Ridley Scott is rolling the dice on a ‘Monopoly’ movie and here’s why [UPDATED]

Nov. 11, 2009 | 8:29 p.m.


A Monopoly movie? When word first spread about Universal’s plan to make a film based on the venerable board game, it wasn’t hard to predict the smirking suggestion from every skeptic within arm’s reach of a computer keyboard: “Do not pass go, do not collect $200 …

Then came word that Ridley Scott, of all people, was interested in directing the project and, well, observers just didn’t know what to think. Why on earth would the filmmaker behind “Gladiator,” “Alien” and “Blade Runner” be interested in the dapper little cartoon-capitalist called Uncle Pennybags?

But Frank Beddor, a pivotal figure in the project’s odyssey, says doubters should remember that a film’s core concept is merely a starting place, not the whole ride. “Everybody reacted the same way when they heard that there was going to be a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ movie — and I did too.”

I talked to Beddor for a Los Angeles Times Calender cover story on “The Looking Glass Wars” (you can read it here on the blog), his reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic characters — Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, etc. — as players in a dark fantasy epic of royal intrigue and magical battlefields. Our conversation turned to his interesting role in the Monopoly enterprise and he revealed quite a bit about the premise that lured Scott into the project.

Frank Beddor

“I wrote the story that got Hasbro excited and I attached Ridley Scott,” said Beddor, who may be best known in Hollywood as the producer of “There’s Something About Mary,” one of the top-grossing comedies ever. “The project was underway but they were in a little bit of trouble I guess and they were looking for a way to actually turn it into a movie. I had a pretty interesting take and it got Sir Ridley interested … “

Beddor said his inspiration came from Carroll and the “Looking Glass Wars” experience: “They have this big world and this game — it’s the most famous board game in the world — and it just really came out of the whole ‘Alice’ thing. I took the approach of thinking of the main character falling down a rabbit hole and into a real place called Monopoly City … It was the re-engineering of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that got me thinking and then with this it came around full circle and I was able to utilize that. That’s a big world. They were searching for that.”

Ridley Scott

I found myself thinking that “Monopoly” as imagined by Beddor might recall special-effects comedies such as “Bedtime Stories,” “Night at the Museum” and “The Mask” as the writer continued with his description of the project.

“I created a comedic, lovable loser who lives in Manhattan and works at a real estate company and he’s not very good at his job but he’s great at playing Monopoly. And the world record for playing is 70 straight days – over 1,600 hours – and he wanted to try to convince his friends to help him break that world record. They think he is crazy. They kid him about this girl and they’re playing the game and there’s this big fight. And he’s holding a Chance card and after they’ve left he says, ‘Damn, I wanted to use that Chance card,’ and he throws it down. He falls asleep and then he wakes up in the morning and he’s holding the Chance card, and he thinks, ‘That’s odd.’”

Yes, this is all going where you think it is. Beddor continued:

“He’s all groggy and he goes down to buy some coffee and he reaches into his pocket and all he has is Monopoly money. All this Monopoly money pours out. He’s confused and embarrassed and the girl reaches across the counter and says, ‘That’s OK.’ And she gives him change in Monopoly money. He walks outside and he’s in this very vibrant place, Monopoly City, and he’s just come out of a Chance Shop. As it goes on, he takes on the evil Parker Brothers in the game of Monolopy. He has to defeat them. It tries to incorporate all the iconic imageries — a sports car pulls up, there’s someone on a  horse, someone pushing a wheelbarrow — and rich Uncle Pennybags, you’re going to see him as the maître d’ at the restaurant and he’s the buggy driver and the local eccentric and the doorman at the opera. There’s all these sight gags.”

