"Green Lantern," the blockbuster action film, wasn't a huge box office success this weekend, which left us wondering if "Green Lantern," the comedy, would have done better.
In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair, comedy writer Robert Smigel talks about how he was enlisted in 2004 to script a comedic take on the superhero, with Jack Black as the lead instead of Ryan "I can haz action hero bucks now?" Reynolds.
Smigel, a former writer for "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" who is possibly best known as the man behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, felt the material was ripe for parody:
I thought, "Well, of course this could be a comedy." Basically just the premise that the wrong guy gets the ring and can do all kinds of goofy visual jokes — because the visuals are so potentially ridiculous. What appealed to me about it on a comedic level was that, in order to be a superhero, this requires no physical skill or talent.
Although Smigel was instructed to write the script with comedian Jack Black in mind, he learned that the actor, who had just come off "School of Rock," was initially uninterested in playing a bumbling superhero. However, after Black read a draft of Smigel's script, he was on board.
The fans take "Green Lantern" very seriously, and barring brief stints into one-off joke comics that don't really matter, they want a "Green Lantern" that's just as deadly serious as he is in the comics. He can make jokes, but he cannot be one.
Black spoke about the version that might have been in a 2010 interview with MTVNews: "Yeah, some people may know that for a minute there, long ago, there was talk of a more comedic version of 'Green Lantern,' but yeah, it wasn't meant to be."
For his part, Smigel understood the uproar:
I mean, if I were a die-hard "Green Lantern" fan, I would have waited many years watching all of these other superhero movies like "Daredevil" get their turn and I would be very frustrated to hear that it’s finally going to be done as a comedy.
Throughout his career, Smigel has been no stranger to superheroes or "fanboys." He penned the classic William Shatner "Get A Life" sketch on "SNL," as well as Triumph's visit to the line for "Star Wars: Episode II" on "Late Night." Additionally, superheroes are frequently parodied on Smigel's "TV Funhouse," most famously in "The Ambiguously Gay Duo."
But ultimately, Smigel's vision would never see the light of day: "It just sort of petered out and we found out that they just changed their minds and wanted to do a serious 'Green Lantern'."
Brothers went on to explain why alienating die-hard fans is the last thing a studio would want to do:
The studio, of course, wants something that they can hang a franchise on, and as far as jokes go, a funny take on "Green Lantern" would have just one note. The movie would've been funny, but Hell hath no fury like a comics fan scorned. The internet would've been ablaze with all of the bad press that comics readers could muster, poisoning the movie before release.