Even though Christopher Weekes‘ script The Muppet Man ‘won’ last year’s Black List poll of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, there was every chance it would never make it to the screen. Essentially a biopic of Jim Henson peppered with fantastical scenes starring The Muppets, it would require the involvement somehow of both the Henson company, who hold the right to his life story and Walt Disney, who hold the rights to his famous felt creations.
Luckily, the two companies appear to have come to an agreement and seem to be pressing ahead with the picture together. They have reportedly even agreed on the director they’d most like for the job. His name is Michael Gracey and this would be his debut feature after a slate of music videos and commercials, most famously the Evian spot with somewhat off-looking roller-babies that went atomic as a viral video.
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Christopher Weekes’ Muppet Man is an innovative and often surprising screenplay for a possible biopic of Jim Henson and when it was last week named the top pick of the Black List, I was certainly very pleased. Having said that, as much as I enjoyed the script, it was obvious from page one when reading it that actually getting the thing made would be something of an ordeal.
Problem one lies in the occasionally challenging imagery. The first scene, for example, sees Kermit wake up from a “drunken nightmare” to find an empty whisky bottle on the bed stand and “a three day growth giving his felt chin a strongly pronounced six o’clock shadow”. Kid’s fare? Maybe not – well, not unless cleverly and sensitively handled.
Problem two lies in the legal issues surrounding who owns the rights to what. Simply put, Disney owns the Muppets, but not the Man. The script was snapped up pretty much as soon as it hit the market by The Jim Henson Co. but, of course, they’re powerless to make anything with The Muppets in without somehow brokering a deal with Disney.
Add to this, then, the fact that Weekes hasn’t based his biopic on facts at all but – reportedly – a few things he scraped together off of Wikipedia, some photographs and a whole lot of imagination and it’s starting to sound an awful lot like Muppet Man could never see the light of day…
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