2004 was a strange year for comic book movies. Wesley Snipes sleepwalked his way through the disappointing Blade Trinity, Thomas Jane brought us a toned-down version of The Punisher, and Halle Berry earned a Razzie for Catwoman. None are remembered particularly fondly, and yet, as ill-conceived as these efforts were, things could have been worse. Much worse.
That same year, Warner Bros. hit upon the idea of bringing DC Comics favourite Green Lantern to the big screen – but they didn’t have Ryan Reynolds in mind for the role back then. At this point, the studio was eager to explore the idea of creating a very different Green Lantern movie with a very different actor in the lead role: Jack Black.
Black’s stock was at an all-time high in Hollywood following the success of 2003’s School of Rock, and the studio evidently thought he could bring something a little different to the role, after seeing super-serious versions of Hulk and Daredevil disappoint. A writer was hired and a script was eventually completed, and while the film never ended up being made, it remains a fascinating chapter in the history of the DC Comics character. Here are 18 Things You Never Knew About Jack Black’s Failed Green Lantern Movie.
18 The Script Was Written By The Creator Of Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog
Robert Smigel made his name writing sketches on Saturday Night Live and, later, The Conan O’Brien Show. But he's probably most famous for creating Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog - a foul-mouthed puppet known for mercilessly mocking celebrities in the style of a Borscht Belt comedian. In 2004, Warner Bros. hired Smigel to write a script for a Green Lantern comedy movie, specifically with Jack Black in the role of the central protagonist – there was just one problem.
"He wasn’t attached at all," Smigel told Vanity Fair years later. "I know him—he’s done a few of my autism benefits—so I asked him if he was interested, and he actually said that he wasn’t. He wasn’t really interested in doing any type of superhero thing." Black eventually changed his mind after reading the script.
17 There Was An Immediate Online Backlash Against The Film
When fans eventually got wind of the project, the response was pretty negative. Most were simply unhappy with the fact that Green Lantern was getting made into a comedy rather than a straight-up action adventure. After all, other comic book characters, like Daredevil, hadn’t had to undergo this kind of shift, so why Green Lantern?
The prospect of Black – a divisive presence among audiences at the best of times – in the lead role hardly helped, and it meant the project generated little in the way of buzz from the off. Smigel, to his credit, understood these objections at the time, but was simply doing a job he was paid to do.
"I wouldn’t just feel screwed," he told Vanity Fair. "I would also see it as a personal affront that the superhero that I’ve been worshipping is looked at as a joke." When the first draft of Smigel’s script was eventually leaked online years later, fans felt vindicated in voicing their objections to the plans. It is only the first draft, though.
16 Green Lantern = Jud Plato, Reality TV star
Rather than take on the mantle of Hal Jordan or any of the other Green Lanterns, Smigel’s script created an all-new ring-bearer in Jud Plato, a gross-out reality television star in the universe of the film. Jud is a contestant on the extreme eating series, The Dare Diner, and is first introduced to viewers while attempting to consume the head and carcass of a coyote. With reality TV proving particularly popular around the early 2000s, the script served as a takedown on these so called "talents."
In the script, Abin Sur’s ring malfunctions and overlooks a legless climber and female missionary in favor of Jud, who is midway through eating the nose and brain of a coyote in a feat that prompts the show’s presenter to declare "This man is incredible!" Later in the script, Jud is shown eating an entire snake from the tail up.
15 This Green Lantern Was Completely Talentless
One of the central conceits of Smigel’s script was that this Green Lantern didn’t really know how to use the ring properly, prompting a number of unusual constructs which provided numerous comedic opportunities for the writer. Smigel was eager to focus on the fact that Jud was a very ordinary guy, with no discernible talent - hence his reality TV status - which resulted in his goofy approach to saving the day with the Green Lantern’s signature constructs.
"What appealed to me about it on a comedic level was that, in order to be a superhero, this requires no physical skill or talent," he told Vanity Fair. "All it requires is owning this ring. Automatically, that's a comedic premise."
Interestingly, though Ryan Reynolds’ incarnation of the character was markedly different, some of this goofiness in his approach to creating constructs remained.
14 It’s An Adaptation of An Actual Green Lantern Comic
The script is supposedly a loose adaptation of Emerald Dawn, the Green Lantern miniseries that explored Hal Jordan’s origins as the titular hero and eventually saw him go up against Legion. Though Reynolds’ version of the character was more faithful to the Hal Jordan backstory, chronicling his father’s death and Hal’s own struggles as a pilot, that movie jettisoned the comic’s latter half and villain.
Smigel’s script took a different approach entirely, starting out in markedly different territory with Jud’s Green Lantern origins before eventually moving towards a plot and threat more in line with the comics. The script also deviated away from Emerald Dawn in having Sinestro serve as one of the film’s villains, rather than Legion alone. Interestingly, Reynolds’ version teased a potential sequel with Mark Strong’s Sinestro as the primary antagonist.
