Loads of Hitches

The Guide's fraught history revealed

The men who brought the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to the big screen have told how the frustrations of dealing with Hollywood drove author Douglas Adams to distraction.

His agent, Ed Victor, told the Hay Literature Festival that he once helped Adams drown his sorrows in ‘several buckets of vodka’ after one particularly bruising meeting with a studio executive doomed another planned movie to oblivion.

“I’ve wasted five years of my life on this,’ the distraught author pleaded. “Don’t let me do it again.”

“Of course, I took that to mean the exact opposite,” Victor said.

Adams famously said that ‘getting a commercial movie made in Hollywood is like trying to cook a steak by getting a load of people in a room to breathe on it’.

But he always had problems with adaptations of his radio series and subsequent books  for the screen.

“Douglas became my client in 1981, and it started straight away,” Victor said. “The first thing he asked me to do was to cancel the second BBC TV series because he was unhappy with the director.

“We sold the idea four times. The first was to Dan Taffner, an expert in format deals who wanted to make Hithchhikers as an American TV series. But the script was lousy – Douglas hated it – and ABC thought the budget was too much.

“Then Ivan Reitman, a producer of comedy attached to Columbia, asked Douglas to write a script. Everyone else was busy working on Ghostbusters, so Douglas was left to his own devices and wrote a 250-page screenplay – twice what it should have been.

“Ivan once asked Douglas what was so funny about the number 42; from then on he began to suspect it wasn’t a partnership made in heaven.

“Then Douglas met Michael Nesbitt of The Monkees, who is also a producer, and they started to talk. Douglas raided his pension fund to buy back the rights and wrote another screenplay which Michael tried to sell – but nobody wanted it.”

But then suddenly Men In Black was a hit, and every producer in Hollywood was – ‘like sheep’ – looking for another comedy sci-fi film; and the Hithchhikers idea was dusted down again for Disney.

But in May 2001, Adams died.

“We felt that he had so desperately wanted this to be a movie that if we could make it, that would be a vindication of all he put into it,” the film’s executive producer Robbie Stamp said.

Victor – who still looks after Adams’ estate - added that the one thing he wanted to see was a proper video game based on Adams’s vision.

“Douglas created a text-only adventure in 1994 for platforms like the Commodore 64 which sold 300,000 copies at $50. And this film was greenlit in a hurray, so here was never a game done,

“If they ever do a Restaurant At The End Of The Universe sequel, then they will make a game; and they should.”

Stamp added that he was optimistic over the chances of a sequel – especially since the film had such a strong opening weekend – but he suspected the movie franchise would not be a ‘trilogy in five parts’ as the books boats.

“I have the feeling there are not four more movies,” he said.


Published: 30 May 2005

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