We're not sure if you've heard, but there is a little Alice in Wonderland movie opening today in a few theaters. Tim Burton (of Big Fish fame) directs, with his wife Helena Bonham-Carter playing the Queen of Hearts and Johnny Depp playing a nightmare on ecstasy.
The inescapable premier of Tim Burton's big-budget, 3-D extravaganza reminded us that not that long ago there were several other competing attempts to bring Lewis Carroll's genius story about the little girl that went down the rabbit hole.
Many were said to be in different stages of production: we distinctly recall hearing that Sarah Michelle Gellar had been cast as a Buffytastic Alice and that horror maestro Wes Craven was supposed to direct a "darker" telling of the story.
And then, most tantalizingly, there was the widely reported story that Marilyn Manson itself had been cast as the Queen of Hearts in a modern, dystopian adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
Rings a bell? Let's go back to this October, 2004 MTV report entitled "Marilyn Manson to Play Queen of Hearts in 'Alice' Adaptation":
Marilyn Manson, who's getting ready to marry burlesque queen Dita Von Teese, is about to take another kind of plunge -- down the rabbit hole. Manson will play the Queen of Hearts in a cinematic re-imagining of "Alice in Wonderland" called "Living in Neon Dreams."
It won't be too much of a stretch, as Manson played a drag queen in "Party Monster," but he said this role requires a bit more commitment, since it's less of a caricature, however campy the film's looking-glass world might appear to be.
"I'm not just playing a drag queen, I'm playing a woman," Manson explained. "There's a big difference, and there's more work to do on that. So I'm studying early Joan Crawford, and I've been kind of watching the lady at home, picking up some characteristics. She can teach me how to put my stockings on straight, though I think I've already mastered that."
Also in the movie are Alan Cumming (playing the King of Hearts), Nia Vardalos, Daryl Hannah, Tim Roth and Jonathan Pryce. The film will start shooting next month in Berlin and Cape Town, South Africa, and it's projected to come out next year.
Wait, "the film will start shooting next month"? Did it ever get made? How come we never heard of it opening? What happened to Marilyn Manson's Alice in Wonderland?
Some clues, after the jump.
Here's what we know:
- The MTV report from October, 2004 mentions the recent wrapping of "a low-budget adaptation of J.T. LeRoy's book The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," a film that was made, barely released and then sank into obscurity after LeRoy was revealed to be an impostor. Manson played a pedophile in that movie. The Queen of Hearts in the Alice in Wonderland project, Living in Neon Dreams was mentioned as his following dramatic role.
- A year later, in November, 2005, another MTV report about Manson's various acting commitments ("Marilyn Manson Won't Let Scary Michael Chiklis Stop His Scary Films") explains that "another film Manson had been secured for, Living Neon Dreams, has also hit a snag. In that film, Manson was to play the Queen of Hearts in the cinematic re-imagining of -- you guessed it -- 'Alice in Wonderland.' 'The schedule kept being delayed to the point where it's been two years now, and I had to pass on it because I just didn't feel like it was going to happen and I feel like I want other things to happen,' he explained."
- The same report explains that Manson has started working on his own "Alice" project:
Manson's also been tweaking his directorial debut, Phantasmagoria (The Vision of Lewis Carroll); he wrote the film's screenplay and stars with fashion model Lily Cole, who plays Alice from Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland."
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"It's about Lewis Carroll and how he became a persona much more bizarre and elaborate than Marilyn Manson," he said of the film, which has been put on hold until the end of the year so he can finish his sixth album. "Charles Dodson was his real name, and he was a person who had a tortured inability to find love and to find happiness in his life, and his story is one of great depression. It's one of a split personality -- a person who was deaf in his right ear and left-handed. He was a mathematician and an artist, a deacon in a church who believed in evolution. I relate to him."
- The Phantasmagoria project has been 5 years in the making and it will allegedly be released later this year in what the singer's website describes as a "very unconventional" way.
So, what happened to Living in Neon Dreams? The New York Times website shows its status as "Production/Awaiting Release." The film's father-and-son producer and director, Michael and Jeremy Tarr, have apparently moved on with a different cast, but information about them is elusive and there are some unconfirmed comments on websites that describe them as controversial. Here and here.
It is very difficult to find information about the Tarrs and they and their "Neon Dreams" project are curiously absent from IMDB. As a disgruntled commenter puts it: "By the early 2000's, 'Neon Dreams' was still around as a potential project. Supposedly there were investors in Germany and South Africa. 'Living in Neon Dreams"' turned up on the IMDB web data base and numerous sci-fi and film fan web sites described as a modernized version of the Alice in Wonderland story. (You can still find it listed on some websites. Google: "Living in Neon Dreams" and see how much stuff actually still comes up.) Shock rocker, Marilyn Manson was reportedly involved at one point according to numerous websites along with Nastassja Kinski, John Rhys-Davies, Thomas Kretschmann, Alan Cumming, Daryl Hannah, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Vardalos and A.J. Cook at one time or another in this project's contorted evolution."