Here are detaills of various projects that Shaffer worked on or collaborated with which have so far been unproduced. Some of these projects have gone on to be produced albeit with different producers and writers. The list is far from complete and further details will be added when they become available.
By 1970 Shaffer had adapted his brother Peter's hit comedy which had first been staged five years earlier and announced in interviews that it was to be his next project.
The clever trick with this one-act comedy is with the reversed lighting. The play is set in a flat during an electrical blackout, and is written to be staged under a reversed lighting scheme: that is, the play opens with a dinner party beginning on a darkened stage, then a few minutes into the show "a fuse blows", the stage lights come up, and the characters are seen shambling around apparently invisible to one another.
We first see the characters walking around the dark then suddenly the lights blow and Brindsley Miller and his fiancée Carol Melkett have "borrowed" the fancy furniture from neighbor Harold Gorringe's flat in order to impress Carol's father, Colonel Melkett. Brindsley, an artist, is afraid that the Colonel will not give up his daughter to a starving artist. Things go awry when the lights go out, leaving Brindlsey helpless as characters arrive, one by one. First is Brindsley's elderly neighbor, Miss Furnival. Colonel Melkett, unimpressed by the blackout, arrives, and Brindsley's worst nightmare comes true as Harold returns early, and Brindsley tries desperately to return the furniture without Harold noticing.
Originally written in 1970, Play With A Gypsy was written as a stageplay which was then later adapted for the screen as Absolution. Shaffer told the New York Times in November 1970 that "Play With A Gypsy is very sinister, perfectly foul in fact, about a priest and schoolboys who screw him up, torture him. It's a psychological thriller, in which the audience is told a lie. The truth is almost the opposite." It was hoped that the production team that staged Sleuth would offer it to the West End before transferring it to New York.
Although the play had a similiar feel and setting to Robert Marasco's Child's Play, which was being played in London at the time, Shaffer was quick to point out that they went their seperate ways.
"In the Marasco play, evil is rampant, for reasons some folks never quite figured out. In Play With A Gypsy it'll be plotted all the way. The central figure is a priest, not a bad priest, but one who doesn't understand human beings. He is so bound by his vows and rigid adherence to Catholic orthodoxy that he doesn't know how to cope with malice. He becomes the prey of very wicked animals. The animals are the boys in the school whom he believes to be telling him the truth." He added "Play With A Gypsy is not an anti-Catholic play by a long shot. It simply tries to say that the church, with it's rigidities, engenders certain conflicts with which it is difficult to cope."
The stageplay never made it to the theatre but Shaffer did create a screenplay from it which Christopher Lee had read and was keen to take the lead role of Father Goddard. Shaffer wasn't so sure it would have suited him at the time as he was still in his Dracula period and this would have shifted the emphasis of the story.
"Technically he could have played it, I'm sure, but it certainly wasn't written with him in mind." Shaffer later told Cinema Magazine.
In June 1969, film trade newspaper Box Office reported that producer Josef Shaftel had negotiated the full co-operation of the Israeli government for the production of Masada, the Biblical epic based on the chronicles of the Jewish Zealots who defied Rome for a number of years and who chose death instead of submission to the empire 1,900 years ago. Shaftel, together with Shaffer and financial controller Arthur Tarry then left to visit Israel to meet with government officials. Filming was scheduled to start in January 1971.
In his memoirs So What Did You Expect? Shaffer gave a possible reason for the film not going ahead as planned: "Unfortunately in this I had made the Roman besiegers the heroes rather than the embattled Zealots, to the chagrin of the Israeli government."
THE GOSHAWK SQUADRON
On 24th December 1972, The New York Times reported that Shaffer had joined producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr in Hollywood and was discussing how he will bring Goldwyn’s Goshawk Squadron – based on Derek Robinson’s spine-tingling novel about the perilous exploits of a band of World War I Royal Air Force pilots – to the screen.
Shaffer says: “Frankly, I’d find just another aircraft chase film incredibly tedious at this point,” he said. “One of the things that attracted me to this story is the amusing style in which it is told. It’s actually a black comedy about young men – not your gentlemen heores – who had to live a lifetime in three weeks. The flying scenes are vivid, of course, but it’s simply not enough to illustrate the point that war is hell. I hope that our film will turn out to be funny, as well as credible.”
