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The Lost & Unmade Projects Of Filmmaker Todd Field

Jan 22, 2023

“Listen, I Googled you.’ I’ve had people say that: ‘I’ve Googled you.’ And it’s so incredibly offensive,” director Todd Field told The Washington Post in 2006. “You think, ‘Why? Because it’s so simple? Because it’s so impulsive? Because it’s so pervasive?’ It’s effectively the same as saying I hired a private investigator to find out who the hell you were. It’s disgusting. It’s vulgar. And yet we completely accept it. We’ve given up all of our freedoms.”
Well, with all due respect to Todd Field — I Googled you, though hopefully for what is seen as less invasive and more celebratory and curious purposes.
READ MORE: ‘TÁR’: Todd Field Talks Working With Cate Blanchett, Lost Projects & Being OK With Never Directing A Feature Again [Interview]
With his first film in 16 years, “TÁR,” due in cinemas this month, the picture marks just his third feature following 2001’s “In The Bedroom” and 2006’s “Little Children,” in a career that has spanned more than two decades. Five years between films isn’t so unusual, but sixteen years is touching on some Terrence Malick-level mystique. So, with Todd Field’s return, I decided to dive into the dark web (okay, not quite) to see what projects have crossed his desk over the years, from the nearly-theres (“Creed of Violence,” “Purity”) to a lot of fascinating would’ve/could’ve films that likely remain stuffed in the back of some desk drawers.
READ MORE: ‘TÁR’ Review: Cate Blanchett Is At Her Best Since ‘Carol’ In Todd Field’s Music World Psychodrama [Venice]
So, let’s dive in with this chronological-ish look at the films Todd Field once kicked around but, for one reason or another, never made it in front of cameras.
“Reservoir Dogs“Ok, this is cheating a bit, but it’s too good not to mention. Before starting his career as a director, Todd Field was an actor, breaking out in “Ruby In Paradise” (which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Male at the Indie Spirits in 1994) and landing roles in pictures as wide-ranging as Nicole Holofcener‘s “Walking and Talking,” the blockbuster “Twister,” and of course, Stanley Kubrick‘s “Eyes Wide Shut,” which would reorient his career and way of thinking about moviemaking forever.
But there is an alternate universe where Field stars in Quentin Tarantino‘s “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992, and he takes an entirely different path in the industry.
“I had no agent,” he recounted to the Los Angeles Times in 2007 about his early steps in Hollywood, “so I really had no meaningful way of finding work other than go and dumpster dive for the breakdown [the schedule of auditions and callbacks], fill out my own submissions under fake management companies, go to the studios as a messenger and sneak onto the lot and get myself auditions. And I did: I saw Milos Forman for a film where it was between me and John Cusack; I did the same thing on ‘Reservoir Dogs’, and it was down to the wire between Tim Roth and me for Mr. Orange. I had a couple of kids at home; I had no money, and my wife was selling antiques out of the back of a pickup. I was hustling for work.”
That’s certainly quite something to imagine, and the good news is, even though he didn’t get the role, it all worked out for Field in the end. I would wager you might have to take his story with a grain of salt as “Reservoir Dogs” attracted pretty much everyone you can think of to audition. But I had never even heard of Field being the mix, let alone close to being cast, so put this in your back pocket for your next movie trivia night.
“The Crowded Room”Based on a true story, with a script by Todd Graff (“The Vanishing,” “Angie”), New Regency and Fox Searchlight tapped Field to direct this story about a man who, after being arrested for rape, was diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder that had 24 distinctively different manifestations.
Besides sounding like M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” it also sounds like an actor’s showcase, so perhaps it’s no surprise that “The Crowded Room” was a hot ticket at one time, with Variety reporting a number of director/actor wanted to take a crack at it including James Cameron and John Cusack, David Fincher and Brad Pitt, Steven Soderbergh and Sean Penn, and perhaps most amazingly, Danny DeVito directing Leonardo DiCaprio (seriously). Needless to say, none of these versions happened, though we’d love to know more about what DeVito/DiCaprio were planning.
“Rose”There’s not much out there information out there about this project, that had a script penned by Buzz Bissinger (“Friday Night Lights”), but I’m going to make an educated guess. Given that Field is a big baseball fan, I would assume this was an adaptation of Bissinger’s 2001 Vanity Fair article “A Darker Shade Of Rose” in which Tommy Gioiosa, the man infamous ballplayer Pete Rose took under his wing, made a series of explosive allegations against Rose including that he corked his bat, was involved in drug deals, had Gioiosa forge his signature, and bet on baseball. 
“Backroads”This is one of a handful of movies that Field considered during his two-year, first-look deal with DreamWorks following the success of “In The Bedroom.” Frank Darabont was slated to produce this adaption of Tawni O’Dell’s novel set in Pennsylvania mining country about a teenager whose mother is in jail for killing his abusive father and who’s left to care for his three younger sisters. Meanwhile, he takes an interest in a sexy, melancholic mother of two down the road. Sounds very much (too much?) in the vein of “In The Bedroom.” Ethan Gross (“Ad Astra”) and Paul Todisco penned the script for the movie which clearly stayed on the backroads of development.
