5 Movies And Shows Stuck In Bizarre Legal Limbo

We're already baffled enough by some movies that actually get made. (A $175 million Dr. Dolittle? In 2020? Who is that for?) Meanwhile, on the flip side, films and TV series that seem like no-brainers just don't happen -- or if they do happen, they seem to leave out key components. The reason for this often comes down to nothing more than endless haggling over copyright issues. For example ...

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5
The Amazon Lord Of The Rings Series Can't Use The Characters You Know And Love

The Lord Of The Rings movies are the greatest adaptations of books in history -- @ me on that if you dare. I don't care. I'll shout "The five endings to Return Of The King were necessary!" from the top of a burning house. So when I heard that Amazon was developing a Lord Of The Rings show, my mind ran with possibilities. A sequel series with odd cameos by Ian McKellen and an apathetic Viggo Mortensen? A Gollum prequel that sees Andy Serkis winning a dozen Emmys? Tom motherfuckin' Bombadil?

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As it turns out, the Tolkien estate has made it clear that Amazon is not allowed to do anything with any of the shit Tolkien actually described in his most famous books. So they're setting the show during the Second Age. (The First Age ended when the Dark Lord Morgoth was sent out of Arda and into the Void, while the Second Age ended with the first defeat of Sauron. The Third Age involved The Hobbit and the War of the Ring. Yeah, I got laid like every hour in high school.) And don't get me wrong, a lot of cool shit happens in the Second Age -- Numenor is established, the Rings of Power are forged, the dwarves go to Khazad-dum, Elrond founds Rivendell, etc. And since large swaths of the time period (the Second Age is also the longest age) are empty, the writers are free to just be like, "This is the half-elf Bophlimor, and his dick is magic. He is Middle-earth's greatest warrior, and he hates my ex-wife Susan and her new boyfriend Greg."

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But they can't cross over into any of the events of the Third Age from the Peter Jackson movies. Which means that to most modern audiences who only know the movies, this might as well be Streaming Service Fantasy Series #234. I'm not saying it will be bad. I have a lot of hope for it. I'm just saying that there may be a learning curve for anyone who goes into it waiting for dope Gandalf references.

4
Hannibal Couldn't Use Clarice Starling Because Another Studio Owned The Rights To The Character

When Hannibal, the absurdly violent horror TV show that starred Mads Mikkelsen and Mads Mikkelsen's hypnotic gaze, got cancelled after only three seasons, fans were taken aback. Based on the rough timeline of the books, it was bowing right before Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster's character from The Silence Of The Lambs) entered the picture. Why cancel the show right as it was gearing up for that?

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And then, years later, when a Clarice Starling procedural series was announced, fans were even more taken aback. Why make it when you could've just, ya know, put Clarice in the show everyone already liked? It's like if you tried to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and just before you get to the jelly, your asshole roommate slathered the jelly on the counter while shouting "ACTUALLY IT'S QUITE TASTY THIS WAY."

But here's the thing: Odds are, your perfect Hannibal show that somehow hops every Lecter novel was never gonna happen. That's because the producers working with NBC only had the rights to Hannibal Rising, Red Dragon, and Hannibal. Silence Of The Lambs was distributed by Orion Pictures back in 1991, and when they went bankrupt, MGM gobbled up all of their assets. So Hannibal could do anything it wanted, but the minute Mads uttered "Hello, Clarice," MGM would cram lawyers so far down Hannibal's throat that they could taste the fava beans.

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And it's MGM that's now partnering with CBS to make a Silence Of The Lambs sequel about Clarice Starling just kinda solving crime stuff. And apparently Hannibal isn't really a part of the series at all. So if you watched Silence Of The Lambs and thought, "Hm, this would be better without Anthony Hopkins and if it was shot like Criminal Minds," you're finally getting your wish, you weird asshole.

3
There's An Odd, Long-Running Battle Over Who Can Make Friday The 13th Stuff

Despite the fact that it isn't 1983 anymore, it's still weird that we haven't gotten a Friday The 13th movie in over a decade. And it's even weirder that despite great word-of-mouth and really fun features, the Friday The 13th multiplayer video game and all of its planned content got shut down out of nowhere in 2018. Even if the time has passed for Jason Vorhees to be truly frightening, someone should've at least spent a few million dollars to fuck around with Jason vs. Annabelle or whatever.

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The problem lies in exactly who that someone would be, because the court case surrounding the ownership of Friday The 13th is anything but straightforward. When director Sean Cunningham and writer Victor Miller made the original film for Paramount, things were going well. Cut to eight movies later, Jason was punching heads off in Manhattan, and things weren't going so well. So Paramount sold the property to New Line, and while I can't say that it solved everyone's problems, they did eventually work with Cunningham (who owns the franchise) and put together Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 reboot. Look at that! Everyone's friends now! Jason really knows how to bring people together.

