Writers of the Lost ‘Ark’

Evan Almighty
Star Steve Carell enjoys an on-set beverage with
two of the writers of Universal’s flop Evan Almighty.

Even as a person of dubious faith, the thing that offended me most about Evan Almighty was the idea that, because of the enormous success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, some cynic actually believed that a veneer of piety applied to a dumb comedy would automatically make it a safe bet on which to spend $200 million. Well it gladdens my black heart to see it’s a relative stiff bringing in less than $63 million after 2 weekends and it’s fading fast.

Proof however that no steaming turd is too small to squabble over in Hollywood, the L.A. Times reports there was a bit of a fight over writing credit on the film (I’m sure this was reported sooner elsewhere, but who am I? Drudge?).

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the story in case you don’t want to click through:

In 1998, Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen were parlaying their partial writing credit on Toy Story into a virtual franchise of mediocrity including such films as Money Talks, Goodbye Lover, Cheaper by the Dozen, Garfield: The Movie and of course Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (Joel Cohen clearly not to be mistaken for Joel Coen, the guy with demonstrable talent). As part of this streak they wrote a script in 1998 about a guy building an ark. Tom Shadyac (it even rhymes with ‘hack’) was to direct but the project was shelved. Hollywood hadn’t gotten religion yet, I guess.

Fast forward a few years. Shadyac’s Bruce Almighty was a box office surprise and Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was a veritable phenomenon. Suddenly, God had an agent in Hollywood and everyone wanted to work with Him. Two unproduced shmoes named Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg wrote another script about a guy building an ark and Sony snapped it up for $1.5 milion-against-$2.5 million. Universal convinced Sony to share the project with them and the stunningly untalented Bruce co-writer Steve Oedekerk (along with Shadyac subject of this amusing Onion A/V article about the 10 directors in Hollywood you didn’t know you hated) was brought in to turn it into Bruce sequel Evan Almighty. Originally, Oedekerk was given sole credit (I think Universal was doing the other four a massive favor, but they didn’t know it).

Believing their original script was sufficiently similar to what became Evan Almighty, Cohen and Sokolow submitted their script to Writers’ Guild arbitration and ultimately all five writers were given story credits with Oedekerk keeping the sole screenplay credit. Florsheim and Stolberg, not satisfied with the less lucrative story credit, appealed the decision themselves with the ironic result that they lost their story credit altogether. They got nothing. Though they don’t appear in the credits at all, I’m sure the soft pillow of money they made from the original sale of their screenplay helps them sleep at night. Hopefully they have some cash left over to fill the gaping voids in their souls left by involvement in this project.

Anyway, I admit this is kind of a non-story, but somehow I find it all kind of funny. I assume all this fighting went on before the movie was actually revealed to be the piece of crap it really is, otherwise I’d think people would be fighting to have their names taken off the picture instead. That’s the ultimate irony to me: so many people responsible for so much garbage fighting over what amounts to absolutely nothing.

On a related note, someone at Universal is going to get fired over this whole Evan thing, right? I mean, this seemed to be the studio’s big hope for summer. This was their Transformers. This was their Pirates of the Caribbean. This was their Spider-Man 3. This was the basket holding all their eggs. Sad.

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One thought on “Writers of the Lost ‘Ark’

  1. I hope that if there is a God, Heaven, and Hell, and Dante had it right, there is a special sub-circle reserved for all the shameless a-holes like Shaydac, Oedekirk, Cohen, et al.

    Mel Gibson will just spend a century or two in Purgatory for making a mediocre moving about torturing Jesus because I think he honestly believes in what he’s doing, as misguided as he may be.

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