Tales from Development Hell Hardcover – 21 Nov 2003
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"A perfect read for screenwriters in need of a touch of schadenfreude..." -- Variety, 7th March 2005
Chock-full of cautionary tales ballooning budgets and egos, interfering stars, Hollywood rivalries -- Sunday Express
Chronicles the absurdity of development in Tinsel Town Fun, entertaining and informative -- Dreamwatch
Thoroughly researched, entertainingly written a valuable insight into the prohibitive filmmaking process **** -- Empire
Twelve case studies in frustration are presented Fascinating? Heck, yes! -- filmforce.ign.com
From the Publisher
As featured on
Film 2003 with Jonathan Ross on BBC1
Front Row on BBC Radio 4
Barry Normans Hollywood Players on BBC Radio 2
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Top Customer Reviews
It’s one thing to scour the internet’s chat rooms, message boards and movie sites for titbits and revelations, quite another to sift through the strands of speculation, fact and fiction and try to build a coherent picture of what’s actually going on.
Well thankfully, David Hughes has done the job for me with his retrospective digest: Tales from Development Hell. Reading this book is like binge eating after a diet – a big dollop of fascinating information, instead of a steady dribble of intriguing, yet ultimately unsatisfying nibbles.
It’s a bittersweet read too, this tale of what could have - should have - really should never have been. Those of you half-familiar with the back office wrangles on ‘Alien 3’ and the remake of ‘Planet of the Apes’ may well read the requisite chapters and whisper quietly ‘Oh, it could have been so different’.
Alas, we will never witness Ripley on the planet of wood nor cheer on scientists battling to save humanity from a DNA sterility time bomb.
On the other hand, we can rejoice that Joel Schumacher did us all a favour by ‘directing’ himself out of ever helming another Batman feature or that the Beatles won’t now be remembered for playing mop-topped hobbits in an ill-advised imagining of ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
Either way, if you’re hungry for information, take a bite out of this book and let the facts run down your chin.
The films that never made it described here include: Smoke & Mirrors: a 'based on history' account of the adventures of an aging French conjuror; Isobar: A mooted Stallone project which amounts to alien on a train; Crusade: not-directed by Paul Verhoeven and not-starring Arnie; and the long-feared adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic book series.
Some of the films that somehow made it to our screen are the aforementioned LOTR adaptation, Planet Of The Apes and Tomb Raider.
One thing about the tales of movie misadventure recounted here is the overarching theme that the projects described are hellish complicated or, basically, pretty poor ideas for films.
The big problem with Hughes' style is that, although the book is undoubtedly well researched, he admits himself a bias for the writer's point of view on things. In each case Hughes finds a heroic writer, the one who put the best 'spin' on the material offered and - whilst he is not often rude about other professional screenwriters- all other drafts are given the 'how x ruined y's brilliant script' routine.
Other film professionals are given short shrift, producers are short-sighted bean counters, directors are obsessive ogres, stars are all egomaniacs. All should serve the script, not the other way round. Having dabbled in acting and directing I find this attitude hugely patronising. A film or play is a group effort not a writer's ego boost. In places the primacy given to the hurt feelings of writers grated... a lot.Read more ›
But my response to this book. Tales from Development Hell is one hell of a book if you're the kind of person who likes to go deep into the depths of the various issues regarding the attempts to make a number of films that you may well have been waiting a long time for and then suddenly you realise it's time to give up waiting because it is unlikely that these often great projects are likely to see the light of day. It is a treasure trove of details about ideas being had and decisions being made. A kaleidoscope of information and takes one on a journey through many winding mountainous paths that have been treachorous for many famous film makers
I'll state that I am one of these people who eternally wants to read novels by Kafka, Burroughs, Ballard, Barker, P. K. Dick and such authors, and I would classify these as Mythography, This might not help people to make too much of a connection between my interests and this bool but then my mythographic interests turn to the development of science fiction and fantasy films that offers a bewildering pandemonium for people spending years in this real world struggling with and living with wild fantastic otherworldly ideas and bringing them through to be turned into something visually realistic, and in the cinema world meeting opposition from every direction for reasons that can be decidedly strange and fragmented.Read more ›