13 It Takes A Meta Approach To Superheroes
One of the most unique elements of this adaptation was the decision to base it in a universe where the Green Lantern comics exist alongside all the other major DC and Marvel Comics superheroes. This meant that Jud was able to call on his best friend and comic book enthusiast Seth in learning how to use the Green Lantern’s ring. Seth ends up serving as a stand-in sidekick and guide while Jud gets to grips with his new powers.
The setup is also mined for comedy, with Jud regularly quoting other superheroes by mistake – he tries to adopt "With great power comes great responsibility" and "It's clobberin' time" as his mottos – while a running joke sees Green Lantern regularly described by other characters as "like the 8th most popular superhero." When the first draft of Smigel’s script found its way online, these sections garnered the most criticism from fans.
12 Britney Spears and Flavor Flav May Have Cameoed
Jud’s Green Lantern had a penchant for creating pop culture influenced constructs, especially in the first half of the Smigel script. In one instance, he conjures up a green-tinged version of The Beatles, original line-up complete, to perform a concert for him during his training with the Green Lantern Corps. Jud later magics up several sets of Sharon Stone’s legs from Basic Instinct to fire at Kilowog.
Yet arguably the most memorable of these constructs comes when Jud is asked by best pal Seth to conjure up a construct he is "intimately familiar with." Jud creates a green-tinged Britney Spears, in a short skirt, as part of a scene that could have called for a cameo. Rapper Flavour Flav also appears - he was riding high off the back of the reality series Flavor of Love at the time - in two brief cameos in which Sinestro cites him as an example of the dire state of humanity.
11 The Studio Suggested Removing Green Lantern
After completing work on his first attempt at a Green Lantern script, Smigel was sent a series of notes by the studio on how best to improve on his efforts so far. He went away and continued to polish the script, but as time went on, he began to suspect that his work would never see the light of day. The most telling moment came with one rather odd suggestion.
"They were already asking me, ‘What if it’s not Green Lantern? What if it’s very similar, but you change it and make it a fictional superhero so we can make that a straight comedy?’" Smigel told Vanity Fair. The writer argued that, in doing so, much of the humor of his take on an existing comic book character would be lost. Though he didn’t ultimately make the change, the incident served as an indication that Warner Bros. was getting cold feet about the comedic approach.
10 There Was A Muppets-Style Musical Number
Arguably the most vivid and intriguing idea to come from Smigel’s script concerned plans for a full-blown musical number, which would have not only enlivened proceedings, but also served as a rather handy exposition device. After several days of using and abusing the power of his ring, Jud finds himself summoned by the Green Lantern Corps, who are keen for Jud to learn more about their role in the universe and that whole "brightest day or blackest night" shtick.
The Corps sets about teaching him everything he needs to know about their way of life. The problem is that, while Jud is a willing student, he struggles to concentrate through the long lectures and texts created to explain it all. In the end, Toma-Re and the other Green Lanterns summon up a group of Muppets-style characters to explain the Lanterns and their relationship with the Tchk-Tchkii, with Jud responding positively as a result.
9 The Script Called For A Giant Condom
With big and noticeably dumb constructs being the order of the day for this comedic rendition of Green Lantern, it made sense that a few sex jokes would be thrown in for good measure. At one point early in the film, Jud uses his GL powers to woo love interest and co-worker Corrine by using the ring to essentially enlarge his junk.
It doesn’t seem to have any effect on her, but serves as the first major inclination that the movie was intended as an R-rated comedy. This status is cemented later during Jud’s first confrontation with a group of criminals as the Green Lantern. Having encountered the looters on the freeway, he begins by scooping them up with a giant green-tinged dustpan and brush construct. Struggling to find something to detain them in, though, he ends up generating a giant condom out of thin air, which rolls down on to the criminals, trapping them inside and prompting confused looks from the watching public.
8 Jud Nearly Kills Someone To Impress A Woman
After initially using the ring in secret to score brownie points with the movie's main love interest, his co-worker Corrine, Jud ditches that approach to do something decidedly more heroic. Spotting a nearby window cleaner while at work, Jud transforms into the Green Lantern, becoming invisible, before sneakily pushing the Hispanic window cleaner off the building he is working on. He then quickly reappears and flies in to save the day.
The only problem is that Corrine misses the entire thing, with Jud forced to land with the man outside his office, so she sees. Finally impressed with him, Jud invites Corrine to fly with him and the window cleaner to the hospital, despite the latter’s protestations. Once there, the window cleaner quickly runs off, as he doesn’t have insurance, while Jud scores a date.
7 Sinestro Served As A Comment On George W. Bush’s America
Legion served as the primary villain in this version of the Green Lantern movie, with Smigel largely staying faithful to Emerald Dawn”in which the insect-like race of the planet Tchk-Tchkii, who combine to create the yellow form of Legion try to destroy the Green Lantern Corps.
