Pic was helming bow of Alexander-Karaszewski team
NEW YORK -- MGM has abruptly pulled the plug on
Norm Macdonald's "Ballbusted" after lackluster returns
from the debut of "Dirty Work," sources said.
The film was five weeks away from production and was to
mark the directorial debut of the celebrated writing team of
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. MGM is on the
hook for pay-or-play deals worth around $5 million unless
another backer materializes for the $15 million comedy.
The principals behind the film were told of MGM's decision
on Tuesday, and sources said they could not have been more
shocked by the studio's sudden move.
"Basically, they made a movie that failed and they panicked
and pulled the plug on a good movie that was never intended
to ride the coattails of 'Dirty Work,' " said a source close to
"Ballbusted" was scripted by Alexander and Karaszewski,
the team behind the scripts "The People vs. Larry Flynt,"
"Ed Wood" and the upcoming Andy Kaufman biopic "Man
on the Moon."
The duo has been looking to make the move behind the
camera and had multiple offers, but opted for the MGM deal
and the chance to work with Macdonald. In "Ballbusted,"
Macdonald was to play a disgruntled chauffeur who decides
to kidnap his rich employer's dog.
It is not unprecedented for a creation by Alexander and
Karaszewski to be orphaned by a studio and turn out okay.
It happened to "Ed Wood," their biopic of the "Plan Nine
From Outer Space" helmer that was directed by Tim Burton
and starred Johnny Depp. Then-Columbia chief Mark
Canton axed the film, but Disney came to the rescue.
Alexander and Karaszewski are staying with the crew on the
Vancouver set, continuing to prep the film in hopes that a
similar rescue can be engineered, sources said.
There's much scurrying being done to find another home for
the movie by producers Robert Simonds, Brillstein-Grey
and Endeavor, the agency that reps the directors and
MGM's move is in direct response to "Dirty Work" not
working in a highly competitive summer marketplace,
grossing just over $7 million so far. That is despite the
national attention given the film after Daily Variety revealed
that NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer had banned
"Dirty Work" ads on the network as continuation of bad
blood that resulted after Ohlmeyer pulled Macdonald from
the "Weekend Update" desk of "Saturday Night Live" (Daily
Variety, June 2).