Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Curses: A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces

 "I think it’s cursed. I’m not prone to superstition, but that project has got bad mojo on it."  Steven Soderbergh (U.S.  film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and a film director)

 The above statement speaks volumes about the apparent curse that plagues this particular movie project. A movie yet to get further than a script and a reading or too, but a project touted since the early 80's.

 A Confederacy of Dunces” is a novel written by U.S. Writer, John Kennedy Toole, the book was released posthumously, about 11 years after the writer’s death. It became a cult classic almost straight away in 1980, and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. Initially, when Toole had approached various publishers with the book in the 1960's, every single one had rejected his work, this led to him suffering severe depression as he took the rejections very personally.

 John Kennedy Toole was born and raised in New Orleans and worked there at an all-girls Catholic School. He had previously been the youngest teaching professor at Hunter College in New York. It was noted by his close friends, that, upon his return to New Orleans after being away studying for his Ph.D., and then working as a professor, that Toole had developed a keen sense of paranoia, so intense and ingrained was it, that it was reported by one friend, that whilst, driving around New Orleans, Toole thought their car was being followed, so he drove to lose the shadowing car...
 Toole's paranoia and depression eventually got the better of him and he committed suicide in 1969.

  Almost as soon as “A Confederacy of Dunces” won an award, it was slated to be adapted into a movie. One of the first attempts was to come from Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Stripes) who was going to write an adaptation that would star Richard Pryor and John Belushi, but unfortunately, Belushi died of a drug overdose and the movie was never made.
 Later attempts at getting the project off the ground involved John Candy, who had a heart attack and died, and Chris Farley, who, like his hero, John Belushi, died of heart failure from his massive drug intake.
 John Goodman, “Dan” from TV’s “Roseanne” series, who happened to be a long-time resident of New Orleans, where the book is set, was also cast, at one point to play the role of Ignatius in the movie, however, this also fell through.
 British writer, Stephen Fry was commissioned in 1997 to go to New Orleans and write an adaptation of the novel for the screen, this too fell to the wayside as other, more important projects were taken at the studio.

 The closest the film has come to being made is the adaptation presented by Steven Soderbergh and
Scott Kramer. Their version of the film was set to be released in 2005, and star comedian Will Ferrall and long-time actress and comedian Lilly Tomlin. The pair did a reading of the script together at a film festival with several other cast members, but as of yet the film itself has gone no further. In this case, it has been cited that the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina postponed the production.
 The murder of the Louisiana State Film Commissioner could also be an influence on the decision not to go forward with filming and indeed, another path of the alleged curse!

Other big names attached to the project over the years include Jonathon Winters, Divine, Josh Mostel, Lily Tomlin, Mos Def, Drew Barrymore, Olympia Dukakis, Jack Black and Zach Galfianakis.
The Zach Galfianakis version did not go ahead due to the director, James Bobin, being attached to the movie The Muppets… Again!
The movie recently popped up again in 2016 with Seth Rogan touted to play the lead role, and James Franco directing, but it would seem that this has not happened, or a very different movie, based very very loosely on the book was made, so loose in fact, it is unrecognisable as Toole’s book.

I think I’ll leave you here, with a quote from the books lead, Ignatius, which kind of sums up the history of this book films adaptation - "My life is a rather grim one. One day I shall perhaps describe it to you in great detail."

researched and written by Allen Tiller, 2013
updated 2017 - previously unpublished.
© Allen Tiller - Eidolon Paranormal

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