Cult Spy: Red Dwarf - The Movie That Never Was
Published Apr 6 2007, 12:48 BST | By Ben Rawson-Jones
Cast your minds back to the summer of 2001. The English cricket team was being stuffed by the Aussies in the Ashes, the World Trade Centre was operating as normal and The Spice Girls had only just split. But Red Dwarf
fans across the globe all had beaming smiles, as the long rumoured movie version of the BBC sci-fi comedy finally entered pre-pre-production.
Between March and June that year, the official Red Dwarf
website uploaded various image-filled articles detailing the preparation and rehearsal process. We saw Robert Llewellyn undergo some heavy duty body moulding in order to create a snug new Kryten costume and crucially - the majority of the cast assembled in the same room for a full script read-through.
This was smegtastic news for the fans as the efforts to drag the film back to reality had been dwarfed by the mammoth task of assembling some seriously busy actors and negotiating their packed schedules. Chris Barrie had been tied down filming Tomb Raider
with Angelina Jolie, Llewelyn was occupied with salvaging bits of metal in Channel 4's Scrapheap Challenge
, Danny John Jules had been off doing Blade 2
whilst Craig Charles was busy on the popular (but sadly Skutter free) Robot Wars
. So Dwarfers across the world eagerly awaited news that cameras had begun to roll...
Fast forward six years and Red Dwarf - The Movie
lies in a state of ruin, with the project never even entering the proper pre-production stage. Plenty of questions have been thrown up asking what went wrong and it seems that not even Mr Flibble can offer an answer as to what the current state of play is.
Series co-creator and the film's scriptwriter/producer Doug Naylor attempted to shed some light on his plight in a letter read out at the show's 'Dimension Jump' convention in 2004. He detailed numerous thwarted attempts to raise funding for the project, trips to Australia to assess the financial and locational possibilities of filming there, alongside some rather bizarre experiences. For example, at one stage a fraudster posing as the 'Duke of Manchester' offered £60 million investment - but only if Naylor would pay for his airfare to attend a meeting plus let him sleep on his couch.
Efforts to find funding on home soil were greeted with a series of rejections on bizarre grounds, according to Naylor's letter: "The film has been rejected by many, many people," he wrote. "They usually say they think it's really funny but isn't what they're looking for right now - or ask us to recast the leads. BBC Films, the same BBC who rejected the original TV script three times, have rejected the film script twice - two versions. How much money has Red Dwarf
made them? They said it wasn't what they were looking for. Don't they like hit movies?"
Furthermore, despite British films mostly being greeted with dismal box office receipts in recent years, Naylor was stunned to find out why the British Film Council had rejected the film on three occasions: "My favourite reason was when they told one of the producers that they thought Red Dwarf - The Movie
was 'too commercial.' Let me repeat that - they rejected it because they thought it was too commercial."
So where do things stand now? In stasis it seems, ironically the same occurence that saved Dave Lister and the human race from extinction all those years ago in the first ever episode of the series. Running for eight seasons on BBC2 with ratings higher than those many primetime shows now achieve on BBC1 or ITV1, spawning best selling DVDs and even attracting enough US interest for two pilots to be made across the pond - it would be a great shame if we never see the boys from The Dwarf back in action.
Lister, Rimmer, Kat and Kryten have had to face many gruesome threats along the years such as kebab-disguised polymorphs, horny emohawks and rampaging rogue simulants. But their biggest obstacle now appears to be the filthy lucre itself - money.
To read Cult Spy's look at kebab-related phobia in Red Dwarf