The idea of a human dropping down into the logic and universe of the board game (not unlike “Jumanji,” I suppose) might work as a film, but how did Scott end up as an interested player? “Well it was that pitch, that’s where Sir Ridely got excited. After I pitched it to him, he put out his hand and said, ‘What do I have to be part of this movie?’ “

Monopoly board

Beddor still sounded surprised as he recounted this part. “So I said, ‘Do you mean you want to direct it?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, and I will tell you why – it’s all the things you just said and the fact that I had these epic Monopoly battles with my family when I was young.'”

Well, I guess it’s good that Scott wasn’t a Rock, Paper, Scissors fan or we’d be watching two hours of hand pumping showdowns. I know that’s not fair, but even after talking to Beddor I’m still skeptical that I want to spend hours in a darkened theater with Uncle Pennybags and the thimble.

Beddor chuckled. He’s heard all the wisecracks and naysayers. “Look, so much of it is about the execution. You know the visual component is going to be beautiful with Ridley. And you have all of the world editions to deal with — there are different editions of the game so the city won’t be limited to the Atlantic City edition that we know in America. Ridley grew up with the British version … .”

While Beddor’s story was a key moment in the life of the project, Pamela Pettler (“Monster House,” “Corpse Bride“) is the screenwriter. “Things will change, it’s been a couple of years since I came up with all that. I did my job where I created this world so they could get really excited and get Ridley excited.”

I mentioned to Beddor that these days, with the economic turmoil and the populist venom toward Wall Street, it might be a an extra challenge to present a film ode to wheeler-dealer culture, renter gouging and fat cats in spats.

“Well it’s not about that; it can’t be just about the money. To me it’s more a metaphor for life, the taking of chances and this character through this process learns that he can do a lot of things. He’s completely brave and strategic and risk-taking while playing this game but in real life he’s a mess. He won’t roll the dice. That’s the character and journey he has to take.”

OK, but is that a journey for the rest of us? I have some childhood memories of Monopoly myself and a lot of them involve everybody walking away from the game long before it was finished.

— Geoff Boucher


Tweedledee and Tweedledum

Frank Beddor takes “Alice” to a strange new Wonderland

Tim Burton and “Alice” feel the love at D23 Expo

Tim Burton’s graveyard cabaret

“Alice” will be a big part of Disney’s D23 Expo

Tim Burton on past “Alice” films: “There wasn’t anything underneath”

Meet the cast: Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”

Tim Burton on working with Depp on a darker “Alice”

PHOTOS: Frank Beddor, in Mad Hatter attire (Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times); Ridley Scott at the American Film Festival in Deauville, France, in 2003. (CREDIT:Neviere/EPA) Monopoly images are trademarks of Parker Bros/Hasbro.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post had screenwriter Pamela Pettler’s last name wrong. Go to accuracy jail, go directly to accuracy jail, do not pass go… 


30 Responses to Ridley Scott is rolling the dice on a ‘Monopoly’ movie and here’s why [UPDATED]

  1. Mark says:

    Does Sir Ridley wear his little medal around all the time?

  2. David Paniagua says:

    I wonder if Ridley Scott will hear my pitch for Hungry Hungry Hippos 2, seeing as how Robot Chicken directed the first one?

  3. Michael Joseph says:

    Am I living in an alternate reality where that plot sounds remotely like a good idea? A two hour movie filled with nods to a board game? Has the world gone mad?

  4. Just don't turn the movie into some kind of plot that has a love story attached or some meaningful lesson to be learned. Let it just be plain fun for all us monopoly fans. It seems Hasbro is really cashing in with the release of Monopoly City and now having a movie come out is great.

  5. Andrea says:

    I gotta say this movie doesn't sound too bad. A good script is what will make the difference and if they have that AND Ridley Scott, it will be great.

  6. Robert NO longer in says:

    The sage adage, 'What you do, is important – HOW YOU DO IT, IS CRITICAL' certainly applies to movies….you were so right about Pirates et. al. and certainly Sir Ridley. Another example might be, Steve Jobs and Pixar….vs the others, whose names DON'T come to mind.

