Babylon 5: The Memory of the Shadows is dead

Babylon5Logo.jpgThe casting controversy that arose around the movie Babylon 5: The Memory of Shadows can now be put to bed. Why? Well that’s what they’re doing with the movie, or rather that’s what J. Michael Straczynski is doing with the movie.

Posting to a moderated newsgroup, which is also archived on the site JMS News, the man himself updates on what happened. Thanks to a fan on aMovie List foum, here’s a few snippets.

A little over a year ago, I was approached by a company that wanted to make a Babylon 5 movie. They optioned the rights, and commissioned a script. (It’s worth mentioning that I, not WB, own the rights to a B5 movie. When we were negotiating the original B5 deal — by whose terms I will never see a dime in profit — the one thing they did let me have were the movie rights, figuring they’d never be worth anything in the long run.)

Before we even get to the news that’s really interesting, and a thread that comes through the whole post and idea of Babylon 5, that is of the focus on the story and the audience. Not on an episodic formula, but that of an operatic storyline stretching across series underpinned by a huge volume of work on history and background. That made Babylon 5 so great and what inspired the Star Trek series of the time to seek out these writers and adopt their ideas. It’s also why there is such an unease about other actors taking the place of major roles, because continuity is so important here.

…the script for “The Memory of Shadows” was turned in, and the process began of trying to make the deal work with all the various forces involved. It is, to say the
least, a very difficult process on any movie where the studio does not directly take the financial reins. In terms of B5, Warner’s position was esssentially, “We only do big-budget movies with big names, so you’re on your own.” If there were big-name movie actors in the film, they’d get behind it; without that, things become very problematic, especially as far as the financing was concerned. You much have to put together a consortium of international interests and business plans rivaled in complexity only by the Allied invasion of Normandy Beach.

Typical Studio, although I am surprised that the potential of Babylon 5 wasn’t realised by this point. Look at the series, it ran to completion and that was with the death knoll being sounded at almost every series end. Yet the people behind the scenes and the fans fought to keep it going, something that Enterprise is even finding hard to do.

This was not being done by Doug or myself, but rather by the company/individuals who approached us and optioned the rights.

Fought and struggled hard they did though, sounds like the company behind the scenes really did want this project made.

…it seemed we were inches away from a deal…stages were reserved at Elstree, actors were contacted, a director was in place, the script went through many revisions, a few key staff were hired, again not by me…it was really a year-long roller coaster ride…

It again shows how much JMS loves the Babylon 5 universe and storyline, when the options ran out during development?

The option expired in late December 2004, but I renewed it without cost, to give those involved more time to try and make things work.

However it was not to be.

In the end, however, the deal could not be put together, and it did not look as if that was going to change at any point in the foreseeable future. So the option has reverted, and to all intents and purposes, the project has dead ended. Nor do I think this particular incarnation will arise again at any point in the future

The closing paragraph is the best though, and just shows how much he would like to see a good movie made.

Eventually it will happen, because such things are simply inevitable. If they can do a Brady Bunch movie, you can be sure that sooner or later, somebody’s going to do a B5 movie. The only thing I can say without equivocation is that when that day comes, as the rights-holder, I will make darned sure that it’s done right, because I’d rather have no B5 movie than one that doesn’t live up to what fans and I myself would want to see.

With so much rubbish being made, surely they could bring a decent Babylon 5 movie to life, it’s got to have a better shot than some of the videogame adaptations, and some of the remakes in production.

However it’s a shame this one fell through, and I too hope that a movie comes out of this universe sometime, and that JMS is still in fighting spirit to make sure it’s done right. In a sea of films made to idle and fluid standards, it’s a refreshing change to hear someone sticking to their beliefs and even foregoing money to do so.

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