Ken Russell projects
Possible and impossible projects
A Clockwork Orange
A package deal with Russell directing and the Rolling Stones starring. Russell only heard about the possibility years after. The film was directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1971 with Malcolm McDowell.
Ken Russell submitted two scripts, one for Dracula and one for The Rainbow. The latter was accepted. In the film Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat from 1989 there is a poster for the (unmade) film on the wall. Vampire films from around this time include Vampire's Kiss with Nicolas Cage (1989).
Vlad the Impaler
An unmade Hammer film, "This film was supposed to be directed by Ken Russell (Tommy, The Lair of the White Worm) and is possibly the most intriguing addition to this list of unmade nightmares. Would this have starred Christopher Lee? Would it have been a prologue to the Dracula cycle of Hammer films? Can you imagine the set and costumes involved in a period piece featuring the origin of Dracula? The mind reels." The quote comes from the Den of Geek site here.
Ken was sued for failing to complete this film adaptation of the Daniel Defoe novel. He won the court case. As payment Russell did a pop video for his lawyer.
Pete Townsend and The Who´s follow up to Tommy. It ended up being directed by Frank Roddam in his first cinema film. He also directed Liebestod with newcomer Brigit Fonda, one of the films in Aria, as did Ken.
Before Madonna´s involvement Ken had the first attempt to make a film of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical. He wanted Liza Minnelli in the lead role rather than studio choice Elaine Page. The film was directed by Alan Parker with Madonna in 1996.
Ken decided not to film Cliff Richard and the Shadows on the double decker bus. The relationship with the girl in French Dressing (which he did instead) is almost identical to that of the girl disguised as a boy in Summer Holiday. Cliff's films was directed by Peter Yates in his first cinema film in 1963. Ken later directed some Cliff Richard videos- She's So Beautiful (banned by the BBC) and All I Ask of You by Cliff with Sarah Brightman, both videos from 1988.
A film project with dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Russell later filmed Nureyev in Valentino. In 1980 Herbert Ross directed Nijinsky with George de la Pena and Alan Bates. Hetty Baynes has a small role, but she went on to marry Ken in 1992.
Another dancer. Melvyn Bragg wrote the script which is now in the Brotherton Library in Leeds University (article by Martin Wainwright from The Guardian, 31 Jan 2010).
The Gershwin Dream
David Puttnam commissioned six music films on Mahler, Liszt, Gershwin, Vaughan Williams and two others to be decided. Mahler and Lisztomania were made, the rest were not. Neil Diamond was to star as Gershwin (much as I love Ken, I am glad this did not go ahead!!).
The project got stopped at the writing stage. The 1963 Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton famously almost bankrupted Twentieth Century Fox.
Russell wanted Sophia Loren to star in the story of the opera singer. imdb.com report a film, Callas, was in pre-production in 2017 with Nooni Rapace. Maria Callas herself only appeared in one cinema film, Pasolini's Medea in 1969.
The Beethoven Secret
Glenda Jackson, Charlotte Rampling, Jodi Foster and Anthony Hopkins. In 1994 Bernard Rose directed Immortal Beloved with Gary Odman, Jeroen Krabbe and Isabella Rossellini. Rose later directed Mr. Nice which Ken acts in, though only in the DVD extras. The director of photography Peter Suschtzky also worked on Ken's Valentino and Lisztomania.
Director Bernard Rose recalls when he mention his Immortal Beloved and Ken replied "I was going to make that movie. I had Anthony Hopkins: he even got into the costume. That was before the project fell apart." Rose says "...although I didn't have the courage to say so, I did steal Immortal Beloved from him. I even tried to hire Anthony Hopkins, and I did hire Peter Suschitzky (who shot Russell's Lisztomania) to be my director of photography. But when I was shopping the idea around with studio executives, I constantly had to promise the movie would be nothing like one of Russell's" (from Hi Ken, sorry I stole your movie, The Guardian, 16 Sept 2008).
The King´s Man
A script by Oliver Reed who would play Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury murdered on the steps of his cathedral in 1170. TS Eliot´s play Murder in the Cathedral covers the same event. The image is from here. The most famous Beckett film is based on Jean Anouilh's play and directed in 1964 by Peter Glenville with Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud.
The Gospel of Linda
The story of a ghost in the afterworld. It is based on Georges Neveux´s play Juliette which was made into an opera by Martinu, but Russell´s treatment would centre on commercialism (the beans advert, reappearing in a different form in Tommy). The script was completed but filming never started.
Russell calls composer Aleksandr Scriabin "a man after my own heart- a true mystic who many saw as a charlatan". The film did not go ahead, but it was converted and broadcast as a radio play. According to imdb.com Scriabin contributed (uncredited) the music The Divine Poem in Ken's film Savage Messiah. Director Bernard Rose recalls talking to Ken- "He tells me about a planned biography of Russian composer Scriabin. "I want giant bells hanging from clouds. A couple making love on a giant bed. Of course, it's too expensive to do. I did it as a radio play with Oliver Reed" (from Hi Ken, sorry I stole your movie, The Guardian, 16 Sept 2008).
The Eleventh Commandment
A film about Moses (mentioned in Empire magazine, Nov 1989). There is a 1986 film The Eleventh Commandment but this is unrelated, about a psychopath.
Variety, 15 Dec 1997, states "Russell already has scouted locations in Turkey for the John Daly-produced "Son of Man", which will, he promises, "depict the life of Christ with a lot of joy and humor." Shooting could start in Istanbul in March (1998). Expect Jesus "to crack a few jokes," the jolly helmer adds." The image is from the Parish Church and Community Centre of St Paul's Goodmayes here.
A thriller with Christopher Plummer, James Coburn and Rod Silver, promoted as "Beneath the surface nothing is what is seems". Russell was fired from the film and David DeCoteau took over. DeCoteau says "I felt so bad for Ken, though; I mean Ken Russell was a visionary. But he did not leave Skeletons on a friendly basis. He was fired and, well, it was great for me because, looking back, I’ve just finished my hundredth movie and Skeletons is certainly one of the better ones. It’s certainly the biggest budget I’ve had. It’s just so odd how I got the job in the first place.”
You can read the interview with David DeCoteau by Matty Budrewiczis here www.iainfisher.com/dis/index.php?topic=24721.0
Visions of Eight
One of the eight short films about the 1972 Olympics. Directors included Milos Forman, Arthur Penn and John Schlesinger. Ken was not one of the directors eventually chosen.
There were attempts to film it (without Russell) starring Malcolm McDowell but nothing has resulted.
"There is a picture named Kiplinger's Syndrome shooting in Seattle around the end of the summer (pending financing) and I've already spoken with the producers a few times this year about working on it. It would be great to work there since I just moved into my new house and there is no better time of year than summer in the Great Pacific Northwest" (from Joyce Wankable here).
Hamlet would have featured David Bowie and Elton John- Ken directed two Elton John videos including Nikita.
More Bowie, eventually filmed by Tony Scott. Info from Blitz magazine June 1983.
When I´m 64
Part of a Beatles tribute. Twelve directors would each do a video of one of the songs from Sgt Pepper. Ken directed Ringo in Lisztomania.
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