A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Jim Morrison Movie

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Jim Morrison: Back to the Sixties, Darkly :

Ultimate bad boy’s life story THE DOORS comes to the big screen

Danny Sugerman thought that then-hot disco king John Travolta might make a good Morrison. So he introduced him to the Doors–and he and Manzarek squirreled Travolta around town, taking him to places where the group had hung out. But the other Doors balked. (“John was a nice guy and all that. But he was too nice. He didn’t have Jim’s dangerous edge,” Krieger recalled.) When it became clear that all the rights couldn’t be acquired for Travolta to officially play Morrison, there were talks about Brian De Palma directing Travolta in a fictionalized project, like the thinly disguised Janis Joplin saga, “The Rose.”

Other film makers approached Harari and the Doors–and vice versa. Among them: Jonathan Taplin, Jerry Weintraub, Aaron Russo, Irving Azoff, Michael Mann, Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese.

As all this was happening, a feature-length Doors documentary was in the works. (It was later abandoned because of efforts to make the feature.)

Morrison’s sister and her husband also announced their intention to make a Morrison movie. But first, stated Anne Morrison Graham and her then-husband, Alan Graham (no relation to Bill Graham), they would stage a rock opera in which seven actors would play various aspects of the Morrison persona. And they planned to make a 90-minute TV documentary.

The rock opera actually happened–at Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip, where the Doors had played 16 years earlier. Krieger still laughs about the night that two of the Morrison look-alikes showed up at a club where he was playing and got in a fight with each other.

Though the Grahams have since divorced, Alan Graham remains impassioned about one day making a film about his former brother-in-law. He has a company called Lizard King Productions–so named because of Morrison’s moniker as the Lizard King (from a Doors song). From time to time, Graham sends out announcements of pending projects. Currently in the works: the provocatively titled rock opera, “Who Killed Jim Morrison?”

Harari eventually dropped the option on “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” but he didn’t drop his interest. In 1985, he succeeded in acquiring the rights of the three Doors.

Then Tony Krantz and Tony Ludwig, of Creative Artists Agency, got the idea to bring rock promoter Bill Graham into the project–to deal with the Coursons and the Morrisons.

During the ’60s, the Doors often played Graham’s clubs in San Francisco and New York City. He still remembers their first show at Fillmore West in 1967, in which they were billed with the Jim Kweskin Jugband.

(The Doors were to have other memorable nights at Graham’s clubs–including the time Morrison showed up drunk at Winterland, took to the stage and started throwing the microphone around. At one point, it flew across the room, hit Graham and knocked him down.)

Graham eventually succeeded as a rock ‘n’ roll Henry Kissinger with the estate. “They were not against a movie coming out,” Graham explained. “They’re against the exploitation or the exaggeration of what really went down. After all, those children were reared by those people. The parents want to retain some dignity.

“It’s obvious that this wasn’t exactly Jack Armstrong who was coming through life in that turbulent time. We can’t whitewash Morrison, or Pam. But we want to respect them.”

As it turned out, there was an attempt at a whitewash when the Coursons tried, unsuccessfully, to invoke a clause that would have forbidden any depiction of their daughter using drugs. One stipulation they did get: Pamela Courson-Morrison cannot be depicted as having anything to do with Morrison’s death.

Then there is the contract stipulation involving the Morrisons: With the exception of a pivotal scene involving Jim’s childhood encounter with Indian shamanism, the parents cannot be depicted.

The Coursons and Morrisons also wanted–and got–assurances that the movie would not be an adaptation of “No One Here Gets Out Alive.”

Ironic footnote: eventually, the film makers bought the book’s research materials from co-author Jerry Hopkins. And Sugerman recently came aboard the film, as a consultant.

When all the rights were at last acquired in 1985, Harari put in a call to Oliver Stone’s agent. Would Stone be interested in scripting? On the very day Stone was scheduled to meet with Harari, Stone got the go-ahead to make “Platoon.” The next day he left for the Philippines.

From 1985 until the summer of 1987, the Doors project was at Columbia, under then-chairman Guy McElwaine. But when David Puttnam came to the studio, the project was dropped.

Within 24 hours, Harari got calls from United Artists and Warner Bros. He also got a call from Tony Ludwig, who had left CAA to become the president of Imagine Entertainment.

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