Top Ten Unproduced Screenplays of 2009 Include Two Produced Screenplays, a Muppet Cast of Thousands


The Black List, the annual rankings of unproduced screenplays circulated by development execs, assistants, and shifty-eyed mailroom clerks, has been released, and striding atop in the #1 position is The Muppet Man, a Jim Henson biopic by Christopher Weekes that features appearance from your favorite Muppets. (Interesting side note: Last year's chart-topper was The Beaver -- also a story about a man and the puppet that takes over his life. It's being shot now by Jodie Foster with Mel Gibson in the lead. Lesson: Hand-puppets are hot, hot, hot.)

Also in the top ten are two films currently in production -- Aaron Sorkin's Facebook origin myth The Social Network, and Cedar Rapids, about a small town man who finds himself representing his company at a Cedars Rapids insurance convention, with Ed Helms playing the man. Of the other titles, Michael R. Perry's The Voices sounds interesting (about a schizophrenic who accidentally kills his co-worker, and gets advice from his talking cat and dog), Londongrad, based on the true story of the poisoned ex-Soviet spy, and The Days Before, a time-travel sci-fi thriller by Chad St. John.

The top 11 (there was a tie for tenth place) and their synopses, courtesy of, are after the jump.

1. The Muppet Man

By Christopher Weekes

What it's about: The life and times of the late Jim Henson (pictured), the man behind Sesame Street and The Muppets.

What it's like: The Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, but with puppets. This moving story depicts the life of a creative genius, with occasional surreal appearances by the likes of Kermit and Miss Piggy.

Status: Set up at The Jim Henson Co.

2. The Social Network

By Aaron Sorkin

What it's about: Chronicles Mark Zuckerberg's complicated journey towards creating Facebook. Sorkin depicts both the founder's motivations for starting the largest social network in the world and the human casualties that came with his profound success.

Status: In production for Sony Pictures. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg while Justin Timberlake portrays Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Zuckerberg's idol. David Fincher is directing.

3. The Voices

By Michael R. Perry

What it's about: Jerry, a schizophrenic worker at a bathtub factory, accidentally kills an attractive woman from accounting. While trying to cover his bloody tracks, Jerry starts taking advice from his talking (and foul-mouthed) cat and dog.

Status: Vertigo Entertainment is trying to package the film with a lead actor. Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) is developing.

4. Prisoners

By Aaron Guzikowski

What it's about: When his young daughter and her best friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day, a Christian survivalist named Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands, imprisoning and torturing a suspect whom the police have set free. But does Dover have the wrong man? And if he does, who really has his little girl?

Status: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) directing for Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros.

5. Cedar Rapids

By Phil Johnston

What it's about: Tim Lippy is a small-town insurance man who's somehow made it to middle age without having quite done anything. Everything changes when he unexpectedly gets the chance to represent his company at the Cedar Rapids insurance convention, where comedy ensues, of course.

Status: In production, with Miguel Arteta directing and Ed Helms playing Lippy. John C. Reilly, Alia Shakwat, Anne Heche and Sigourney Weaver co-star.

6. Londongrad

By David Scarpa (The Day The Earth Stood Still and co-wrote The Last Castle)

What it's about: An adaptation of Alan Cowell's 2008 book The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder, chronicling the life and strange death of Alexander Litvinenko. Remember in 2006, when that ex-Soviet spy was allegedly poisoned with radioactive tea at a London sushi joint? That's him.

Status: Warner Bros. has optioned the script.

7. L.A.Rex

By Will Beall (based on his novel of the same name)

What it's about: Rookie LAPD officer Ben Halloran gets partnered with scarred and tobacco-spitting Officer Marquez, and the unlikely team hit the streets of L.A. on the brink of a gang-rivalry explosion. Amid run-ins with the Mexican mafia, brutal gang murders, and corrupt cops, we soon find that Halloran may not be as squeaky clean as his brand new badge.

Status: Paramount Pictures has optioned on behalf of producer Scott Rudin.

8. Desperados

By Ellen Rapoport

What it's about: Wesley Robbins, a 30-something single attorney with an unhealthy obsession with coupling up, thinks she's found the perfect man. But when he doesn't call for days after the first time they sleep together she freaks out and sends him a scathing email, only to learn he's been laid up in a Mexican hospital with some broken bones. On a whim, she and her girlfriends travel down south to erase the email before she ruins what she believes could be her one true love.

Status: Isla Fisher is attached to star with Mark Gordon and Jason Blum producing at Universal

9. The Gunslinger

By John Hlavin

What it's about: When a Texas Ranger is horrifically tortured and killed, his sharp-shooter older brother, Sam Lee Hensley, plots revenge against the mysterious, sadistic leader of a notorious drug cartel. Sam Lee's quest for vengeance will cost him seven years in prison, his right hand and one eye. It will imperil his young nephew and wreak havoc on the lives of those who love him. And it will not bring him peace.

Status: Warner Bros. and Andrew Lazar producing

10. (tie) By Way of Helena

By Matt Cook

What it's about: Set in the south at the turn of the century, Texas Ranger David Kingston and his Mexican bride are sent down to the mysterious town of Helena to investigate the multiple Mexican bodies washing up in the river. What they discover is an idyllic-like town where everything is not as it seems.

Status: Purchased by Russian billionaire Sergey Gordeev

10. (tie) The Days Before

By Chad St. John

What's it about: A man from the future keeps hopping one successive day into the past desperate to stop a vicious race of time-traveling aliens from wiping out humanity.

Status: Warner Bros. has optioned it and a few big-time action directors have circled it but no one is yet attached.

· Exclusive: 'The Black List' -- Top 11 unproduced screenplays of 2009 [EW]