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What made “Sammy” stop running and other never-were adaptations.

What made “Sammy” stop running and other never-were adaptations. (photo)

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In what’s easily the best thing he’s done since, uh, guest star on “Undeclared,” Ben Stiller took time out from mugging, shrieking and frittering away his talent to pay affectionate tribute to the late Budd Schulberg, who died August 5th. For the past few years, Stiller’s evident frustration with Hollywood has been erupting in odd ways — spending $90 million on “Tropic Thunder” to prove how much he hates other blockbusters, mocking studios for having the gall to work with him — so it’s not really a surprise that for over a decade, he and screenwriting partner Jerry Stahl sweated and ultimately failed to bring Schulberg’s gold-standard indictment of Hollywood to the screen. And Stiller isn’t alone in his frustrations with Tinseltown, here are a handful of other long-gestating adaptations that could happen someday, but probably won’t.

1. Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, “Good Omens”

Pratchett & Gaiman’s widely beloved apocalyptic comedy managed to establish its reputation outside of the usual comics enthusiasts; with its lavish scope and extravagant visuals, it needed someone equally outsize to tackle it. Enter Terry Gilliam in 1999, who — with writing partner Tony Grisoni — emerged with a 150-page first draft in 2001. Various colorful status updates emerged (“You can report that Good Omens is proving to be FUCKING difficult to reduce to the FUCKING SHIT ASS limitations of a two FUCKING hour film”), until inevitably the project collapsed in on itself, joining the scrap-heap of Gilliam movies scuttled by bad luck, being too expensive or both. (In this case, the latter.) As of 2008, Gilliam still thinks it can be resurrected; Gaiman’s recent track record of successful adaptations (“Stardust,” “Coraline”) gives him hope.

2. Don DeLillo, “White Noise”

DeLillo’s inescapably influential postmodern landmark was slated for a long time to be Barry Sonnenfeld’s dream project, presumably a reward of sorts for diligently slogging through the likes of “Wild Wild West.” After years of sitting in waiting on Sonnenfeld’s IMDB page, the project finally disappeared. DeLillo’s work is hard to adapt because it relies so greatly on authorial voice and a density that doesn’t necessarily translate to screen; 2006’s “Game 6” — an original screenplay — was highly enjoyable, but best taken in ten-minute chunks, as it was so uncompromisingly DeLillo-esque. Still, there’s little reason to believe Sonnenfeld couldn’t pull off an unexpected triumph with this one; it’s not like he doesn’t know something about unseemly, unthinking commercialization and how bad it can feel in the morning. Witness this creepy Duracell commercial he directed:

3. John Milton, “Paradise Lost”

Harold Pinter spent three months in 1972 condensing all nine volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past into a 445-shot movie that would’ve run two minutes under four hours. Since it was completely unfilmable in any kind of economically feasible way, it was published in book form and left there. But British author John Collier’s condensation of Brit Lit I standard “Paradise Lost” — published in 1973 — has inexplicably had its option repeatedly renewed by producer Martin Poll, who’s shooting for 2011. He’ll be going up against a competing version…from the director of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” This is one that just flat-out should never happen in any form. Blank verse declamations of a theological epic that shaped the Western mind for 500 years, enhanced with CGI angels and demons? Best to stick with “Constantine,” I think.

4. Every single book Scott Rudin has ever optioned

Here’s the thing — apparently, Rudin scans The New York Times Sunday Book Review and bestseller charts every weekend and immediately buys everything on the slightest provocation, even if it’s plainly nigh-impossible to adapt. Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, but that doesn’t mean its intricate chronological structure can simply be flattened into order and put on screen (or that a sequence where a piece of shit taunts an old man won’t give viewers “Mr. Hanky” flashbacks). Rudin owns not one but two Michael Chabon epics (The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union) that are just too sprawling to do, though Stephen Daldry and the Coen brothers are signed up to try. Just for fun, he bought Sean Wilsey’s memoir Oh The Glory Of It All, perhaps inspired by the raging success of the Running With Scissors movie — proof positive that memoirs of upper society dysfunction are screen dynamite. I applaud Rudin’s nerve, but c’mon: it’ll never happen. Or maybe it will: anyone who bullied “Revolutionary Road” up to the screen, where it patently didn’t belong, is not to be underestimated.

[Photo: “Paradise Lost,” Gustave Doré]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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