Chris Cunningham | Neuromancer
Cancelled November 2004
Even creators considered by many to be modern masters, have trouble getting projects of the ground. Consider Chris Cunningham, perhaps the most talented director of the Jonze / Gondry / Romanic music video wave in the 1990s. Cunningham was signed to direct the long awaited adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer in 2000. After years of script revisions and preproduction (rumour has it Cunningham had drawn a huge amount of concept art and storyboards) the project was cancelled, due to fact that Cunningham was not granted final cut (ie complete control over the final edit of the film). The executive producers reserved final cut for themselves on account this was to be Cunningham’s first feature. Cunningham has since switched his focus to music production, gallery art, and live events.
In 2000, Cunningham and cyberpunk author William Gibson began work on the script for Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer. However, because Neuromancer was due to be a big budget studio film, it is rumoured that Cunningham pulled out due to being a first time director without final cut approval. He also felt that too much of the original book’s ideas had been cannibalised by other recent films.
On 18 November 2004, in the FAQ on the William Gibson Board, Gibson was asked:
Q: Is it true there’s a movie of Neuromancer in the works? A: Perpetually, it seems, and going on a quarter of a century now. The most recently rumoured version, to have been directed by Chris Cunningham, is now definitely not happening.
In an August 1999 Spike Magazine interview, Gibson stated “He (Chris) was brought to my attention by someone else. We were told, third-hand, that he was extremely chary of the Hollywood process, and wouldn’t return calls. But someone else told us that Neuromancer had been his Wind In The Willows, that he’d read it when he was a kid. I went to London and we met.” Gibson is also quoted in the article as saying “Chris is my own 100 per cent personal choice…My only choice. The only person I’ve met who I thought might have a hope in hell of doing it right. I went back to see him in London just after he’d finished the Bjork video, and I sat on a couch beside this dead sex little Bjork robot, except it was wearing Aphex Twin’s head. We talked.”
I find it inspiring that Mr. Cunningham had the strength not to compromise his vision for a project. The temptation is that even if the film were to turn out trite, the exposure would have given him instant house-hold name recognition and a big pay-day.
Cunningham has since released several personal projects, including Rubber Johnny, and a remix video for Gill Scott Heron. Guardian UK reports “Now Cunningham is tired of videos and adverts. “Making commercials,” he says, “is the dustbin of film-making. It sucks you dry.”