Though Goldwyn's wife loved the script, Goldwyn himself was not so sure and was wary of the way in which the main character would be percieved by the audience. Despite several attempts to make it work, Shaffer's script was left on the shelf.
The Moonstone, a detective novel by Wilkie Collins was adapted for the screen by Shaffer circa 1974/75 by arrangement with producer David Picker who was soon to become the head of Paramount. Box Office newspaper reported in it's 14th July 1975 issue that Picker had regenotiated his contract with Warner Bros and was planning on setting up his headquarters at Paramount in Hollywood. The report also states that Picker has several film projects in the pipeline with both Warner Bros and Paramount. One of the Warner Bros projects marked for production was Shaffer's screenplay for The Moonstone. David Picker moved on to Paramount and that meant The Moonstone would not go into production.
Shaffer had planned to adapt his dark, twisting, comedy thriller for the screen with the help of director Nic Roeg, but the project alas never came about. Incidentally, Shaffer had also approached another great director, Billy Wilder if he would ever consider directing the play on the Broadway stage. Wilder was keen to be involved, but his film Buddy Buddy was slated by the critics and so Wilder thought that he was a failure and decided not to direct.
DEATH COMES AT THE END
Shaffer adapted this 1944 Agatha Christie's murder mystery novel around 1980. The film, which was to be shot on location in Egypt by Columbia Pictures was set to be directed by Paul Verhoeven but the project fell through. Shaffer did however work with Verhoeven a few years later when he worked as creative consultant on Verhoeven's 1985 film Flesh & Blood, a medieval tale starring Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
This was a screenplay for Alan Ladd Jnr and David Brown. Shaffer tells of it in his memoirs as "a murderer is rather amusingly discovered with a corpse in his arms at a surprise party for him in his home."
THE MURDER OF THE MAHARAJAH
In January 1981 Box Office newspaper reported that film producer Robert Solo had signed Anthony Shaffer to write the screenplay for Murder Of The Maharajah for United Artists. The novel by H.R.F Keating, a whodunnit mystery featuring his famous detective Inspector Ghote, was first published in 1980.
Shaffer collaborated with the actor / writer Victor Spinetti for the sequel of the 1973 film The Sting starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The script, commissioned by producer Jennings Lang was described by Shaffer as 'miscegenation.'
Jennings Lang however did produce The Sting 2 in 1983 starring Jackie Gleason and MacDavis with a script by Davis S.Ward who also wrote the original film.
In 1984 Shaffer produced the script for a film called Bela based on the life and characters of Bela Lugosi. This was intended to be produced by Michael Levy at Fox. The script is centered around Lugosi and his famous Dracula character. Other names listed on the characters page include Tod Browning, Clara Bow, Beatrice Weeks and 20 actors for Dracula screen tests!
THE WORLD IS MADE OF GLASS
In 1985 Shaffer had been commissioned by the author Morris West to adapt one of his novels The World Is Made Of Glass for the screen. The story told of Carl Gustov Jung and a female patient with whom he was attracted to. Shaffer wrote the script but Morris West was not pleased. He requested that Shaffer put more emphasis on the girl and show a scene where Jung masturbates while with the patient! Shaffer was not prepared to show Jung in this light and after a heated exchange the two writers fell out and the project was abandoned.
In January 1986 The Wilmington Star, a newspaper based in Wilmington, North Carolina, reported that filmmaker Joseph E Levine had purchased the rights to Brook Stanwood's 1979 mystery novel The Glow the previous year. Levine had reported that Anthony Shaffer was working on the script in Australia and was expecting the completed script the following month. Author Brook Stanwood was in fact a pseudonym used by Howard and Susan Kaminsky.
Shaffer had completed the script and learnt that Levine had passed it on to a third party to judge the script whos assessment stalled the project. The differences were settled but unfortunately Levine died before the project went ahead.
A TV movie of The Glow was released some 15 years later in 2002 starring Dean Cain and Portia de Rossi. Screenplay was by Gary Sherman.
THE LOATHSOME LAMBTON WORM
This was the working title Shaffer gave to his sequel of his film The Wicker Man - he had a dislike for using Roman numerals in film sequels!
