After my riff on the Get Smart movie went up earlier today, I received three interesting e-mails. One containing a draft of the Get Smart movie script (dated 3.30.06, by Tom Astle and Matt Ember), a second pointing me to a Get Smart TV series fan site that has posted a fairly negative, very detailed review of Astle and Ember’s script, and a third from a guy in the business who asked to be referred to as “Agent Orange.” I know him — he’s for real.
“Agent Orange” doesn’t like the script any more than the fan site guy does, but that’s neither here nor there. The film could pan out and by funny and make money; you never know with these things. The interesting part is that AO is claiming that Warner Bros. is trying to keep the original series’ creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry “from being paid [the] huge sums they’re entitled to.”
I don’t know the details and I haven’t made any calls yet. For all I know Brooks and/or Henry are getting paid a modest amount but not, in their view, enough. Or they’re getting royally shafted. Or their compensation is being chipped away at. I know nothing. I do know, however, that “Agent Orange” has certain relationships and is in a position to know what’s up.
“Your piece on the new Get Smart film hit the nail perfectly on the head,” he began. “The script, from the morons who wrote Failure To Launch, has been long considered to be eye-rollingly bad and was only given the go ahead because of Steve Carrel’s current ‘heat,’ as well as his limited windows of availability due to his series and other movie commitments.
“The greenlight notion was, let the star and the title speak for itself and ‘let ‘er rip.’ But this material makes Steve Martin‘s Pink Panther seem like genius.
“What’s most egregious is the apparent disregard the producers and studio have for the original creators of the show. Mel Brooks said in an interview that it would be best to leave Get Smart alone, but if it is to be redone, he offered to give input because he liked Steve Carrell and thinks he’s ‘talented.’
“Brooks postulated that a modernized Smart should deal with current events, just liked the original show lampooned the Cold War, and should riff on Iraq, Condi Rice and finding Osama bin Laden. Instead, this Get Smart is a dumbed down redo of the plot of Rowan Atkinson‘s Johnny English. So much so, that it’s already been nicknamed Johnny American.
“There’s also a lame attempt to address the age gap between Carell and Anne Hathaway, saying that she had plastic surgery to hide her identity. Still, the photo you’ve shown looked like The Forty Year Old Agent posing alongside Little Miss Sunshine. In this version, Maxwell Smart will try to legally adopt 99.
“The worst part of all this is that Warner Brothers is trying to deny Brooks and Buck Henry their sizable royalties for this production by claiming that they didn’t actually create the original show. The legal department postulates that since the original idea to spoof James Bond back in the ’60s came from a production company, Brooks and Henry were ‘work for hire’ as opposed to incepting the idea.
“They’ve taken depositions and are combing through paperwork as they endeavor to prove their contention and cheat these two comic legends out of the huge sums they’re entitled to.”
Thursday morning update: After this item went up late yesterday afternoon, I heard from another admirer of the original Get Smart TV series who has ties to Leonard Stern, one of the surviving owners of Talent Associates, the production company that brought together co-creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and produced Smart in the mid ’60s.
“I wanted to drop you a note and confirm the story about how Warner Brothers is trying to screw Brooks and Henry out of their credit as creators of the show,” his letter began. “I have spoken to Leonard Stern about this and [he confirms] it is true.
“WB attorneys have taken depositions to attempt to prove that Talent Associates came up with the concept, characters, and details of Get Smart and that Brooks and Henry merely served as writers for hire. They have a memo from Talent Associates that gives the show bible and they are trying to use that as proof. Unfortunately, the memo is dated a year after Get Smart aired. Not letting that fact stop them, WB is claiming that it was a misdated memo.
“Both Stern and Daniel Melnick, the surviving owners of Talent Associates, deny the studio’s claim, but the suit is still moving forward,” he says. “This is all part of the reason why no one is consulting with the original series’ creative team.”
The Get Smart film is being produced by Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar and Mosaic Media Group’s Charles Roven and Alex Gartner. The Stern ally claims that Mosaic, the talent management firm founded by Eric Gold and Jimmy Miller that reps Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell and the Wayans brothers, is the force or impetus behind the lawsuit, and “not executive producers like Carell.”