Remembering Barbarella: The Greatest Remake Never Made

As you might have heard, Barbarella is dead. After three years of divorce drama, illicit affairs, creative inertia, studio haggles and aggressive press manipulation, Robert Rodriguez yesterday pulled the plug on his long-rumored remake of the 1968 sci-fi camp classic. The film was supposed to launch his Planet Terror muse/paramour Rose McGowan -- for whom Rodriguez left his wife and children in 2006 -- to international superstardom, but as he announced on Tuesday, it's his fatherly responsibilities that scuttled the $70 million project in the end. If you're as confused as I was, refer to the convenient Barbarella timeline after the jump for one last walk along the project's sad, tortured path.

· October 1968: The original Barbarella, an erotic sci-fi romp starring Jane Fonda and directed by her then-husband Roger Vadim, opens theatrically. Critics loathe it, and it performs below average at the box office, but the film's cult following develops significantly in the years ahead.

· May 2005: Director Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan meet for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival.

· April 2006: Rodriguez files for divorce from his Troublemaker Films co-producer Elizabeth Avellan, his wife of 16 years with whom he has five children in Austin, Texas. Page Six reports that Rodriguez is now dating McGowan. "Rose is working with Robert on a yet-to-be-announced project," his rep tells the gossips. "They have a professional relationship." The director determines, as is his custom, to remain close to his kids in Austin.


· Summer 2006: Rodriguez begins work in Austin on the Planet Terror segment of his Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse. McGowan stars as stripper-turned-gun-legged amputee Cherry Darling in the Planet Terror

· April 2007: New reports detail the meltdowns and hook-ups that consumed the Terror set following the Rodriguez/Avellan split. Variety's Anne Thompson attributes a month-long production hiatus to the blow-up; a Page Six source notes McGowan's conspicuous visits to Rodriguez's trailer. "Rose thought some of the crew were treating her differently," a source notes, "and the attitude was, like, well what do you expect when you're [bleeping] the director?"

· Sept.- Oct. 2007: Rumors surface that McGowan is showing off a new engagement ring from Rodriguez. A month later People magazine confirms that the pair is in fact engaged.

· Oct. 2007: Universal Pictures is said to be interested in a Rodriguez-directed remake of Barbarella, but the studio balks at his choice of McGowan for the lead. Jessica Alba and Nicole Kidman are among the alternatives suggested. Rodriguez denies the controversy, saying Universal was "blown away" by McGowan's screen test and is prepared to greenlight it at $60 million. (A "Uni source" corroborates this to Nikki Finke.) He estimates the final budget at $82 million, and shops the project around for a sweeter deal.

· April 2008: McGowan breaks her silence, telling MTV Movies that not only is Barbarella a go ("I have contracts to prove it"), but costumes are done and sets are under construction. "I've got part of a spaceship built for me!" she says, adding that the only thing really holding up shooting is the specter of a SAG strike. Additionally, she's dyed her hair blond in preparation for the role.


· May-June 2008: While Barbarella languishes and Rodriguez prepares Shorts for Warner Bros., another two potential McGowan collaborations emerge in the press: for TV, the exploitation-era homage Women in Chains!; and for theaters this year, a splashy remake of the 1985 swordstress B-romp Red Sonja. Rodriguez gets McGowan's back once more: "Rose is a pistol," he tells USA Today. She's whip-smart, has attitude to burn, is sexy, extremely strong, yet has a vulnerable side that would surprise her closest friends. That description also fits Red Sonja."

· July 2008: Less than a week after Rodriguez's praise hit newsstands, Page Six reports that the Rodriguez/McGowan engagement is off and the couple is through. Barabarella remains in limbo but may move forward with another actress. One source alleges Rodriguez's relationship with young Shorts star Kat Dennings to be at the root of the discord. Two weeks later, Rodriguez and McGowan (and their conceptual art) appear at Comic-Con to discuss the Red Sonja, which now has Doug Aaroniokoski attached to direct.

· May 2009: With Women in Chains! having gone nowhere and Red Sonja in development hell (if it continues to exist at all), Rodriguez tells MTV Movies that Barbarella, too, is officially dead. "It came to the point where [a company from] Germany offered us a $70 million budget, which would have been by far the biggest budget I ever would have had for a movie," he said. "But I had to shoot it in Germany and post it in Germany. Nothing against Germany, but I have five kids and I was like, 'God, I don't know if we can do that. I don't know if I can be away that long.'" He adds that he'd like to someday release the film's preliminary production artwork to show people what they missed.

No word from McGowan, meanwhile, who is presently working on Nip/Tuck. A masterpiece is lost, but we'll always have the drama.


  • benjamin says:

    Noooooooo!!! The only movie that could possibly be a campier piece of ridiculous than the original Barbarella is now only never to be? Nerdy drag queens everywhere are mourning what could've been their finest hour of inspiration!

  • MurasakiTurtle says:

    Ya' know, I used to think Rodriguez was the coolest, listening to the director's commentary for his early films, watching his fun and family-filled making-ofs.
    Now, however, he comes off just like another skeezy skeezy critter with a well-stained casting couch. Meh. Rose McGowen: Just seems like an opportunist, from her history.
    (Oh, and Planet Terror? Total disappointment and squandered chance.)

  • NoWireHangers says:

    "...[a company from] Germany offered us a $70 million budget...But I had to shoot it in Germany and post it in Germany. Nothing against Germany, but I have five kids and I was like, ‘God, I don’t know if we can do that..."
    So Rodriguez wouldn't leave his five (!) children for Germany, but he would leave them for Rose McGowan. Also, if you want to see Rose McGowan half naked in a bad sci-fi fantasy, just watch the red carpet footage of her and Marilyn Manson in the late 1990s. Then give the $70 million to me.

  • Colander says:

    I heard the new Predator's face is modeled after Rose's vagina. Is this true?

  • Old No.7 says:

    When does Rodriguez ever build sets? This guy chroma keys his shots more than Lucas.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    MAN! Wouldn't take 70 mil and a trip to Germany?? Are you a filmmaker or not, Robby??
    Once an industry professional starts making career decision based on "family", it's over.

  • A. Nonny Mooose says:

    Nobody wanted a Barbarella remake anyway, but things are still not looking good for Rodriguez and McGowan . "Grindhouse" is already a distant memory, Red Sonja has yet to get out of pre production, and even if "Sin City 2" is a go, the role of Ava Lord being taken by Angelina Jolie now seems inevitable. I wouldn't be surprised if their relationship is the next thing to be declared dead. 🙁

  • jason says:

    I was conceived to Barbarella. Calgary drive in. Late summer, 1969. Broken French condom.
    Sad to hear that I can't possibly have a chance at generational procreation now.

  • Dirk says:

    In an ideal world, they would remake this with a more attractive actress; it would be rated R with nudity; they would travel to Russia and charter one of those parabolic flights to remake the zero gravity strip tease scene. But since none of these were going to happen, guess it's OK for it to die.