Perhaps the reasons are personal. Maybe, outside of our tendency for know-it-all-ism and information overload, the explanations have remained private and kept close to the vest. Of course, it could all center around money, and the means of making more. Given their recent track record, that might explain their industry exile. Yet for some strange reason, there are many formerly famous movie names — John Carpenter, John Landis, Bruce Robinson — who’ve fallen off the prickly façade of fame. Call it lack of interest on both ends or something more sinister, but it ends up ruining the reputation of the artform. Granted, all three of the previously mentioned directors are behind the lens right now (with The Ward, Burke and Hare, and The Rum Diaries, respectively) giving renewed recognition and possible redemption a go. But for some, the outlook is not so bright. For them, it’s time to champion a creative comeback.
With the five names listed below, it’s important to set up some clear cut standards. First, we must acknowledge that all have done great-to-gratifying work at some point in their career. Without that, who cares if they ever work again. Second, we must recognize that, aside from a promised project or two in the future, they have presently been out of the filmmaking loop for far too long. Third, we have no real indication that they couldn’t make another trek into the always open talent pool, if given the opportunity to do so. For some, they swan in success for decades. Finally, the occasional commercial flop aside, there’s no understandable explanation for why they aren’t making movies right now. A couple even have Academy accolade to bolster their prospects. With that in mind — and with some personal perspective in tow – we offer five names that definitely deserve another chance at the Tinseltown brass ring, beginning with a highly unusual choice:
Known mostly as an actor (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A Mighty Wind), Balaban created one of the great oddball masterpieces of the late ’80s with his paean to the Fifties, deforestation, and cannibalism. Parents starred Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt as Nick and Lily Laemle, Ike-era suburbanites who take their love of red meat to disturbing ends, or at least, that’s what their precocious, highly impressionable child Michael thinks. Indeed, the brilliant element of this film is that we never know what it truly is – a horror film, a disturbing satire, a social commentary, or a cracked combination of them all. Balaban was seen as an up and coming indie voice, but after two tentative flops (My Boyfriend’s Back and The Last Good Time), he retreated to performing and the occasional TV turn behind the lens. He should still be exploring the dark side of the social fabric.
Hellraiser remains a stellar exploration of terror. Nightbreed was wildly ambitious, but remains an incomplete interpretation of an oversized vision. But with the lame Lords of Illusion, pulp writer turned auteur Clive Barker argued for his dismissal as a flavor of the moment filmmaking fad. Yet the strength of his initial foray into directing, with its iconic collection of Cenobites and blood-spattered adultery allusions, suggests that Barker simply needed the inspiration – and complete creative control – to make his masterful macabre points. While other interests and professional pursuits have taken up his time over the years (painting, children’s literature, video games), he seems prepared to reenter the cinematic fray – his Tortured Souls: Animae Damnatae is set for 2011. Of course, as with many proposed projects, it too could fall by the wayside…and that would be a shame.
He broke through with the unusual ghost story Paperhouse, then went on to reinvent the urban legend scarefest with his excellent Candyman. But since then, Bernard Rose has been in a kind of motion picture exile, helming oddball efforts like Ivansxtc, Snuff-Movie, and The Kreutzer Sonata. In fact, Immortal Beloved (a look at Beethoven featuring Gary Oldman) may be the last time that Rose was seen as more or less mainstream. Clearly, whatever commercial cache he had built up back when has long since dissipated. In 2010, Rose is supposedly offering a biopic of famed UK drug dealer “to the elite” Howards Marks. Yet if it’s like anything else he’s done since 1992, it might come and go without anyone really noticing. Given the state of dread today, his is a voice sorely missed.
What has happened to Alan Parker? Seriously and aside from being knighted by the Queen in 2002. Starting in 1978, he made Midnight Express, Fame, Shoot the Moon, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Birdy, Angel Heart, and Mississippi Burning. While Come See the Paradise was an unusual misstep, The Commitments reestablished his creative viability. Since then – nothing but utter garbage. His Evita was ruined by the presence of the talentless blank Madonna, The Road to Wellville was an oddball interpretation of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s book, and Angela’s Ashes failed to capture Frank McCourt’s wistful voice – and the less said about The Life of David Gale, the better. With the strength of such a resume, however, he should still be first in line for any high profile project. That he’s not suggests something quite strange – and sad.
Like Parker, Lyne was once considered a commercial and critical given. After the interesting Foxes, he turned Flashdance into an international phenomenon, orchestrated softcore sexiness between Mickey Roarke and Kim Bassinger in 9&1/2 Weeks, explored a particularly Fatal Attraction between Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, and climbed Jacob’s Ladder. But Lyne hasn’t had a real say in cinema since 1993’s Indecent Proposal, with a controversial take on Nabakov’s Lolita and 2002’s Unfaithful (and its one-off Oscar nod for Diane Lane) his last creative gasps. Lyne was once so notorious that his slick, advertising agency style was complained about – and copied – by many moviemakers. Today, he’s nothing more than the answer to a trivia question, the big budgets and blockbusters a distant, depressing memory.