CinemaBlend has been among the wave of websites out there to report about rumors of a “Babylon 5” movie, and all along I have been skeptical. While news was hitting the web from somewhere, very little information was coming from “Babylon 5” creator J. Michael Stracyzinski. JMS has always been very vocal about B5 events, with half the concept of the show for him being a constant web presence when it was on, sort of an open dialog behind the scenes.
Well, all of that has changed - JMS has finally shed some light on what is going on with a project that’s become known as “TMOS” (The Memory of Shadows). As always, quoting JMS directly to avoid misquoting him...
The rule of thumb in Hollywood is that for every thousand scripts that get written, only a few dozen get into development, and out of those, only one will ever get made...if that.
A little over a year ago, I was approached by a company that wanted to make a Babylon 5 movie. They optioned the rights, and commissioned a script. (It's worth mentioning that I, not WB, own the rights to a B5 movie. When we were negotiating the original B5 deal -- by whose terms I will never see a dime in profit -- the one thing they did let me have were the movie rights, figuring they'd never be worth anything in the long run.)
Anyway...on December 27th of 2003, the script for "The Memory of Shadows" was turned in, and the process began of trying to make the deal work with all the various forces involved. It is, to say the least, a very difficult process on any movie where the studio does not directly take the financial reins. In terms of B5, Warner's position was esssentially, "We only do big-budget movies with big names, so you're on your own." If there were big-name movie actors in the film, they'd get behind it; without that, things become very problematic, especially as far as the financing was concerned. You much have to put together a consortium of international interests and business plans rivaled in complexity only by the Allied invasion of Normandy Beach.
Nonetheless, every attempt was made by the people involved to get this deal in place. This was not being done by Doug or myself, but rather by the company/individuals who approached us and optioned the rights. At times, it seemed we were inches away from a deal...stages were reserved at Elstree, actors were contacted, a director was in place, the script went through many revisions, a few key staff were hired, again not by me...it was really a year-long roller coaster ride. During that time, the people involved, with every good intention, tried very hard to pull the necessary pieces together on the deal. The option expired in late December 2004, but I renewed it without cost, to give those involved more time to try and make things work.
In the end, however, the deal could be put together, and it did not look as if that was going to change at any point in the foreseeable future. So the option has reverted, and to all intents and purposes, the project has dead ended. Nor do I think this particular incarnation will arise again at any point in the future, though prognostication has always been a tricky art, especially if you have to do it without the benefit of hindsight.
This was not the first time someone's taken a run at a B5 feature film, and it will not be the last. Eventually it will happen, because such things are simply inevitable. If they can do a Brady Bunch movie, you can be sure that sooner or later, somebody's going to do a B5 movie. The only thing I can say without equivocation is that when that day comes, as the rights-holder, I will make darned sure that it's done right, because I'd rather have no B5 movie than one that doesn't live up to what fans and I myself would want to see.
To that end...I can wait.
Anyway, just thought you should know the story.
This is disappointing news, but news that makes me glad I didn’t get my hopes up. As with all things B5, if you don’t hear it from JMS, it’s probably just speculation or unofficial news that possibly can still go wrong. When news does come from him directly, you can be sure we’ll be here to report it though. (Oh, who am I kidding - we'll continue to report the rumors too)