Hanks for Parks X-Ray movie?


Comics to film seem to be the flavour of the moment, but despite what it looks like, not every idea gets greenlit. I had a chat to Sam F. Park, one of the writers of the promising script for “X-Ray” [as well as “Magnus “ Robot Fighter” film that never eventuated] about the trials and tribulations of his getting his genuinely intriguing superhero movie off the ground.

“That [X-Ray] is the current script that I’m about to go out with (story by myself and Peter Lenkov of “Demolition Man” fame). Note that former comic book artist and special effects designer Kerry Gammill did the. X-Ray is my valentine to all the comic books and their four-color adventures that I grew up reading. If the movie “Spider-Man” was a respectful treatment of the comic book and a throw-back to a Jimmy Stewart-sort of goodguy/superhero with webshooters instead of six-guns, “X-Ray” is a young Tom Hanks turned radioactive mutant superhero. He’s a comic book sort of wise-cracking character with a sort of “Outer Limits” strangeness to him. In today’s weird world of nukes and warfare he fulfills the classic desires of the superhero mythology: you wish like hell he really was walking the planet dealing with atomic messes.

And talk about high concept! Every kid in the world can hear the name, X-Ray and know exactly what he looks likes and understand that his powers concern using radiation. Hell, I loved writing this script and I finished it before SPIDER-MAN came out. I waited to release it in the wake of this crazy superhero summer. This is one for the true comic book fans but it’s also an original character created especially for the movies. All the good stuff you love about comic book perheroes is in there smothered with a large entertainment factor .I’m shooting for Stan Lee snappy patter and heart with Jack Kirby action and drama on this project”, explains Park.

So Tom Hanks is the No.1 choice for the lead role then? “I always wrote it as if for an 80s version of a younger Tom Hanks. Not sure exactly who I’d go with today but he’d need to have a dark-haired surfer boy look yet able to do light comedy. Sean William Scott maybe? Tom Welling looks exactly what I’d go for but of course, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But you get the idea. If Ashton Kutcher parted his hair on the side and combed it back and cut it off the ears (beach boy shaggy is fine), he’d do. Could be a way for him to change his image and move him into an action franchise. I’ve seen some of these soap opera actors that were up for “Superman”. Some of them would be perfect”.

Which begs the question why not Colin Hanks? “If Colin Hanks bulked up surfer boy trim he’d be a good choice. Ray Sheppard (X-Ray) is into surfing in the story – no surfing is shone but it helps explain his sturdy build”.

Some may recall Park – and writer Clay McBride – was close to getting a “Magnus: Robot Fighter” film off the ground about a decade ago – at one stage with Richard Donner [Superman”] attached. It’s still something he’d like to do.

“We went into Donner back then – early 90s – and itched “Magnus” with all the material along with color laser scans of those beautiful painted covers, there was no Valiant company at the time. Scott Nimerfro – one of his top development execs at the time – LOVED it. Scott, a true comics fan, was instrumental in getting Donner interested in X-Men. We were set to come in and pitch directly to dnner when Warner Brothers panicked over Radio Flyer and Donner was thrown in to take over the project. This ended any pitching to Donner for over a year and by then he and his wife were on to other things.

“Next up we spoke with Dan Mazur (I think that was the name) at Larry Gordon. He LOVED it. He showed to everyone in the company and it went straight up the line to Larry Gordon. But a couple of days earlier Larry Gordon had just paid a million dollars (which was a record at the time) for “The Ticking Man”, a spec script about a human-looking android with an atomic bomb in it) and had Bruce Willis attached (this eventually fell apart and no movie was ever made). Larry saw our work and the art reproductions and told Dan, "THIS (Magnus)…is a Larry Gordon film. But we’ve got too many androids running around here." So, once again we were cut off at the knees by some other event even though everyone in the company loved the work.

“Later we showed it to an exec at Silver and again we went up the chain of command. This time it was cut off by a senior VP right under Silver who just couldn’t get past the "Robot Fighter" part (obviously he wasn’t a comic fan). But that wasn’t the end at Silver. A couple of years later I was working out in gym and a guy got to talking with me about my Rocketeer t-shirt. He knew his comics and he recognized that I did to. Eventually we exchanged that I was a writer and he worked for Silver. I told him that once I pitched a comic book project at Silver called MAGNUS. The guy’s face drops. He shouts, "I’ve got that damn treatment and your art and conceptual work in the top drawer of my desk! That’s the best damn comic book to film treatment I have ever read!" Well, this leads to another series of meetings but despite the fact everyone at Silver loved it, that same ol’ VP shut it down again!). Sigh. Clay and I knew we had this terrific story based upon a largely unknown comic book character that we had crafted a crackerjack set of material on to sell it and yet, we couldn’t get past these bizarre happenings at the top of management (or like in Gordon’s case, it was a day late).

Park says he still hopes to make it – with interest hopefully just around the corner. “This is an interesting story concerning an important character (if minor among superhero comics history) that has a great many fans among some of the top comic creators in the industry – not to mention George Lucas.”

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