A viral Twitter prompt has revealed a bizarre and fascinating bit of trivia: apparently Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn and Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman at one point pitched a version of Gilligan’s Island where the survivors of the shipwreck find themselves desperate and begin to get violent and even cannibalistic. According to Gunn, there was interest on the part of the studio, but Sherwood Schwartz, who created the original TV series, objected, and the project stalled. Years later, Gunn tried again, with the same result (although the second time it was Schwartz’s estate that passed, as the producer passed away in 2011).
Gilligan’s Island was a TV series that aired between 1964 and 1967 on CBS, and was revived in sequel movies from 1978 through 1982. The series was a huge hit in syndication in the ’80s and ’90s, giving it a life much longer than its relatively short broadcast run. The premise was that a group of seven people taking a three-hour boat tour were thrown off course by a typhoon and shipwrecked on a remote island, where they had to live together until help came.
“A true story: In the late 90’s screenwriting GOAT Charlie Kaufman pitched a movie version of Gilligan’s Island where the islanders, starving & desperate, started killing & eating each other. Warner Bros wanted to do it – but Sherwood Schwartz, the creator, said no way,” Gunn explained on Twitter. “After Guardians, I tried to resurrect the idea & wanted to direct. It seemed Warners & Charlie were interested but, this time, the estate of the late Sherwood Schwartz nixed it. Anyway, if the Schwartz estate changes their mind, I’m here.”
The revelation came as a result of a “pitch a movie in two pictures” prompt on social media, and Gunn’s choices were — you probably guessed it — the cast of Gilligan’s Island and a drawing of cannibals cooking human body parts over a fire.
It is arguably not surprising that Sherwood Schwartz objected to the idea. In 1997, the producer told the Archive of American Television that he believed the appeal of the show was in seeing disparate people forced to get along.
“Where could they be that they had to get along with each other?” Scwartz said in the interview. “That was the idea of the show, and it’s the most important idea in the world today. For people who toss away the show as just a silly, broad comedy, it’s deeper than that.”
Schwartz, who also created The Brady Bunch, said in that same interview that his shows tended to be about humanity, and about trying to get disparate groups to recognize their common humanity and get along. That’s not a philosophy that lends itself easily to cannibalism. While Schwartz seemingly had no problem signing off on two Brady Bunch movies that mocked the show they were based on during that time, the Kaufman/Gunn Gilligan was a non-starter.
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