In order for a film to be made, it needs to get approval, or “the green light”, from a studio executive. The usual path to getting a movie greenlit is to have a meeting with a studio executive and pitch the film to them, and hope they say yes. However, with Hollywood being the crazy industry it is, it’s not always that straightforward.
It’s often not enough that a screenplay has been written or that reputable filmmakers or actors are involved, so sometimes unorthodox methods are required. Below are eight films that are greenlit through very peculiar or downright crazy ways.
1. Saw (James Wan, 2004)
With the seven Saw films being perhaps the biggest horror franchise of the 2000s, it is hard to fathom that once upon a time Hollywood did not see it this way. The creators of Saw, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, met at university in the late 1990s in Melbourne, Australia, and decided to collaborate together.
In order to get noticed, they decided to make a short film called Saw, which has the same basic premise as the feature film of two people being trapped in a room and must go through torture to escape. It was a 10 minute short ultra-cheap film that Wan and Whannell made in film school, where they maxed out their credit cards to get the film made. Needless to say, the film was very gory.
Wan and Whannell moved from Melbourne to Los Angeles to pursue their dream. Hollywood producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules from Twisted Pictures saw the short film and loved it. However, they were hesitant to greenlight the film at first because Wan, an unknown director, wanted to direct the film, and the film’s writer, Whannell, wanted to star in it.
This is something that would not normally be allowed in a Hollywood production. Wan and Whannell were eventually given a million dollars and only 18 days to make a feature length version of Saw, which made over $100 million.
2. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
Being that today Sylvester Stallone is such a big figure in Hollywood, it is hard to imagine that back in the early and mid-1970s that he was struggling actor.
Not only did he want to act, but he also wanted his screenplay titled Rocky about a low level boxer of the same name that he wrote made into a film and for him to star in the lead role. In fact, Stallone struggled so much financially that he sold his dog to survive, mainly as his then-wife was pregnant.
During this time, Stallone auditioned for a part in another movie made by producer Irwin Winkler. Stallone did not get the part, but he spoke to Winkler about his Rocky script, which sparked Winkler’s interest. Stallone said from the beginning that he wanted to be the star, but was offered good money for the script and NOT to act in it.
Despite facing bad odds, Stallone persisted and accepted a deal to act in the lead role for a big pay cut, but would earn a percentage of the gross profit, as the studio assumed the film would not make much money. He also now had enough money to buy his dog back.
Although this was a huge risk at the time, this worked greatly in Stallone’s favour as Rocky is one of the highest grossing movies ever made, making Stallone both rich and a movie star.
3. Machete (Robert Rodriguez, 2010)
Robert Rodriguez’s films are well known for their over the top and campy violence, therefore being generally hilarious. His 2010 film Machete started out as a fake movie trailer placed among other fake trailers for Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s double feature Grindhouse. Although Grindhouse received mixed reviews, the Machete trailer was adored and fans pleaded for it to be made as a feature film in its own right.
With the Machete trailer telling the violent and B-grade story of a crazy Mexican vigilante named Machete, named after the big knife and played by Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo, who goes around wreaking havoc against his enemies. It certainly is a fun trailer that ended up being the most successful part of Grindhouse, much to Rodriguez’s surprise. The much loved trailer is what got the feature film version of Machete greenlit.
4. This Is The End (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan, 2013)
In theory, the popularity of comedic films starring the likes of Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, who have all worked with each another on previous hit comedy films, would get this film instantly greenlit. While that certainly helped, it was not that straightforward.
This Is The End was originally a YouTube skit with Seth Rogan and Busta Rhymes where they would have played themselves and fight ant men, although it never got made. Instead, a short film entitled Jay and Seth Versus The Apocalypse, starring Rogan and Baruchel, was made, where they play themselves and are stuck in a house in the aftermath of the apocalypse.
The video gained popularity when Rogan’s film Knocked Up came out and made Rogan a household name. Once that happened, a feature film version was greenlit, although the film did not get made and released until a few years later.