New Writer Attacks Asteroids

Jez Butterworth takes aim

Three and a half years after the project was first announced, Universal's Asteroids have still yet to start hitting anything. Back in 2009 we said that we felt sorry for Matthew Lopez, tasked with crafting a narrative from what's a very primitive and basic videogame premise. And this morning our concern is for someone new: Jez Butterworth is the latest writer to take a shot at Asteroids' screenplay.

Asteroids is a rickety, vector-based Atari arcade classic in which a lone spaceship has to defend the planet Earth from big space rocks. Clearly then, there's the scope for some sort of large-scale disaster movie along Armageddon lines, perhaps with a tad more sci-fi, putting some sort of rugged hero (The Rock, obviously) in some sort of ship, going off-world to protect us.

Or it could be like Dark Star, with a small band of bored and paranoid space truckers indifferently blowing shit up and getting stoned until their ship goes mad. We're saying that's unlikely though.

Whatever, the basic premise of the game was deemed so awesome, that four studios were originally in the bidding war to win the rights from Atari. Universal achieved the highest score.

As we said, the first writer on the project was Matt Lopez (The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Race To Witch Mountain), and he was then followed by Evan Spiliotopoulos (many DTV Disney sequels). New incumbent Butterworth's previous credits number Doug Liman's Fair Game, The Last Legion, and Birthday Girl, which he also directed. He's got several other scripts in development, including a James Brown biopic for Tate Taylor.

Roland Emmerich was being touted as Asteroids' potential director earlier this year, but it's unclear how real a prospect that was, and nobody seems to be mentioning him now. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, the super-producer behind the Transformers and Matrix franchises (and currently in the UK working on Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan) is overseeing the film, and he'll be receiving Empire's screenplay for Chuckie Egg in the next few days.

If one thing's certain, it's that, whatever form it takes, Asteroids needs Killing Joke on the soundtrack.