Richard Linklater, currently nominated for an Oscar for Before Midnight’s screenplay, is making strides on the Warner Bros. remake of Incredible Mr. Limpet, a project with which he has been involved since 2011.
Linklater plans to work on Limpet with Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting, according to a recent report in Screen Daily. Pallotta and Wolting will design the look of the film and figure out how to integrate the animation and live-action components. Pallotta has been a friend of Linklater’s since the days of Slacker and was a producer on Linklater’s two animated efforts—Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Wolting is a veteran producer and director of documentaries as well as the co-founder of Dutch film production company Submarine.
Pallotta and Wolting together directed a just-finished film about Somali pirates, Last Hijack, which also integrates animation with live-action, and that film’s look has inspired Linklater’s ideas about Limpet. Wolting has been quoted as saying that, “Richard [Linklater] loved the animation technique that we used [on Lost Hijack].”
The original 1964 version of Limpet, starring Don Knotts, succeeded visually because the technological limitations of the era situated the concept purely in the realm of animated fantasy. Today, with CGI’s limitless possibilities, there are better-than-average odds that Limpet ends up looking like a grotesque refugee of the waters surrounding Three Mile Island. The character’s lack of visual appeal derailed Warner Bros. when they tried to remake the film nearly twenty years ago. The unmade late-1990s version, which was to have been directed by Steve Oedekerk, would have starred Jim Carrey in the role of Henry Limpet. Millions of dollars were spent trying to digitally paste Jim Carrey’s motion-captured human face onto a fish’s body, and the results were, by all accounts, disgusting. Brad Bird, one of the unlucky viewers who witnessed the CG tests, reportedly said that, “If you saw this in the water, you would get out of the water and run screaming and tell everyone the world was ending.”
When that version was canned, WB tried to relaunch the project with Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge; the shortlist for the lead role at the time included Chris Rock, Mike Myers and Adam Sandler More recently, Kevin Lima (Tarzan, Enchanted) unsuccessfully attempted to jumpstart a remake with Zach Galifinakis.
Of all the various attempts to revive Limpet, the (still-not-greenlit) Linklater one sounds the most promising. A good director will surely recognize that Limpet not only has an abundance of perverse themes, but plenty of quirky visual possibilities that lend themselves to animated treatment. Given his track record, Linklater could be the guy to pull it off.
Images from top to bottom: Lobby card for The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964); concept art by Bob Camp for the unproduced Jim Carrey version of Limpet; the cover of Theodore Pratt’s book Mr. Limpet (1942), which was a literary flop and sold just 3,500 copies upon first publication.