He has done it three times now! Darabont is a massive Dark Tower junkie. I know for a fact he is desperate to get his hands on the material and turn it into something truly epic and you will probably remember he teased us with the opening of his last movie The Mist where he had his lead Thomas Jane painting an image for what would be a Dark Tower movie (he played a movie poster artist in the film... not unlike the great Drew Sturzan, the actual artist of that image above)... he is telling somebody out there he wants to do it, but is anyone listening? Of course Darabont would demand the freedom to do what he wanted with it and sometimes, it just takes a crazy producer who believes in someones passion to get it done. I don't really want to put the sword to Ron Howard as I did believe in his adaptation and he is a nice guy... but.... Darabont is the man to make these movies. Somebody needs to make it happen!
2. The StandUnlike The Dark Tower, one project that shouldn't have any trouble with financing is Warner Bros' adaptation of Stephen King's other lengthy magnus opus epic, The Stand. In a post-Harry Potter world and just 12 months before The Dark Knight Rises delivers even more untold riches for the studio, WB have more money than sense anyone right now and from what we hear they are desperately on the lookout for a new fantasy series that will plug the gap left by the wizard supreme as they come crashing 'down to the real world' as one studio insider put it so aptly recently with projects they don't know upfront is going to make them gazillions. Recently, they have signalled King's The Stand, a property they have owned since the beginning of the year, as one novel that could become a multi-film franchise that could be a big money driver. We now hat they recently sat down with Harry Potter director David Yates to see if he had interest in directing the novel but honestly, now Frank Darabont has become available, there is only one man they should be speaking to. As I said earlier, Darabont is the best qualified to direct any Stephen King movie, especially one based off such a deliciously tense and cinematic novel like The Stand. If WB don't make the call to Darabont... they are insane.
3. FrankensteinBefore he became a director, Frank Darabont was making a name for himself as a screenwriter in the 80's and very early 90's. He wrote the third Nightmare on Elm Street movie "Dream Warriors", The Blob remake and The Fly 2 - pretty standard work-for-hire gigs in the horror genre to build up a portfolio for himself and earn some money at the same time. One of his last script writing jobs before becoming a full time director was an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Gothic novel Frankenstein that Kenneth Branagh would direct.... only the film that Branagh eventually turned in ended up being nothing like the project Darabont had envisioned. You can actually read Darabont's revised draft HERE and see how it differs from what Branagh imagined, though in truth it's more of the way the Shakespearean actor shot it and his use of slanty angles/camp performances and ridiculously over-the-top tone (and the huge miscasting of Robert De Niro as the monster) that probably displeased Darabont. Here's how he put it;
"I was proud of that script. I think that was every bit as good as Shawshank. You ask me for my best work in features and Ill pull out those two scripts, Shawshank and Frankenstein and hand them to you. I think what it boils down to is that the director there had a different idea than the writer did. Of course, mine is an absolutely subjective opinion, Ive met people who thought it was absolutely brilliant. I was surprised by that. That may not be wrong, but then again, in all fairness, no two people think alike, and what one person, in this case the writer, sees as correct is maybe not going to be correct for the guy behind the camera. I dont believe sets out to make a bad movie or to deteriorate a good script, its just that they think differently. Thats, of course, the danger in having the writer and director be a separate person. Sometimes that collaboration works. Youve got a writer and a director thinking right along the same lines and thats something really special, or youve got a director who can really improve whats up there. Ego may have something to do with it, but there is this factor of just seeing things differently. A director has to walk on to the set every day convinced hes making the best version of the movie that he can."Darabont has forever said that he had hoped one day he would get the opportunity to direct his Frankenstein script as written and now with 16 years having passed since Branagh's version and no notable big screen movie since, the time would seem to be right for him to unleash a new monster in his own image into the world. And Hollywood are said to still be interested in his script. A couple of years ago, Guillermo del Toro was planning to make a new version of the tale based on the basis of Darabont's long ago discarded script with his frequent actor Doug Jones as the monster but then when he became attached to The Hobbit it was just one of those projects that fell by the wayside. I was surprised then that Darabont was so trusting and supporting of letting someone else direct the material given what had gone before and well there is now a time in his career when he can put it right and direct it himself. If nothing can be done with the two King adaptations above... wouldn't you love to see this?