Monday, June 20, 2016

The Story Behind FLIES - My "Lost" FLY Sequel

Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum in THE FLY (1986).
In response to this article on Geoff Todd's One Perfect Shot blog, I wrote the following reminiscence  for my Facebook page, where it attracted some interest. The article ponders a once-announced, no-show sequel to David Cronenberg's THE FLY, entitled FLIES, that Geena Davis was said to be producing at some point in the 1990s - and what I wrote relates to my own involvement with a proposed sequel that I originated, in late 1986, which was also called FLIES. Knowing that my reminiscence would only scroll away quickly on FB, I thought I should post it here, on the record. Not that it scores me any points in particular, but it does render more accurate a certain chain of events, if anyone cares.

When THE FLY came out to great success in 1986, I approached David Cronenberg to ask if I might submit a storyline for a possible sequel. (I had been writing on-set reports about the making of his films since 1981 and had just spent two weeks on the set of THE FLY for CINEFEX and AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER, so I figured I knew the characters as well as anybody.) David said sure, but that to bear in mind that the inside word was that the studio was looking for a vehicle for Geena Davis - for Jeff Goldblum not so much, though he might consent to a guest appearance to help Geena's career.

I wrote a storyline in which (I'm working from a distant memory here) Geena's character Veronica Quaife, while recovering from the traumatic loss of her lover Seth Brundle, resumed her journalism career and began researching for Stathis Borans a profile of the Bartok Company, who had acquired Brundle's orphaned research and equipment in the wake of his death. She meets with Anton Brink, the head of Bartok (a kind of proto-Apple) and he presents her with items from the company's "new spring line" (VIDEODROME reference) to test drive, including a fancy new computer. Her research continues and, one night, as she hits a wall, lacking certain information, she stares in amazement as the Bartok computer automatically fills in the information she doesn't know. Long story short, the ghost in her machine opens a real-time, intimate dialogue with her and turns out to be Brundle - his "ghost in the machine," as it were. He explains that, when he teleported himself, the telepod received an analog, not his original self, which was destroyed in the first telepod and translated into information stored within the computer - which is what is communicating with her now. Veronica realizes that the system, then, is not just a teleportation unit but a true, instantaneous cloning device and that her beloved COULD live again. Brundle explains that this is true; however, the Bartok Company is holding him hostage in the machine, using his intelligence to direct their future product developments. "Help me, Ronnie..."

That is basically the pitch I made to producer Stuart Cornfeld on a trip to LA. I went in without representation, feeling myself to be among friends. In all fairness, he DID caution me about this - but I didn't know anything about finding an agent. Stuart told me to write up a treatment with my idea and to get it to him ASAP, which I did. The title I gave to my treatment was FLIES, playing off the cloning angle, but also the recent Fox success of ALIENS. I also sent a copy to David, who made me very happy when he told me that he liked my idea better than other proposals run past him, and that he was submitting it, with his personal recommendation, to Fox.

The next thing I heard, from David, was that Stuart didn't consider my treatment "cinematic," but David had argued the point, reminding him that such things were ultimately decided in the filming and editing anyway. He thought I had written the basis of a really SMART movie. (Maybe THAT'S what killed it.) Anyway, the next thing I heard, or read, was that Mick Garris, who had been doing a lot of work with Spielberg, was writing it - and that HIS script had David's approval. Well, that's that, I figured.

I've managed to avoid seeing THE FLY II all these years, but I am aware that the Bartok Company setting and a form of my name for said company's director, Anton Brink (conflating Anton Leader, the director of CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED, with Joseph Losey's original title for THESE ARE THE DAMNED, "The Brink"), somehow ended up in the picture's plasma pool - Anton Brink becoming Anton Bartok - and I am OK with that. Those were just ideas; nobody nicked my story - which I imagine Geena Davis might also have liked. It would have given her a real dramatic performance vehicle, much like the one Jeff Goldblum had, and actresses are always saying that they aren't offered enough of those.

I don't know anyone who was involved in the "gorefest" they made who looks back on it with pleasure. My proposed third act would have also made some commercial concessions to gore. It would have found Brundle infiltrating Bartok's security system to allow Ronnie to get inside the facility to follow his directions and reintegrate him. As she tried to reach the well-protected core of the facility, Brundle literally turned the building's security resources against Bartok's security goons.

Some years later, I read in FANGORIA that Fox (who also produced a movie during this period called GHOST IN THE MACHINE - maybe it was just something in the ether back then) had announced a possible third FLY film, a vehicle just for Geena called FLIES... but since my name has never been mentioned in relation to it, it must have nothing to do with me.

But the above will tell you a bit more about another FLIES that might have been.