Ken Russell projects
Possible and impossible projects
A Burnt-Out Case
Graham Greene´s novel of the leper colony. When Russell was interviewed by Huw Wheldon at the start of his career, his first suggestion for a documentary was "a film on Albert Schweitzer playing Bach to lepers in the jungle".
A novel by Virginia Woolf. It was later filmed in 1997 with Vanessa Redgrave and directed by Marleen Gorris.
A Handful of Dust
The novel by Evelyn Waugh. It was filmed by Charles Sturridge, one of the directors alongside Russell of Aria, in 1988.
The House of Mirth
Edith Wharton´s novel has been filmed many times, the latest with Gillian Anderson in 2000 directed by Terence Davies.
A novella by D.H. Lawrence. A woman in a failed marriage encounters the horse, St Mawr. Ken has filmed two Lawrence films (Women in Love and The Rainbow) and one television adaptation (Lady Chatterley's Lover).
Gargantua by Rabelais. Ken calls it "the man with the biggest prick in the world". There are a number of films called Gargantua, most seem to involve giant lizards, none is related to Rabelais' book.
King of the Crocodiles
The third part of Clouds of Glory, never made, concentrating on Lake District poet Southey. The parts which were filmed were on Wordsworth (Clouds of Glory) and Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner).
Stories of Isaac Babel
Stories about the Jews of Odessa by the Russian writer who was tortured and executed in 1940.
The Living End
American comic writer Stan Elkin. A shopkeeper is killed in a robbery and ends up in hell because he opened his shop on Sunday. A wordy novel, with long monologues and characters either in Hell, or buried and unable to move. Difficult to visualise on film, so a filmscript would be especially interesting. The paperback version of the novel from 1977 has the label "soon to be filmed by Ken Russell".
Given a choice between The Rose, based on the life of Janis Joplin, and Valentino, Russell says "I foolishly chose Valentino". The Rose with Betty Midler and Alan Bates was directed by Mark Rydell in 1979.
The Revenge of the White Worm
Ken Hanke says "there was talk of a sequel [to Lair] Revenge of the White Worm, but the idea largely collapsed with Vestron [the film company which went bankrupt]". Some parts of the script took place in Buckingham Palace involving Prince Charles.
A script by Ken Russell´s friend Barry Sandler, it was finally filmed by tv director Anson Williams and starring Christopher Walken (info from Ken Hanke´s White Haired Filmmaker article). Barry Sandler also wrote Crimes of Passion.
How the West was Lost
A western with script by Ken Russell.
The Australian composer. Percy Grainger was a character in the Delius film Song of Summer.
Mike and Gaby´s Space Gospel
The bible as science fiction. Russell converted his script into a novel.
Casanova Part 2
Casanova 2 with Richard Chamberlain (who played Tchaikovsky in The Music
Lovers), Faye Dunaway, Sylvia Kristel, Ornella Muti and Hanna Schygulla
Shrine/ The Dark
In Ingrid Pitt´s
interview for Shivers, Russell says "James Herbert [horror writer] gave me
two of his books. One was called Shrine. It was about this girl who
becomes a kind of second-hand Virgin Mary and there were things in the book that
I thought were terribly good...but I think it had something like 2000 people at
J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan.
Beneath the Underdog
Russell had long wanted to film jazz musician Charles Mingus´ autobiography Beneath the Underdog.
"The book is also written in faux-difficult stream of consciousness
– many chapters consist of only dialogue between Mingus and musicians,
Mingus and pimps, Mingus and psychiatrists or Mingus and women. Who are
almost constantly referred to as “bitches”. …
The Temperance Seven
Russell suggested the British jazz group The Temperance Seven to Huw Wheldon as a subject for a Monitor short- Wheldon rejected the ideas as too low-brow. They were a 1960s London band performing easy listening Jazz and comedy. Unfortunately for them they were around when The Beatles emerged and changed music.Venus in Furs
The novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (from where the word masochist comes). Polanski would film it decades later in 2013.
Nikola Tesla is now virtually unknown but he was regarded as the greatest inventor of his
time. The film would deal with aspects of his private life based on his
correspondence with close friends, Robert Johnson, poet and editor, and his wife
Katharine, in New York during 1890s. This is a story of complex and delicate
triangular relationship, and Tesla and Katharine's love. The screenplay
is by Ljiljana Kojic-Bogdanovich and Katarina Bogdanovich. Music is by
Michael Nyman. Russell renamed it Charged. 2004-2005.
"They also had a couple of projects they were interested in. One was a William Faulkner story about a rather twee girl who goes off with pixies. Paul McCartney was going to write the music and I met him to chat it over but it felt like a non-starter" (Russell quoted in An Appalling Talent, John Baxter, 1973 chapter 16).
The film could have had similarities with Bernard Roses' Paper House.
The basis was Brian Aldis' novel Brothers of the
Head. The book was eventually filmed
Scriptwriters are Chris and Peter Cleverly and it is described as "A London professional woman takes revenge on gangland hardman after he destroys her life." Emily Lloyd was to be the star.
Ken Russell and then Joseph Losey were first choice for director of the novel Voss by Patrick White. Donald Sutherland and Mia Farrow were lined up to act. A young Sutherland appeared in Ken's Billion Dollar Brain. The image is from here.
In The Times of 17 Feb 1970 there is talk of the third film of the United Artists films (The Music Lovers and The Devils were the first two) being King Ludwig of Bavaria. Ludwig was a patron of Wagner.
An opera not a film. This was planned for Geneva in 1985: "I see it as a psychological-schizophrenic trip in Wagner´s mind".
Tchaikovsky´s Eugene Onegin
Invited by Lorin Maazel to direct the opera on the stage for the Vienna State Opera in 1985: "Maazel saw my Music Lovers and thought I´d be very good doing a Tchaikovsky opera". The image is from here.
The Big Lebowski
Not real but an article on "What if those modern blockbusters were made in the 1950s? Artist imagines their posters and who would star in them". Ken directing Zappa, Bowie and Iggy Pop alongside Kinski, Warhol and Clint Eastwood. If only... The article is here.
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