Big Star, No Movie

August 17, 2019

Sometimes Hollywood can’t get a promising movie made even if a huge superstar is on board to star in it. 

Skate Jam, starring Tony Hawk

In 2018, NBA superstar LeBron James announced he’d be starring in a sequel to the 1996 movie Space Jam. That film combined live action and animation, as Michael Jordan teamed up with Looney Tunes favorites like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in a game of basketball vs. some vicious aliens. The King James sequel is a long time coming, especially since a follow-up was supposed to happen over a decade ago. Plans were in the works for Skate Jam, in which pro skateboarder Tony Hawk would skateboard onscreen with Looney Tunes favorites like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Why did it never get made? Warner Bros. got skittish on a big-budget live action/animation hybrid after the 2003 box office bomb Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Spider-Man, starring Michael Jackson

Today, Marvel movies make billions of dollars at the box office. But back in the ‘90s, the company was still primarily a comic book publisher, and a dying one at that, filing for Chapter 11 in 1996. Shortly thereafter, the King of Pop met with Marvel boss Stan Lee. Michael Jackson offered to buy Marvel, with the goal to adapt as many comics into movies as possible, starting with Spider-Man. And who did Jackson want to play Spider-Man on the big screen? He was going to do it himself. Ultimately, the business side couldn’t be worked out and Jackson never did play the webslinger.

The Catcher in the Rye, starring Bob Dylan

Just before Bob Dylan released his first album in 1961, talent agency MCA knew their client was something special. They also thought he could be more than just a gritty, poetic singer-songwriter — they wanted him to be in pictures. An executive claimed to own the movie adaptation rights to The Catcher in the Rye, the landmark 1951 novel by reclusive author J.D. Salinger, and thought Dylan would make a perfect Holden Caulfield. It all fell apart when Dylan bristled at acting…not to mention that Salinger had never actually sold the movie rights.

Poe, starring Sylvester Stallone

Stallone broke into Hollywood by writing and starring in Rocky, an Oscar-winning passion project about an underdog fighter. But even before that film was released in 1976, Stallone had written a script for his other passion project: a biographical film about the life of spooky poet and author Edgar Allen Poe. After the success of Rocky, he got a studio interested enough to do “costume tests” — Stallone dressed in 1800s clothing. But that’s as far as it got. Decades later, Stallone, having aged out of the part, tried to get studios interested in Poe once more, this time starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the author of The Raven. But alas, once again it was a “nevermore” from Hollywood.