However, GL Corps member Sinestro quickly emerges as the film's other notable antagonist. As the script progresses, it becomes clear that Sinestro has been operating with an iron fist as a member of the Corps, policing the universe through a mixture of force, surveillance and intimidation.
According to Smigel, this was done in part as a comment on the American response to world events at the time. "This was at the time of all of the controversy of the Patriot Act and the way we were responding to terrorism in the mid-zeros," he told Vanity Fair.
6 Jack Black Would Have Sung A Green Lantern Theme Song
In a move that probably represents everything Green Lantern fans feared most when they first heard Jack Black was to star in this comedic big screen adaptation, the script does eventually call for the actor's signature singing skills. Jud spontaneously breaks into song on several occasions, in sequences clearly included with Black in mind. Perhaps the most notable instance of this comes early in the script when Jud, having just discovered he is the Green Lantern, begins singing his own improvised theme song.
Jud sings: "Green Laaaan-tern! He’s the Green Lan-tern! He’s a Lantern that’s Green! He makes things that –" before being thankfully cut off by Seth. Black may be a talented comedian and singer in the eyes of millions, but this just sounds like it had the potential to be very annoying.
5 This Version Of Green Lantern Wore A Fanny Pack
As a comic book character, the Green Lantern is characterized by a strong sense of determination. He can be a bit of a joker, sure, but he always carries the potential to be a great man and hero of the people. That’s part of what made the idea of Jack Black playing the part so difficult for some fans, and those that saw the script leaked online were hardly reassured.
This Green Lantern is a slacker and a bit of a schmuck to boot. An early case in point comes when Jud meets up with Seth and arrives in his Lantern attire, except with one notable addition: a fanny pack. The script details this "fanny pack-like belt" as carrying a wallet, cell phone, a tin of Pringles, and some sun block. When the first draft script turned up on Reddit, this particular addition was the first major point of concern. It’s not difficult to see why.
4 This Green Lantern Shared One Similarity With The Ryan Reynolds One
In one of the few similarities between Smigel’s scrapped Green Lantern script and the resulting 2011 movie directed by Martin Campbell - the latter of which was based on a script put together by four different writers - concerned the role of race cars in one construct.
In Campbell’s movie, Reynold’s Hal Jordan saves a helicopter full of people from colliding with guests at a party by turning the fast-moving wreckage into a race car, which is then placed on a Hot Wheels-style track and steered towards safety. While slightly different, the Smigel script saw Hal save himself and Seth from a great fall by having them land on a giant race car-shaped bed similar to the one that featured on Friends. It’s not exactly the same, but the eerie similarities between the two constructs remain.
3 Earth Came Under Threat From A Giant Pikachu
After defeating and apprehending Sinestro, who is attempting to force the people of Earth to adhere to his strict rules for civilization in the galaxy, Jud must contend with Legion and a last-gasp attempt at destroying the Green Lantern Corps members that have assembled on Earth.
But rather than have the collective force of Legion arrive on the scene, Smigel’s script saw the Green Lantern having to contend with a very different kind of yellow threat: a giant asteroid in the shape of Pokemon character, Pikachu. Though Jud is immediately aware of the impending threat, the script saw news of Pikachu’s imminent arrival greeted with a wild abandon by kids and parents in the US and Japan. Another amusing and creative idea, the sequence also shares similarities with the final confrontation from The Ghostbusters, in which Dan Aykroyd’s Ray accidentally summons the the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
2 It Borrowed Its Ending From Superman
Superman features in several points in Smigel’s script. In one instance, Jud’s best friend Seth keeps Kilowog entertained by showing him Superman Returns – a film that prompts hysterical laughter from the Green Lantern Corps member. Jud also conjures up Superman as a construct on several occasions, when struggling to rectify problems. The most notable of these comes as the Pikachu-shaped yellow asteroid heads for Earth.
Despite several warnings from others, Jud decides that the simplest way to ensure the asteroid doesn’t hit Earth is to move the planet out of the way. This prompts a string of natural disasters all over the planet. Thankfully, Jud remembers the plot of Richard Donner’s Superman and simply conjures up his green-tinged Superman to fly around the world backwards. reversing time – as Christopher Reeve did in the original movie.
1 Jack Black Produced A Shortlist Of Directors … And Then The Project Died
Though Black initially told Smigel he wasn’t interested in doing a superhero movie, that stance quickly changed after he read his script – a version that may have been markedly different to the draft leaked online. Black and Smigel met with the studio and the actor submitted a shortlist of possible directors who could work on the project. Those names remain unknown, but Black has spoken openly about why that was as far as the film went.
"There was a really funny script, an awesome script that I wanted to do," he told Yahoo, years later. "But they didn’t want to pull the trigger. They were making zillions of dollars with all their other superhero movies — they didn’t want to mess with that formula."
Would a humorous take on Green Lantern have worked better than the version that got made? Have your say in the comments.