IN MIDST OF 'M:I' & 'SNAKE EYES', TOLD LANSING HE WANTED TO DIRECT STEPHEN TOLKIN SCRIPT
Stephen Tolkin, a writer and sometimes director who works mainly in television, wrote a screenplay adaptation of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man for CBS Films in 1985. About a decade later, according to Tolkin, Brian De Palma, having found box office success with Mission: Impossible, told Paramount that he wanted to direct Tolkin's version. De Palma, of course, had been wanting to make a film of The Demolished Man since the mid-1970s, and worked on a screenplay with author John Farris after adapting Farris' The Fury into a feature film.
Tue Nguyen chatted with Tolkin recently, and asked him about The Demolished Man. Tolkin told Nguyen:
It was 1985. I had just adapted A. E. Van Vogt's Slan for MGM and a producer named Sidney Beckerman and his son Barry. Our executive on the project moved to CBS Films, where Demolished Man was in development, with Barry Beckerman producing. Because we had all just had a good time working together they sent me the book, I read and loved it, then went in and pitched my ideas and got the job. A simpler path than most! Just when I finished the script CBS Films stopped functioning as an entity and for the next thirteen years the script was an effective writing sample for further work, but nothing more. Then, completely out of the blue, after the first Mission:Impossible movie came out and was a big hit, Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount, asked Brian De Palma what he wanted to do next, and he said "I want to direct Stephen Tolkin's draft of Demolished Man." I was stunned when I heard this; I had never met De Palma and to this date have no idea why he would want to direct my version of the story rather than his own, or even how he ever came to read it. So Paramount hired me to rewrite the script but for some reason they chose not to do it under De Palma's supervision -- which would have been fun, I think -- and it never really came together; whatever the flaws are in my 1985 version, the 1998 version represented at best lateral, and most likely backward, movement.
In 2013, Chris Dumas interviewed Farris for the booklet in Arrow Video's edition of The Fury. Discussing The Demolished Man, Farris told Dumas:
The film rights belonged to a Hollywood wannabe who was in the hotel business. I don't recall his name. Brian was attached to write the screenplay and direct and the project was set up at Paramount. Mike Eisner thought Brian's script needed work, although he was thrilled with the project, etc. I was brought in at Brian's suggestion. Read his draft, which I thought was excellent. I did a 30-page treatment, adding new angles but not straying far from the novel. Brian okayed the treatment. I did the new screenplay. Next thing I knew [Frank] Yablans was involved, took the project away from Paramount and gave it to Fox. There were heavy-duty politics involved in this move. But Fox passed and Brian was irate. For more on that story, you would have to talk to Brian. He never mentioned The Demolished Man to me again."
Note: during that time in the mid-'90s, amidst the success of Mission: Impossible, De Palma had also been working to set up Ambrose Chapel, which never ended up being made. Tolkin's recollection that it was 1998 when The Demolished Man was being tossed around suggests a possibility that De Palma and Lansing were already preparing to make Snake Eyes while De Palma and Tolkin would work on The Demolished Man screenplay... unless perhaps it was very early in 1998, before Snake Eyes was fully-formed.