The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Movie
has been slowly gestating in various stages of development
on an insignificant little blue-green planet
for at least twenty years, possibly even longer. In any case, for the longest time, it seemed that no amount of green paper
, no number of nifty digital watches
, nor even all the towels
in the known Universe
were going to get Douglas Adams
novels to the silver screen.
After the 1979 release of the first book and the subsequent critical praise and public celebration, like most good things, people immediately began coming up with ways to turn it into something else. This is, of course, much like those who felt nothing would be better for the various sound effects, vocal performances and musical themes of the radio show than to remove them entirely by turning it into a novel.
As for a movie, it seems not entirely unlikely that interest in the series was not in some way due to Star Wars, which was generally considered to be a phenomenon by those who feel the need to classify that kind of thing. Of course, while some cannot see the connection between Star Wars and Hitchhiker's Guide, given the entirely different storylines, subject matter, tone, character arcs, style and purpose, they are both set in space, which is the kind of connection movie producers look for when looking for reasons to make movies, explaining why, for example, the makers of the Super Mario Bros. movie felt gamers would appreciate the inclusion of monkeys, flamethrowers, police car/bulldozer hybrids, explosions, and fat women instead of anything resembling the actual video game.
In 1982, producers Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross optioned the novel to be made into a movie. Douglas Adams wrote three drafts of the movie for them, but around that time Dan Aykroyd turned in his screenplay for Ghostbusters. This film, of course, went on to be awfully successful for Columbia Pictures, grossing over $200 million dollars, although the profit was evened out by another bad choice by a movie producer, who deduced incorrectly that the status of Lawrence of Arabia as one of filmmaking's greatest accomplishments was a good reason to make Ishtar.
During the 1980's, Monty Python member Terry Jones also expressed interest in directing the film, but it seems that didn't happen. Of course, later, Adams and Jones would work together on the CD-ROM game and novel Starship Titanic, the book of course proving that not all great novels with 'Douglas Adams' in the title need to be actually written by Douglas Adams.
Throughout the mid-90's, not much was going on, most likely because people were busy with a spreading problem known as "MTV", creating a fuss over more advanced digital watches, and slowly pretending that the clothing and hairstyles of the 1980's were all some sort of terrible mistake. But near the end, HG2G was again suggested as prime fodder for a major motion picture. It is unsurprising that during this time Star Wars was also receiving a lot of attention due to a theatrical rerelease, this time capitalizing on the popularity of video games by including what appeared to be actual video game graphics.
Jay Roach, director of the Austin Powers films and Meet the Parents was set as a director, with the movie this time being made at Disney, through their subsidiary branch of Touchstone Pictures. During this time, communication problems occurred between Disney and Adams, prompting Adams to send Disney a letter including 34 separate ways to reach him. Unfortunately, despite the resulting improved partnership and an approved budget, the film as it was then was not to be. Douglas Adams tragically passed away on Saturday, May 12th, 2001.
Following a few months of mourning by fans across the planet, general sadness, loving tributes, and lots of respect for a great man, the movie was left up in the air. It is darkly ironic that only after the man who was working hardest on getting the film finally made had passed away, that following months of indecision and the murmurings that it was definitely not going to happen, it was all of a sudden swiftly put together, going off without any problems whatsoever.
The final film contains about as much of Douglas Adams's original novel as you could expect something created by movie producers to contain, plus there is a rousing and funny song called "So Long & Thanks for All the Fish," and wonderful visuals inside Magrathea's planet factory. The movie is dedicated to Douglas Adams. The film opened at number one during its debut weekend, defeating the sequel of a terrible film merged from the success of action films, rap music and pornography. Whether or not there will be a sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide movie is yet to be seen, although it is certainly set up, so that Disney is prepared in case it turns out that they will be able to make even more money.
In a somewhat improbable (or, on the other hand, entirely unsurprising) coincidence, the last film in the Star Wars series is scheduled to come out a mere 20 days after Hitchhiker's Guide was finally released.
Usually, part of the fun of recounting the history of things such as movies that have been long in the making is pointing out all the famous people involved with it at one point or another. It's not entirely clear why this is, because it is akin to conversing about people you don't know and likely will never meet, using the context that the one time you almost met them, it didn't happen.
In any case, Douglas Adams's well-known choice for the role of Arthur Dent was actor Hugh Laurie. After Adams's death, producers also considered Jack Davenport but rejected him for being too good-looking. Hugh Grant was probably rejected for the same reason. It seems unlikely, however, that this was for either Mr. Davenport or Mr. Grant as depressing of a rejection than such an event usually is. Lastly, the thought that at least one devoted fanboy didn't suggest Simon Jones for the role is simply rubbish.
The only other role that had consistent buzz was Zaphod Beeblebrox, which sparked the interest of Bill Murray, Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey. However, despite Zaphod being two-headed, none of the above actors were ever suggested to play Zaphod at the same time. Murray and Aykroyd were also suggested for Ford Prefect. Sir Nigel Hawthorne was to play Slartibartfast while Jay Roach was to direct, but unfortunately, he, like Adams, has passed on.
Another draft of the film, written by Josh Friedman was leaked to the internet, but ultimately not used, which may or may not be due to the fans' somewhat negative reaction to it. No less than three studios had the rights to the film but let them expire before it was made.