Writer / Director Kevin Smith has confirmed he’s no longer involved with the proposed Buckaroo Banzai TV series.
Shortly after the THR story broke regarding the MGM / Rauch / Richter lawsuit about the Buckaroo Banzai rights, a non-firey Kevin Smith, who is not mad at anybody, posted a Facebook video in which he discussed the situation, including his reasons for bowing out of the project.
In the video, Smith says the THR report was the first he’d heard of the lawsuit, and that “I had no idea they [MGM] were going to sue the creators of Buckaroo Banzai” in order to get the TV series going.
“Whether that’s right or not is not for me to say … you know, you’ve got two parties that maintain they own something … so I’m not jumping in that legal battle. They’ll figure out who owns it.” Smith goes on to say that the people he worked with at MGM “treated me insanely well across the project.”
So why’s he leaving the project?
“The only reason I love Buckaroo Banzai is because of those two guys, because of Earl Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter … It was magical because there was nothing else like it. That work came from an amazing singular vision or vision of those two men.” Smith added that when the project was first announced, he was on the record as wanting to involve both Richter and Rauch in the series.
I’ve been tapped to adapt BUCKAROO BANZAI into a series, which is something of a dream come true: I’ve loved the 1984 movie since I was a kid. My well-read copy of the film’s novelization by screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch is my Bible. But I’m not gonna be directing this alone: it is my intent to assemble a dream team of cult movie directors for the 10 episodes of this #BuckarooBanzai series – folks like #DonnieDarko director Richard Kelly, #ShaunOfTheDead director @edgar_wright and of course, the #Banzai director himself – WD Richter. Same with the writing: I want to bring in the creator Rauch himself to write the flashback episode detailing the night the red Lectroids came to Earth (with the help of #OrsonWelles and his War of the Worlds broadcast.) The other scripts will be penned by other #BlueBlazeIrregulars who worship this flick like I do. Cast-wise, I’m hoping to get the great Peter Weller to play Team Banzai’s greatest enemy, Hanoi Xan! And any cast member from the original who wants to play is gonna be welcomed like returning conquering heroes. Long story short? Don’t worry: I’m not gonna #KevinSmith this Banzai series at all. It’s gonna be 100% true Buckaroo. Which means the watermelon will NEVER be explained. #MGM #yoyodyne #buckaroobanzaiagainsttheworldcrimeleague
“I don’t want to make anything unless those dudes are involved.”
Later, Smith says that “What I’m saying respectfully to all parties involved is that I’m out,” adding that “I don’t wish anybody harm. I wish all parties well. I hope those dudes come to an agreement, and if they do, and they still want me involved down the road, I’ll be here, but why would they?”
Talent and respect, at the very least, I suppose.
If you have 18 minutes to spare, you should absolutely watch the entire video from Smith.
In watching it, three things came across very clearly to me:
- Kevin Smith has a real passion for Buckaroo Banzai.
- Kevin Smith deserves some respect for both the tactful manner in which he’s departing the project and the reason for which he is.
- If the project ever does get off the ground, I hope Kevin Smith is once again pulled onboard. And if it doesn’t, I definitely hope Smith finds another show.
As Smith so eloquently puts it, “This Sucks. Oh my God, this sucks so hard.”
UPDATE 11-28-16: The Buckaroo Banzai TV Series Hits a Snag Over Rights
Back in July, news arrived that MGM and Amazon were working out a deal for a Buckaroo Banzai TV series, with writer / director Kevin Smith running things. However, there are some conflicting claims regarding who owns the rights to the property that will need to be sorted out first.
According to THR, W.D. Richter (the director) and Earl Mac Rauch (the writer) have been telling the involved parties (including Amazon Studios and Smith’s agents) that they own the rights to the property, while MGM claims that they do. So last Wednesday evening, MGM filed a complaint in California federal court.
In the filing, MGM says that the Rauch and Richter have claimed in multiple letters to the studio that they own the “exclusive right to produce and distribute a Buckaroo Banzai television series.” MGM says they hold the rights, and that this is causing “a substantial controversy” between the involved parties, and they’d like to be able to move forward on the series without interference from Rauch and Richter. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs bring this action to seek a declaration of the rights and legal relations of the parties with regard to Buckaroo Banzai.”
More Details on the Rights Dispute for the Buckaroo Banzai TV Series
A sequel or continuation of the Buckaroo Banzai story has been a part of the plan since the beginning, with the cult 1984 movie ending with the message “Watch for the next adventure of Buckaroo Banzai — Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.”
However, the proposed sequel hasn’t come together, and at least one follow-up project, an animated series with Warner Bros., was killed because, as Richter has stated previously, “the paper trail for the rights is almost impossible to follow.”
In the lawsuit, MGM claims Rauch and Richter have been aware that the studio was interested in a Buckaroo Banzai TV series since at least 2008. Then, in 2011, the pair claimed ownership rights, a claim the studio refuted.
Then, back in July, when the deal between MGM, Amazon, and Smith started to form, the pair sent letters, via their agent, to the involved parties again stating they owned the rights and that they were set to move forward with their own Buckaroo Banzai projects, prompting MGM to demand they stop interfering with the process.
So what does the studio want? Well, not much. Just that the court issues a declaration saying Rauch and Richter can’t interfere with a Buckaroo Banzai TV series, that the studio owns the copyright to the material, including any literary material Rauch submitted in connection with the project, and that the pair needs to stop asserting any ownership rights.
So at this point, it’s likely the project is going to be put on hold. For anyone interested in reading the full filing, you can do so via this link provided by THR. All in all, this is disappointing news, as a Kevin Smith ran series based in the Buckaroo Banzai world would be something to behold. Here’s to hoping they get the rights figured out.
Original Post 7-21-16: Is Amazon Grabbing Kevin Smith’s Buckaroo Banzai TV Series?
According to Deadline, Amazon is very close to working out a deal with MGM for Kevin Smith’s Buckaroo Banzai TV series. The series, based off the cult sci-fi film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, would potentially show up on Amazon’s streaming service sometime next year. As of yet, there are no further details about a specific episode commitment or additional creatives attached to the project.
“Neurosurgeon/Rock Star/Superhero Buckaroo has perfected the oscillation overthruster, which allows him to travel through solid matter by using the eighth dimension. The Red Lectroids from Planet 10 are after this device for their own evil ends, and it’s up to Buckaroo and his band and crime-fighting team The Hong Kong Cavaliers to stop them.”
More Details on the Buckaroo Banzai TV Series
When Kevin Smith revealed that MGM had gone ahead and greenlit his pitch earlier this year, he also shared some pretty interesting plans for the series. He said he’d like to bring the original star, Peter Weller, and cast members John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum back for more in his TV adaptation. He also said that he sees the first season of the series as a new look at the established plot in the movie, after which the second season would then start taking the story to new places. Smith didn’t share any additional details on what direction he might be taking it, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it somehow involved Jason Mewes, the phrase ‘Snootchie Bootchies,’ and some weed.
In all seriousness, though, Smith seems like an ideal candidate to take the project on. So, who’s excited for a Buckaroo Banzai TV series?
Featured Image: MGM