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But then Miller decided that he actually owned Friday The 13th, and Cunningham was like "Nah, bro. It ain't like that." So they took it to court, where the judge ruled that sure, Miller owned the original Friday The 13th screenplay. And you'd think that would settle it. But what's missing from the original flick that's in every other film? Yeah, the adult mask-wearing Jason, who's the brand mascot. (Remember, the big twist is that it's actually his mother doing the killing in the first movie.) And the judge never made a decision on that subject.

So now no one can do anything with the most popular part of Friday The 13th until a judge sits down, sighs deeply into his palms, wonders how his life got like this, and says, "Fine, nerd. You get Jason." That's why Friday The 13th: The Game, which Cunningham worked with the developers on, had all of its updates stopped. The horror film genre will remain decidedly hockey-mask-less until further notice.

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Related: Near Misses: The 6 Worst Movies Hollywood Almost Made

2
Warren Beatty Is Blocking Every Dick Tracy Movie

While studios didn't really start pumping out superhero films until the 2000s, the massive success of the 1989 Batman certainly helped to grease the wheels a bit. And in its wake came Dick Tracy, a passion project that starred Warren Beatty as the titular detective. Beatty also directed and produced the thing, and while reviews were mostly "Yeah, I guess," it won three Academy Awards and did decently at the box office. It certainly didn't hurt that along with Beatty, it starred Al Pacino, Madonna, Dick van Dyke, Kathy Bates, James Caan, Dustin Hoffman, Mandy Patinkin, William Forsythe, and Catherine O'Hara. I'm not making that up. Somehow, goddamn Dick Tracy has the best cast of all time.

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Now, you'd expect there to be like three bad Dick Tracy reboots by now, but one man stands in the way of all that: Beatty. Back when he was trying to get the film made in the '80s, he purchased the rights to the series himself and made the movie with Disney. Then in 2002, when Tribune Media Services presumably smelled that sweet, sweet Spider-Man money and wanted the property back (the original comic was distributed by the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate), Beatty leapt in, saying that he had some rad ideas for a sequel and that Tribune had gotten in his way. So he sued Tribune.

Disney could not have cared less about Dick Tracy in the mid-2000s and gave the rights back to Beatty. The case continued, with Tribune just wanting Dick Tracy back and Warren Beatty claiming that they couldn't bully him into not letting him make his movie that he was never gonna make. But he did make a weird Dick Tracy TV Special in 2008 for Turner Classic Movies. In it, Beatty -- as Dick -- talks to famed film critic Leonard Maltin about Beatty potentially making another Dick Tracy movie. I'd call it bizarre, but I wish I was half as dedicated to anything as Beatty is to talking about making another Dick Tracy movie one day.

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And in 2011, that special was enough for the court to rule that Beatty did indeed have the rights. And as of 2016, 26 years after the original came out and at the age of 79, he supposedly still planned to make that movie happen. And honestly, I think the odds of him pulling it off are the same as they've ever been.

Related: 6 Pissed-Off Actors Whose Demands Radically Changed Movies

1
John Steinbeck's Work Is Being Held Up By His Family

Back in 2013, it was announced that Steven Spielberg was attempting to get production started on a movie based on John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath. One of the most talented directors in history adapting such an iconic book? They would have to invent new Academy Awards just to handle it. But then, nothing. And while it might be partly due to the fact that Spielberg has moved on to new projects and could get $200 million from Dreamworks for a home video of himself taking a nap, it certainly doesn't help that Steinbeck's heirs are embroiled in a custody battle over his works.

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Steinbeck was married three times, and though the son from that second marriage is deceased, Thomas Steinbeck's wife Gail allegedly put a stop to Spielberg's adaptation, along with an adaptation of East Of Eden that was set to star Jennifer Lawrence. But she's being sued by Steinbeck's stepdaughter from his third marriage, presumably because getting those Spielberg/Steinbeck dollars and accolades would be really rad.

It all stems from the fact that when Steinbeck departed this world for the Great American Novel in the sky, he left his estate to his last wife and said that she and their lawyer should get all his future profits. However, he never quite specified who owned his works, so when the family won back the rights in 2006 from the bloodthirsty Penguin Books, they immediately set about trying to rip the book rights from each other. Basically, the moral of this story is that after you die, rest comfortably knowing that your loving family would rather bury themselves alive with you than share anything you gave them.

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