-The Trouble With Dick-
Twenty years have passed since the 1990 release of Disney’s adaption of Dick Tracy. At the time it was well received by critics and a commercial smash, grossing $103 million or the equivalent of $220 million in today’s adjusted dollars. The accompanying soundtrack, compiled largely of songs by Madonna, sold over 2 million units. A successful toy line was launched, including a copy cat ‘two way radio’ wristwatch for kids. Promotional tie-ins with Macdonald’s and a high profile Barbara Walter’s interview of Beatty aided in creating a massive amount of hype in the months leading up to its Summer release date. So much so that the screenplay’s novelization was a bestseller, moving over one million copies before the film had premiered. The picture would go on to be the ninth highest grossing film of the year, and eventually be nominated for seven academy awards. This included a nod to Al Pacino for his manically brilliant portrayal of villain ‘Big Boy Caprice’, and to Vittorio Storaro for his lush eye popping cinematography. Ultimately the film would take home three Oscars for art direction, set design, and original song.
-So Where’s The Sequel?-
In Hollywood a commercial hit is almost certainly followed by another entry, if not several. So where is the second chapter in the tales of Detective Dick Tracy? Shortly after the film’s theatrical run, then-Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg was quoted as saying that he felt “disappointed” by the film’s numbers. Katzenberg realized that ‘Dick Tracy’ had been such an enormous undertaking and though it was successful, it was not a phenomenon like ‘Batman’ had been the previous summer. He had commissioned Beatty to bring the film in at a budget of $25 million. Expensive rewrites and casting changes inflated the final budget to $47 million. Disney then spent an additional $54 million on it’s no mercy marketing strategy. When the box office receipts came in, Disney had spent $101 million on production and marketing while the film took in $103 million in North America. This caused Katzenberg to remark that in the end, “it may not have been worth it.” According to author Peter Biskind in his new biography on Beatty, these comments caused a major rift between the two. Beatty had considered Katzenberg a friend, only to be stabbed in the back in the press. In effect putting plans to a proposed sequel on hold –indefinitely. Further complicating matters, Beatty (who served as producer in addition to director and starring duties) was sued by a pair of executive producers who claimed they were owed a percentage of the film’s profits.
-Calling Dick Tracy! Calling Dick Tracy!-
Way back in 2002 Warren Beatty spoke on the subject, stating that he had, “a very good idea for a sequel”. However many felt that this was a ploy to detract attention away from the fact that his lease on the rights to the property were due to expire. A contractual provision stated that Beatty would retain the rights if he was active in producing new material. Rumors of a proposed television special that would lead to a new feature film began circling the internet and entertainment channels. It began to seem possible. Katzenberg was no longer with Disney, having left to form DreamWorks. New corporate heads were reportedly open to the idea of bringing back the venerable crime fighter. Yet once again no film materialized…
Since then Beatty has been involved with a long battle against the Tribune Media Service, who sued to reclaim the rights after the property continued to stay dormant. The Tribune had plans to place the character into a weekly television series, in the vein of ‘Smallville’. Beatty then countersued and the proceedings were tied up in the court system until 2006. However in 2009 the Tribune filed for bankruptcy, effectively putting the rights back into the hands of Beatty and Disney.
Warren Beatty is now 72 years old, which isn’t to say he couldn’t pull off the role. But it’s highly unlikely if a sequel were to come about, that Mr. Beatty would direct, produce and star. Also taking into account that he hasn’t been behind the camera since 1998’s (underappreciated) ‘Bullworth’. Time marches on with no current plans to resurrect the character. In this current Hollywood climate in which endless properties are being updated and rebooted, I have just one question. Where’s Dick?