By Mike Myers, Jack Handy and Michael McCullers
Mike Myers has always been a hit or miss comic for me. His work, both during his tenure on Saturday Night Live or in his various film projects, have been either perfectly funny or dreadful and gratingly over the top. (And in the case of the Austin Powers films both perfect and annoying with the first being masterful while the sequels remain uninspired rehashes.) So it seems like a particularly cruel joke that the funniest script that Myers ever wrote would go unproduced.
But before we get into the particulars of the script, let’s review the events that have lead to this project being shelved . . .
Following the success of the first Austin Powers film, Imagine Entertainment made a deal with Myers to develop a movie based on his Saturday Night Live character German talk show host Dieter. According to an April 1998 Variety article, Meyers was to have been paid the greater of $10 million or 10% of the box office gross in addition to a further, undisclosed fee to write the film. Imagine’s Brian Glazer was attached to the project as Producer.
By mid-August 1999, Universal and Imagine issued a press release stating that Myers had officially signed to do the film, referred to as “Dieter Project”, and one other project for $20 million each. The following May, Universal greenlit the film and announced that the cast will include Will Farrell as Dieter’s American cousin, Bob, and Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. Another announcement at the end of the month stated that Jack Black had been added to the cast. A rumor also had begun to circulate that Canadian pop band Barenaked Ladies were approached to write the film’s theme song.
Then, just as the production was gearing up for a Summer 2000 shoot, things began to fall apart. On May 30th, Meyers walked off the project claiming that the script needed to be rewritten. A week later, on June 7th, Universal filed a multi-million dollar suit against Myers claiming breach of contract. Meyers countered with a suit against Universal for fraud stating that his contract allowed him complete creative control over the script.
As the accusations continued to fly, Universal shut down the film’s pre-production unit and laid off all 25 crew members on June 16th. In a statement Universal chairman Stacy Snider was quoted saying, “While we are extremely disappointed that we are not able to make this film, we are particularly anguished when considering all the talented individuals who came on board based on Mike Myers’ commitment to this project and as a result, gave up other opportunities in order to do this film.”
On July 7th, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Imagine Entertainment had also filed suit against Meyers, this time to the tune of $30 million plus punitive damages. Meyers’ camp again responded with a countersuit.
In mid-August, the dust finally cleared with the announcement that a settlement had been reached. While most details went undisclosed, Meyers committed to writing his next original character based comedy as a co-production for DreamWorks and Universal with Imagine Entertainment producing. That project has yet to be announced.
But when the smoke cleared, dieter was dead and the question remained was the script so bad that it warranted all the aggravation and legal trouble?
Honestly, I’d have to say no.
The undated, 116 page draft that I’ve read is perhaps the funniest piece of writing Meyers has produced (along with co-writers Jack Handy and Michael McCullers) barring the script for the first Austin Powers movie. At times, dark, surreal and inspired, this script would have led to a film that could have been funnier on more levels than more straight forward fare like Wayne’s World or the dreadful So I Married An Ax Murderer. It certainly stands light years ahead of other Saturday Night Live spin-off films like Superstar, A Night At The Roxbury, It’s Pat, and Stewart Saves his Family.
Dieter (Mike Myers) is the host of a stark, expressionist German talk show called Sprockets. The show is the second most successful show in Germany, right after Baywatch. In an effort to boost ratings, Dieter’s boss suggests giving more airtime to his sidekick, the monkey Klaus. Dieter reluctantly agrees but when it looks like Sprockets is about to triumph in its ratings war, Klaus disappears. Dieter soon discovers that his simian friend has been kidnapped and follows the trail to Los Angeles.
While it doesn’t take a genius to see who Myers is sitting up as the evil mastermind of the film, the script plays with the concept, even dragging out the old evil twin cliché that works within the confines of the film’s skewed world.
Still, a primary concern for all involved had to have been would parody of such art house fare as the films of Fassbinder and Herzog play well in middle America? Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered if subtle pokes at Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire went right over the average mall cineplex patron or not. The fish-out-of-water humor of Dieter at-first aghast with and then trying to adapt to American culture would have carried the movie for the average viewer.