Last season, fans of the cult series Twin Peaks (1990-91) thought that after nearly a decade, they might finally get another off-kilter TV ride courtesy of creator David Lynch. The director of such diverse films as "The Elephant Man," "Blue Velvet," and the Oscar-nominated "Straight Story" had developed an ABC series called Mulholland Drive, a distinctly Lynchian look at Hollywood's underbelly. So excited were ABC executives about doing business with Lynch again that they committed $4.5 million for a two-hour movie pilot from his pitch alone; Touchstone Television, a division of Disney, which owns the network, later threw in another $2.5 million, more than twice the norm for such projects. When Lynch turned in a rough cut that ran two hours and five minutes - the average running time of a two-hour TV-movie with commercials is 88 minutes - ABC's enthusiasm quickly faded. A September 6, 1999, New Yorker article that chronicled the making of the pilot, which featured Robert Forster and Laura Harring, called the rough cut "spooky, funny and absorbing." But for the ABC suits Mulholland Drive was too long and weird. the network demanded that Lynch trim the pilot, which he did reluctantly, but ABC still shelved the series.
A year later, the French media conglomerate Canal Plus is close to acquiring Mulholland Drive, which it would release as a feature film here and abroad. "We're close to a deal where Canal Plus would pay ABC $7 million for the rights and will put another couple million in for David to give it a new ending," says Tony Krantz, an executive producer of the pilot and cochairman and CEO of Imagine Television, the studio that produced it. "And if ABC wants it [as a feature], they have first rights after its theatrical release. [ABC] will also have rights of first refusal to turn it into a series." But Mulholland Drive will probably have to do gangbusters at the box office for ABC to get involved after having already turned it down.
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