Many moons ago, I was friends with Shane Black (who makes an appearance on the acknowledgments page of my book). He’s the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon and spent a few years wrestling Joe Eszterhas for highest amount ever paid for a screenplay (Shane’s personal best was $4,000,000 for The Long Kiss Goodnight, which was then run through the mediocritizer by director Renny Harlin).
Shane also wrote and directed the INCREDIBLE Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which is oceans full of fun, and has great performances by Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan.
But I digress.
Shortly after Lethal Weapon 2 was released, I had what I figured was a great idea for a third movie in the series. I wrote a treatment, and Shane took a look.
He liked it. He liked what I did with his characters. He liked the flow of the story, which took Riggs and Murtaugh to Europe, working with Interpol agents to track down the guys who were supposed to ship a lot of heroin to the bad guys in Lethal Weapon, except that delivery was never made because the good guys killed all the guys who were supposed to sign the delivery receipt.
Naturally, the guys at the other end of that shipment were pretty annoyed, especially their leader, referenced in this bit, retrieved from faded memory because the actual document was lost years ago:
(looking through binoculars)
What? What is it?
Oh fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
Damn it, Riggs, what the hell do you see? Gimme those glasses!
He snatches them.
Okay…it’s a guy. Do you know him?
Yeah…I know him. He’s bad news…
What do you mean, “bad news?”
I mean he’s bad fucking news. He’s…he’s the guy that trained me, back in ‘Nam….He’s better than me…
What? How can he be better than you? I thought you were the best.
I am the best, Rodge. But this guy…he’s the worst.
It’s rough, but it was only a rough treatment. And this is, as I said, from memory.
Anyway. The story tied back to the first film, but developed in new directions. I didn’t repeat the same stuff from the previous film, like Leo and his “They fuck you at the drive-thru” gag (funny the first time, really strained when they did it again). The characters gained some depth. Riggs acted wild out of a desire to feel alive, not just for the chuckles of stupid suicidal thrills.
So Shane showed it to the folks in charge. And they opted to go with Jeffrey Boam’s story, which had its fun points, but had a thin story, overdid the repeats from the earlier films, and lost sight of who the characters really were (like having Riggs and Murtaugh bully people for fun).
Well, it was a very long shot, at best.
Some time after that, I was hanging out with my writer friend Steve Antczak, and we started batting around ideas for a possible third flick in the Die Hard series. We ran through several, some of which have actually appeared onscreen since, like the amusement park setting of Beverly Hills Cop 3. Which I never actually saw.
I’d been toying with an idea about an undersea biosphere, and it occurred to me that such a place would be great for that Die Hard trapped-in-a-microcosm-with-bad-guys dynamic. Steve liked the notion, and we worked out a solid rationale for John McClane to be in such a high concept locale, some ideas about what the place was like, and a story.
This we wrote up as a 28 page treatment. Now, treatments are usually short. My Lethal Weapon treatment was only five or six pages. The “experts” warn you not to write lengthy treatments because nobody will read ’em.
Most of the Hollywood folks who read it said they wished our treatment was longer. Including folks at Joel Silver’s office, the producer of the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards and Matrixs and lots of other things. Including Xanadu. But, they said, alas, we’re not gonna be doing another Die Hard.
They were right. A few years later, the third one came out, Die Hard With A Vengeance, and Silver Pictures had nothing to do with it. The folks who made it, naturally, had never heard of our treatment.
I lost touch with Steve for a few years. Then we ran into each other, and we talked about our treatment, and how it was a shame we’d written it as a story with only one market, the Die Hard folks. And we said, heck, let’s go ahead and write it into a full screenplay, but write it as a project unto itself, not tied to anyone else’s intellectual property.
So we did. The result, Blood of Eden, was obviously in the Die Hard genre, along with things like Speed and Under Siege and Air Force One, but it stood on its own, with original characters, some nice twists, complex villains, and some awesome action set pieces.
At this time, Steve had an agent in La-La Land, so we let him distribute it to the four winds. We got nice comments back. People liked it. But no bites.
After months of nothing, all of a sudden, a movie rumor site called Coming Attractions posted an insider tip on their Die Hard 4 page. Apparently, Blood of Eden had landed in the Silver Pictures office, and they were thinking that it could be adapted into a great Die Hard flick.
I haven’t been able to dredge up the actual web pages (this was in March 2000, I think), but I’ve found a couple of bits quoted in other places. The tipster wrote this to Coming Attractions:
The story is set in a big bubble environment underwater, sort of like a submerged Biodome, but intelligently depicted. The hero is a security consultant working on the project, and his wife is on the project because she WORKS FOR THE JAPANESE COMPANY THAT BUILT THE SPHERE (I told you this was Die Hard). Which is called Eden Sphere, thus the title. While showing the sphere to a senator who reads like a John McCain clone, they are attacked by a team of ninja with all kinds of tech gear that take over the sphere on a mission of vengeance against the old Japanese man who rules over the company.
As I said, this is a Die Hard script, pure and simple, and fits almost exactly to the template needed to make a good DH4. It’s full of action, it takes place in a well developed and interesting setting, and it has some nice twists. It needs more jokiness to be a real Die Hard film, and will certainly undergo rewrites if chosen, but it could serve as a vehicle to bring DH back to its roots, as Willis wants. The only BIG problem I see with it is expense (Waterworld anyone?), but with CGI the way it is, that may not be as bad as it once would have been.
Pretty exciting. Why hadn’t we ever realized our story might be a great Die Hard flick?
The Aussie film site Dark Horizons also posted an anonymous tip from someone called The American Connection:
Silver Pictures (Joel Silver’s production company) has a screenplay entitled “Blood of Eden”, which two unknown scribes hope to become “Die Hard 4”. The story takes place within the confines of an underwater complex known as ‘Eden’, and has one sequence featuring a security guard battling a group of Ninjas. If Silver wishes to return to the franchise again (he was involved with the first two films) pushing this script, then it has a good chance of succeeding.
One of the sites actually managed to get their hands on the in-house coverage written by a reader at the production office, which they printed in full. It knocked us for a few tiny things, but largely raved about the script. I can’t find that thing anywhere. Wish I could, because it was pretty cool to read the inside take on our work.
[UPDATE: Someone sent a link to the coverage, and I posted it in full here.]
No doubt you see where this is going, it being history, so I’ll cut to the end: they didn’t buy it, didn’t adapt it [back] into a Die Hard story, didn’t start Steve and I on big-time Hollywood writing careers. All in all, it was a very public “Attaboy!” packaged with some personal suspense as we waited for news.
And of course, Live Free or Die Hard came out in 2007, owing nothing at all to our hard work.
Still, we’re proud of it. It’s the kid who left home and almost made it big out there in the mean ol’ world. So now I’m going to let you read it, if you’d like, and you can see what all the fuss was about.
Just click the link below. If you read it, let me know what you think in the comments.
P.S. One last bit of trivia…At one point, the Senator in the script, who I did very consciously fashion after Sen. John McCain, calls the female leader of the bad guys a “cunt.” A few readers commented that this was a bit much, using such an ugly word and all, and couldn’t we change that one little thing to “bitch?” Well, of course we could, if somebody wanted to actually buy the script. But I put it in there in the first place because that’s what the character said in my head when I was writing it. It was, in my eyes, in character.
Then, a decade later, this story came out during last year’s presidential campaign:
Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain’s intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, “You’re getting a little thin up there.” McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.” McCain’s excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days. [The Real McCain, PoliPoint Press, 2008.]
I am redeemed. My writer’s instincts were dead on.