A few years ago, a thirty page film script treatment, complete with illustrations, for the sequel appeared. It's believed that this was written in 1989 for producer Lance Reynolds. The story tells of Sgt Howie returning to Summerisle to face Lord Summerisle one more time and explains how he survived the sacrifice from the first film.
This was to be a thirteen-part TV series adaption of Frederick Forsyth's 1989 thriller of the same name. Shaffer and the shows producers were working in Ireland but progress was hampered by the producers being unable to reach agreement with the first episode of the planned long running series. Shaffer decided to come away from the project.
CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
Shaffer's screenplay about the life of Charlie Chaplin.
A GREAT RECKONING IN A LITTLE ROOM
This was to be a four-part TV thriller series for the BBC about Christopher Marlowe writing as William Shakespeare.
THE NINE DOORS TO THE KINGDOM OF SHADOWS
Shaffer told Sight & Sound magazine in August 1995 that he was writing a black, Goyaesque film for the Spaniards called The Nine Doors To The Kingdom Of Shadows which was based on a book El Club Dumas (The Dumas Club) by Arturo Perez Reverte. This 1993 novel follows the adventures of a book dealer who is hired to find a rare manuscript and goes on a journey of dark characters and the occult.
Shaffer's script was not used.
In 1999 the film The Ninth Gate was released, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp, Frank Langella and Lena Olin.
In 1995 Shaffer adapted the book Talk To Me Tenderly, Tell Me Lies by John Gordon Davis for the big screen. This 1992 novel tells of an unlikely romance between a quirky, free-spirited drifter and an isolated housewife on a farm in the Australian outback.
In 1997 Shaffer wrote a screenplay about the Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk for Laurence Olivier's son Tarquin. Olivier had been given the idea by his wife Zelfa to do a film about the iconic leader who created the Republic Of Turkey and so he asked Shaffer to write the script. The young Olivier had even asked his father who he thought would be the ideal actor for the lead role and the reply was "Me!"
Although Shaffer had provided Olivier with the script it was later rejected as being too lengthy. In an interview, Olivier said of Shaffer's script: "A very well-researched script, but it was like a phone book. It was enormous. It was not dramatic." A new script by Timothy Prager based on a 1964 biography by Lord Kinross was used instead and Bruce Beresford was set to direct the film.
Shaffer recalls in his memoirs that Olivier was moved to tears with delight when he had first read the script but suspects he was replaced as the writer because he couldn't afford the contractual rewrites.
Despite the rejection of Shaffer's script, Olivier's plans to make the film were met with some controversy and protest. The actor Antonio Banderas had been cast to play the leader in the film but he later pulled out after receiving hate mail and threats from Greek-Americans. Over the years other attempts to make a film about the Turkish leader have been hit with problems and have never made it to the screen. Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Kirk Douglas and Omar Sharif were all involved in such projects.
THE WICKER MAN
During the year 2000, Shaffer was working with Canadian theatre producer Thierry Nihill and the Mirvish Organisation based in Toronto on a new stage version of The Wicker Man. Nihill had written his own adaptation of the 102 minute version of the film for the stage and approached Shaffer with his script. Shaffer was interested with the idea and soon he and Nihill were busy revising the script and generating interest for a possible theatre production. The script remained true to the film and came complete with music - some of it new which hadn't made it to the original film. Gary Carpenter, the film's music director was also on board to assist with the music for this new play.
Nihill announced that the script for the play was complete and the production would be billed as Anthony Shaffer's Wicker Man which he hoped would be staged at major venues and cities.
"Mr Shaffer and I are both very excited about the possibilities of this production," said Nihill at the time. "We are hoping it will start in Toronto, then New York, and by the time it reaches London it will be a polished product."
Negotiations with Canal Plus, the films owners at the time, were taking place as they too were enthusiastic about the project. They were also enthusiastic about the proposed US remake being directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicholas Cage. This unfortunately slowed down any development with Shaffer's / Nihill's play.
Things took a dramatic turn however when Shaffer unexpectedly died and Canal Plus gave the go-ahead for the filming of the remake.
By 2004 Nihill was still looking to have the stage version produced but the legal wrangling of Shaffer's estate has placed a hold on any further development so far.
Please see The Wicker Man in the Screenplays section for details of other stage productions of The Wicker Man.