  7. Sean Wolfson says:

    For the record, the screenwriter's name is Pamela Pettler, not Pettner

  8. Derek Gibbons says:

    This is the biggest load of crap I've ever read in my life. Idiots.

  9. Ponchez says:

    How many future films is Ridley Scott attached to, he must have the next 50 years panned out, if you look on IMDB he has 15 films in production. It is not possible for hime to actually make all those films, he must get paid to say he is interested in something so the film gets backing then he drops out at a later date. Maybe, just an idea…

  10. Joe says:

    Wow – I had really hoped they would turn this into something more interesting. Given the material and the times, why not produce a film based on corporate espionage and use it to examine the consumerist-capitalist culture the world is in now. You could still have a lot of action and well developed characters, while maintaining the imagery and characters from the game.
    Instead it literally is Jumanji with elements of the game forced into the narrative (how will we incorporate the horse AND the wheelbarrow).
    I had really hoped they would go in a less obvious direction. Boo

    • Bat Country says:

      They've got one, it's called 'Idiocracy'. Of course, many people haven't seen it because Fox tried to bury the film when it came out.

  11. Arye Michael Bender says:

    If Mr. Scott makes the picture, it will have depth, irony, and something to say about the dark times of the depression. It will be a film worth the watching I'm betting.
    BTW: I'll take the racing car when I win the bet. Any takers?

  12. Sheldon says:

    This certainly has potential but, as with Pirates, I'm not going to call anyone names [for good or ill] until the movie actually comes out.
    That way lies foolishness.

  13. Raymond says:

    I really like Monopoly – I've been in many multi-hour long grudge matches, but a movie? Really? ehhh, maybe I'll rent it from netflix.

  14. Kevin says:

    Next we will see a movie about children being sucked into the world of Candyland only to be buggered by lord licorice.

  15. amd says:

    thank you for Ridley Scott

  16. Derek says:

    Ridley or not, this story is moronic.
    Toss a dead cat and you'll hit somebody with a brighter idea.
    That way lies common sense.

  17. Frank Mackey says:

    "I did my job where I created this world so they could get really excited…"
    Um… Actually that was already done by the board game. All you've done is too much cocaine.
    I wish there was a place where I could bet money on seeing the headline "Ridley Scott leaves Monopoly project" in the next 12 months. This is an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen and is a good bet to be the first of the "established property/brand" movies to fail. Ouija is actually a far better starting place and that is saying something.

  18. Art says:

    Monopoly the movie? Seriously? This is the best we can do?

  19. dmars says:

    Monopoly city? That whole plot has to be a joke, how about you read this article so you might have a better chance at realizing how retarded this concept is. <a href="http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-truth-behind-the-upcoming-monopoly

  20. Jason says:

    Are they going to make a video game based on the movie based on the board game?

  21. cgoofies` says:

    Maybe board game movies is the next great idea after remakes. Will there be remakes of board game movies? Just toss in some action scenes and Monopoly could be a wild success.

  22. Tim says:

    Why don't we worry about a new Superman movie rather than a movie about an outdated board game!

  23. jessica says:

    Ha ha ha ha

    This movie is a joke love to know what they do in there spare time!!!!!

  24. youwannaroll says:

    for amusement:
    Rock/Paper/Scissors: The Way of the tosser. ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1121964/ )

    it's only 1.5 hours, but still… you can get your hand-pumping showdowns, if you really want to.

  25. […] some of which will be played by Liam Neeson and Rihanna. There’s also a remake of Clue and a movie adaptation of motherfucking Monopoly directed by Ridley […]

  26. […] Hollywood bigwigs, people have been accusing you guys of running out of ideas. This is not helping your […]

  27. […] a cool billion.  Maybe we could get Sir Ridley Scott to direct one of these… like Monopoly!  And it’s like Alice in Wonderland for some fucking reason.  Why not?  The sky was the limit, and even that […]

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