Friday, February 8, 2013


the following story is true.

when martin scorsese's the aviator was released on christmas day of 2004, to say that it was well received would be a gross understatement. hailed as one of the best films of the year, it received many accolades, including four baftas, three golden globes, and five oscars. two trophies out of that dozen were awarded to cate blanchett, whose performance as katharine hepburn stole a pretty theft-proof show. her turn as the beloved american legend of stage and screen captured the hearts of film lovers everywhere. it was almost like having the old independent female icon herself back in the flesh.

and her audience didn't want to let her go.

a spinoff film was quickly greenlit. cate blanchett would reprise her role for what a press release described as a "cradle to grave" biopic of the legendary star. scorsese remained on the project as a producer, and directing duties were handed off to david fincher, who at the time was in preproduction for zodiac. immediately, all the biggest stars in hollywood wanted in.  first to sign on was george clooney as cary grant.

warner bros. commissioned a script from aviator screenwriter john logan, but in the meantime, they didn't want to lose what pop culture analysts at the time called "katharine fever." they wanted the character to maintain visible momentum, so that she would still be "in the public conversation" by the film's projected 2008 release date. so they put blanchett to work.

in the spring of 2005, katharine hepburn became the unofficial mascot for the wb network. select shows on the channel's primetime schedule were "hosted" by blanchett, in character as hepburn, in a series of interstitial skits that threw audiences into and out of commercial breaks. she introduced new episodes of network favorites 7th heaven, gilmore girls, and smallville, as well as troubled freshman drama jack & bobby. she would also present the wb's thursday night movie and friday night blue collar sitcom block, an enterprise which generally involved playfully derisive commentary on what she considered "lowbrow frivolity" in her distinctive patrician manner. a typical intro might go something like this: "tonight, reba enters a pageant for grandmothers... rehhhhhlly."

for warner bros., the next step was clear-- integrate the character into the shows themselves. unfortunately, cate blanchett's busy film schedule precluded her from participating, although she did film a special guest appearance on charmed, as the halliwell sisters' visiting aunt pamela on the show's final season, a role blanchett played in character as katharine hepburn.

development began on a pilot for a wb sitcom built around the character of katharine hepburn. cate blanchett declined any involvement and the role was handed off to judy greer. the show, entitled the katharine project, featured a stylized version of katharine hepburn, as portrayed by greer, living with a modern day nuclear family in san diego. the cast also included garrett dillahunt, tiffani thiessen, and brie larson. after a troubled early screening, the show retooled in anticipation of its midseason premiere.

while this was happening, a script was submitted for hepburn, the aviator spinoff katharine hepburn biopic. by this time, blanchett and fincher had both left the project to work instead on the curious case of benjamin button, at the suggestion of blanchett's babel co-star brad pitt. other actors also walked, although anne hathaway remained attached as audrey hepburn, and even expressed interest in moving forward with an audrey hepburn biopic spinoff of the unfilmed katharine hepburn biopic spinoff of the aviator.

in early spring 2006, the katharine project premiered to lackluster reviews. critics panned it for its stale gags and characterization of katharine hepburn as a "foul-mouthed granny," despite judy greer being only 30 at the time. people were also confused as to why katharine hepburn was arbitrarily living with a fictional sitcom family, a premise the show never bothered to address. instead of portraying events from hepburn's real life, the show focused on plotlines like katharine hepburn helping adoptive family patriarch dillahunt get a promotion from his boss, or coaching moody teen larson on her student council campaign speech. the show was pulled and cancelled after only eight episodes. the series was subsequently released on dvd, with five bonus episodes from the single season's unaired back half.

at this point, warner bros. was forced to rethink their plans. the katharine project had left a bad taste in people's mouths. many felt the show had tainted a once-beloved character that had, to be honest, already started to feel a little overexposed. warner bros. quietly removed hepburn from their upcoming film slate and the script was put into turnaround.

it seemed that the project would very likely never find new life, until marvel's the avengers shattered box office records in 2012. warner bros. took notice, and is said to be considering a similar team-up approach to some of their properties. in addition to a justice league movie that would team up superman, batman, wonder woman, green lantern, and the flash, there is word that warner bros. may be interested in bringing back cate blanchett katharine hepburn in a team-up movie with tom hanks walt disney, anthony hopkins alfred hitchcock, michelle williams marilyn monroe, and frank langella richard nixon. no word on how they might attract the interest of all the other studios that own the rights to those characters, or what the story might be that would unite them in a common adventure, but sources within warner bros. say they're not too worried about it.

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