“Time Between Trains”/”American Gothic”In terms of sheer scale, this is probably the biggest missed opportunity. Another DreamWorks project, “Time Between Trains” was a biopic about famed and celebrated 19th-century stage actor Edwin Booth, who is perhaps only remembered today as the brother of Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth. The movie seems to have originally found its roots in “American Gothic,” a book by Gene Smith about the Booth family, optioned by DreamWorks for Field, with Scott Smith (“A Simple Plan,” “The Ruins”) tapped to write the script. But Field did months of his own research in the Theater Collection at Harvard’s Pusey Library, which seemed to dramatically change the shape of the movie. 
Heavyweights Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella were lined up as producers, and speaking with The Los Angeles Times in 2007, Field revealed the story spanned five decades and five cities, recreated in meticulous detail, requiring a massive budget. But despite tentative rumblings of production starting in early 2004, a leadership change in the C-suite led to the studio getting cold feet about the ambitious scope of the project and they killed it, with Steven Spielberg himself delivering the news to Field, who took it well.
“How can you get someone to put $50 million-$80 million on a movie that has no explosions?” Field told The Hollywood Reporter. “I can’t argue with that. It was partly my own naivete saying, I can make whatever I want to make.”
“The Ninth Man”This WWII project is perhaps best known as one of the many movies brought to Steven Spielberg’s desk after his blockbuster smash “Jaws.” Even though Spielberg would eventually scratch his WWII itch with (many) other projects, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown never gave up on this adaption of John Lee’s novel, inspired by true events, about eight Nazi saboteurs who landed by submarine and were captured on Long Island, N.Y. in 1942, with the ninth man managing to escape. Blake Masters (“2 Guns”) and Ross Parker worked on the script at various times, but over 40 years later, this one remains unmade, likely sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere in the DreamWorks offices.
“Little Children” Miniseries VersionBefore it became a celebrated, Oscar-nominated picture, Field had even bigger ambitions for his adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel. But first, the director had to fight to make the adaptation at all.
Originally set up at Paramount, producer Scott Rudin wouldn’t give the director final cut. So the filmmaker’s agent managed to sort out a deal with Rudin and get it in the hands of New Line Cinema. Never one to make things easy for himself, Field originally envisioned “Little Children” as an eight-hour miniseries for HBO, that would allow him to dig further into each character’s backstory.
That approach didn’t track, so he and Perrotta rolled up their sleeves and delivered the movie we know now, likely much to the relief of New Line Cinema.
“Buried”No, this isn’t some early version of the single-location Ryan Reynolds thriller you forgot existed. Instead, it’s a Brad Inglesby (“Mare of Easttown,” “Run All Night”) penned crime drama about a couple who are forced to cope with the fallout of their relationship after they commit a crime. It’s based on an article by Hillel Levin and James Keene (perhaps best known as the duo who wrote the material that inspired the AppleTV+ series “Black Bird”), but as you’ll see in a moment, while this didn’t go forward, it isn’t the only Levin material to catch Field’s eye.
“Blood Meridian”What started as a throwaway mention in The Hollywood Reporter quickly became one of the most speculated about projects in Hollywood for a while, with all kinds of rumors flying around. But I’ll try and stick to a concise version.
Basically, Field was attached to adapt and direct Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” for producer Scott Rudin, but as these things tend to go, it got stuck in development hell. John Hillcoat wanted to direct the project but never officially got involved, and while James Franco, of all people, apparently floated by, he thankfully never got his hands on it. 
Meanwhile, at one point, probably before any of the above happened, Ridley Scott developed a version with a script by Bill Monahan (“The Departed”), but it was apparently a little too much for anyone to take a gamble on.
“[Studios] didn’t want to make it. The book is so uncompromising, which is what’s great about it,” Scott said in 2013.
“It would have been rated double-X,” he continued. “It’s Hieronymus Bosch, the way McCarthy describes the first time you see several hundred horses with bones and feathers on them, and you can’t see a rider until you’re staring at the Comanche. It’s horrific. He writes in visual images which are spectacular, so it suits me down to the ground.”
All this to say, Field was involved and did develop “Blood Meridian” at one time, but it seems unlikely that anyone is gonna crack getting the novel to the big screen anytime soon. 

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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