Some disappointing news for you fans of films adapted from off-Broadway musicals based on supermarket tabloid headlines. It appears that director John Landis’s big screen adaptation of Bat Boy: The Musical that has been languishing in development may not be escaping into active production any time soon, if ever.
Speaking briefly with Landis after his press conference at the New York Film Festival yesterday for his new documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, we asked him what was happening with the film.
“Bat Boy’s a tragedy,” he replied, shaking his head. “I don’t think anyone will give us the money. I’ve been trying.”
Bat Boy first appeared on the cover of the Weekly World News in 1992, where his freakish features made that issue one of the highest selling issues in the tabloids history. Other stories about the half-man, half-bat creature soon followed. Soon Bat Boy had become such the cultural icon that Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe collaborated on bringing the character to the stage in a production that debuted appropriately enough on Halloween, 1997.
Although Landis’ more recent work has not fared well at the box office, I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised that he has been having difficulties securing financing for the film. His films Animal House (1978), The Blues Brothers (1980), An American Werewolf In London (1981), Trading Places (1983) and Coming To America (1988) are all still popular today. Batboy seems like a project that would be uniquely suited to the director’s strengths and experiences. He has shown he can handle horror-tinged comedy with An American Werewolf In London, while The Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000 (story problems notwithstanding) show that he is no stranger to staging cinematic musical numbers. His collaboration with Michael Jackson for the music video cum short film Thriller came at what was arguably the height of his career and helped put a stamp of legitimacy on what was being considered at the time as a fairly disposable pop medium.