The year 2007 was a big for filmmaker Roger Avary. He was just coming off co-writing Beowulf with Neil Gaiman. Avary was working on the big screen version of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, making his first return to the director’s chair since the lauded 2002 film The Rules of Attraction. Then the unthinkable happened.
In January 2008, Avary, his wife and friend Andreas Zini (and his wife Maria) were out for a late dinner. Andreas and Maria were in California on their honeymoon. Avary, who had been drinking, barrelled down the road in sleepy Ojai, California. At approximately 3am, Avary’s Mercedes-Benz smashed into a telephone pole. Avary was banged up, his wife was seriously injured and Andreas Zini was dead. Zini’s wife, Maria, was riding in a separate car.
A remorseful Avary was charged with vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to a year-long furlough that allowed him to work from home during the day. However, soon Avary began tweeting about serving time in jail – experiences that he didn’t exactly have. Avary’s tweets, which were apparently done while he was at home during the day, mentioned things like heroin being smuggled in and the prison being in “lock down”. After the Twitter fiasco, the filmmaker was placed in full-time custody and sentenced to serve out the remainder of his term in the Ventura County Jail.
All of this, understandably, brought the Silent Hill movie sequel to a screeching halt. Last August, Silent Hill 2 movie producer Don Carmody said, “The original plan was Roger writing and polishing the screenplay, and when he had finished his thing, we’d begin full-blown preproduction.”
In November 2010, it was revealed that the movie version is based on survival horror game Silent Hill 3 and is dubbed Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. Avary, who was released from prison in July 2010, was not attached to the project, which is being written and directed by Michael J. Bassett of Deathwatch and Soloman Kane fame. This moth, a first look at the movie’s leading lady made its way online. The movie is in full swing, sans Avary. Maybe the producers finally felt it was inappropriate for Avary to pen the flick, maybe Avary is busy with other projects, maybe it just didn’t work out.
Since his release from prison, Avary’s been quiet. He no longer appears to be twittering. However, his YouTube site is still getting updates, and his website has been updated and given an Atari-style font, chiptune style effects and even an 8-bit rendering of Avary himself.
“When I was a kid, Star Raiders on the Atari 800 was the be-all, end-all game,” Avary told Kotaku in 2007. “It was Star Trek and Star Wars rolled into one. You had a map and you could refuel at star bases and defend them.” He said he’d never forget what it was like to warp from one location to another. Avary added, “I bought an Atari 800 computer because of that game and learned how to program on that computer using 6502 Assembly.”
During the 1980s, Avary worked at legendary video rental shop Video Archives with a young wannabe actor named Quentin Tarantino. Both Avary and Tarantino bonded over comics and their love of French film, but Avary was the one who loved video games. Avary would go on to share an Oscar for Pulp Fiction. Both filmmakers worked on scripts during their time at Video Archives. Some of what Avary wrote for an unproduced screenplay ended up in Pulp Fiction, earning him a story-by credit. There were rumbles that Avary was responsible for much of the Gold Watch segment in Pulp Fiction. Avary was always, it seems, in Tarantino’s shadow. And Tarantino was, until the turn of the century, always accused of ripping off Roger. Tarantino’s Top Gun speech in indie flick Sleep With Me was supposedly all Avary.
Roger Avary is an immensely talented filmmaker. The Rules of Attraction is a great film, and he did an admirable job with the first Silent Hill flick. Among those who liked his films, there was excitement to see what he was going to do with the new Silent Hill – or even the unfinished Castle Wolfenstein project.
Yet after that one horrible night in January 2008, none of that was meant to be.
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