'The Far Side' Movie That We Were So Close To Getting
We almost had a Far Side movie.
Many of you readers may not know what that means, and no, I’m not going to do the whole “Before the Internet, we got our webcomics from newspapers, you Zoomers, so take care of those knees while you can still kickflip!!” because I may be an old Millennial, but I’m not an old Millenia-hole. Still, I should provide some history for those who understandably think that a Commodore 64 was the older, Naval officer brother to the Nintendo 64.
The Far Side was a single-panel comic strip that appeared on newspaper funny pages from 1979 - 1995. It was written and drawn by Gary Larson, a man with no formal art training and a dark sense of humor that watched too many nature documentaries. What made Larson’s Far Side have such a long publication run was because he cultivated a dedicated fan base. This is because when the “funny” pages of your local 1980s newspaper typically offered comedy such as this:
The Far Side provided stuff like this:
So yeah, The Far Side was considered WAY out there compared to the usual comic strips that are meant to give your pastor grandfather an opening joke to steal for his next sermon. Now imagine taking this weird single-panel cartoon that has no continuity, no recurring characters, and a very niche fan base, then making it into a movie. C’mon, you already read the headline, so you know someone did just that.
Actor Dirk Blocker, who most of you know as the “Hitchcock” in the food-obsessed bumbling detective duo “Hitchcock & Scully” on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, revealed on social media that he was indeed part of a test for a Far Side motion picture.
In 1983, director Alan Rudolph was a fan of The Far Side and, after a meeting over cocktails with Larson, got permission to write a script based on Larson’s bizarre work. In spite of the fact he was writing a script based on comic strips consisting of talking cows, obscure scientific references, beehive hairstyles, and fluffed out marshmallow-bodied people, Rudolph had nothing to lose. After all, he already directed a musical comedy starring Meatloaf, so it couldn’t have gotten worse or weirder.
The script lay dormant until 1986 when House of Lords member David Puttnam was named CEO of Colombia Pictures. Rudolph was outright flummoxed that the movie was greenlit by Puttnam since the Far Side world was incredibly surreal and absurd, but Puttnam loved the script. More importantly, though, he loved the fact that it was cheap to make. But Puttnam was ousted from Colombia Pictures before a deal could be reached.
The hubbub caught the wind of Paramount Pictures, who picked up the ball in 1988 and asked for test stills and sets to grasp at the concept of what a Far Side movie would look like on camera. Rudolph took a gamble and decided to shoot scenes with the actors and the set rather than the stills. Sadly, that gamble didn’t pay off, and Paramount backed out.
Would a Far Side movie ever actually work? Probably not, but who knows? A single-serving comic strip probably wouldn’t work as a film, but we live in a world where a record-breaking Emmy-nominated TV comedy was based on NBC Sports promo ads from nearly 10 years ago, so nothing is for certain anymore.
In lieu of a Far Side film, you can check out the strips online and support other oddball, absurd, offbeat webcomics that The Far Side helped pave the way for stuff like The Perry Bible Fellowship, Cyanide & Happiness, The Oatmeal, Strange Planet, One Giant Hand, and several other hilariously weird comics. Or not. I’m not your father; you can do what you want.
Top Image: Gary Larson