On Thursday, Variety’s Pam McClintock reported that Fox Searchlight had acquired Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’ new script, “Motherf*cker.”
The comedy, about a guy who falls in love with his girlfriend’s mother, is the latest in a string of explitive-laden titles in development.
In 2008, Paramount bought the rights to “I Wanna F*ck Your Sister” from scribe Melissa Stack and last year Par also nabbed Lewis Meriweather’s Black Listed screenplay “F*ckbuddies.”
“I think writers want their movies to be original and edgy,” one producer says of the trend. “It’s a way for them to turn the script process upside down, make a strong first impression.”
But as the racy titles are giving agents and creatives a good laugh, a project containing the word “fuck” in the title is nearly impossible to get past the MPAA.
“The (MPAA’s) Title Registration Bureau requires all studios to register titles, and we will not register any film that contain offensive language in the title,” according to MPAA spokesman Craig Hoffman.
In other words, scripts don’t carry much weight in the Hollywood court of law.
Daryl Wein, who co-wrote “Motherf**cker,” says he and writing partner Zoe Lister-Jones “haven’t discussed the realities of the title yet with Searchlight” but conceeds the title will likely get a makeover. “I find it ironic (though) that so much violence and graphic imagery finds its way into mainstream movies yet foul language and sex is near sacrilege,” Wein says.
True, Hollywood does like to push the envelope but they also like that envelope to be filled with cash.
Back in 2008, when the Weinstein Company and Kevin Smith released “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” a number of newspapers and TV channels refused to market the film because of the word “porno” in the title.
The R-rated comedy wasn’t technically a “porno” but the deputy mayor of Philadelphia (Rina Cutler) didn’t seem to care–pulling the advertisement from every bus in the region while Salt Lake City banned the film altogether.
“‘Zack and Miri’ was about as pornographic as ‘The Bachelorette,'” one producer laughs. “But the most important thing is getting the message out there and those brick walls definitely hurt (Zack and Miri).”
The Weinstein Company tried altering billboards and trailers, and even created ads poking fun at the controversey but “Zack and Miri” only grossed $10 million during its opening weekend. (a.k.a. it tanked.)
Television, oddly enough, has taken more strides than the movie biz when it comes to edgier titles, as evident from the new CBS comedy “S@%t My Dad Says.” The sitcom, pronounced “‘Bleep’ My Dad Says,” stars William Shatner and is based on Justin Halpern’s Twitter account “Shit My Dad Says.” CBS execs have maintained that advertising for the show hasn’t been affected.
“I wish they would call it ‘shit,'” Shatner said at last month’s TCA panel. “The word is all around us. It isn’t a terrible term. It’s a natural function. Why are we pussyfooting?”
So what about the film biz? Will they ever stop ‘pussyfooting?’
“Studios are much better at marketing movies than making good movies,” Dick says, “so I’m sure they’ll find a way.”
“It’s ultimately up to the studios to compel the Registration Bureau to be more lenient (for movie titles),” he adds. “The much more important issue is that the MPAA is doing a very bad job at providing information to parents.”
Like the profanity or not, vulgar script titles are on the rise.
In addition to “Motherf**ker, Searchlight is currently in pre-production on “The F Word,” starring Casey Affleck (which, like the rest of the ‘cursed’ projects, is a romantic comedy).
“F*ckbuddies,” meanwhile, stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher and has already wrapped filming, though Paramount and The Montecito Picture Company are still trying to agree upon a new, market-friendly title.
“I doubt Hollywood will ever allow expletives of this nature to be used in titles,” screenwriter Daryl Wein says of the fad, “But I hope to be proved wrong.”
Until then, don’t expect to see the the f-word on billboards any time soon. That is unless you’re clever…Focker.
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