Haunted Hollywood: The ‘Atuk’ Curse
By: Neda Raouf
Originally printed in The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, February 21, 1999
Montgomery Clift hangs out at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Lon Chaney frequents a corner bus stop. Joan Crawford’s dog won’t leave her former home. The latest tale to join the burgeoning ranks of haunted Hollywood lore is the buzz that surrounds a decade-old script named “Atuk,” a comedy about an Eskimo. In its quest to become a film, it has passed through the hands of famously oversized–and prematurely deceased–comedians Sam Kinison, John Candy and Chris Farley.
The rumored superstition surrounding the script is news to screenwriter Tod Carroll. “No matter what anybody’s impression was, I think it’s either coincidence or practical explanation,” says Carroll, 51, when reached at his new Tucson, Ariz., home.
Carroll, who penned the 1988 movie “Clean and Sober,” based “Atuk” on Canadian author Mordecai Richler’s book, “The Incomparable Atuk,” a satire about an Eskimo on his first trip out of Alaska, which is to New York. Originally, Kinison was attached to the role. “When it came time to start filming, Sam wanted it rewritten,” says Carroll. “Once they started shooting it, it had accumulated a lot of costs.” The production eventually shut down, and Candy and Farley, among others, read it and expressed interest. United Artists has retained the rights and the film project remains in turnaround. “I’m not a superstitious person,” Carroll says, “and it doesn’t have any meaning to me.”
On screenwriting hiatus to write a murder mystery, Carroll hasn’t heard about plans to revive the script, to his disappointment. “With the right actor and right tone,” he says, perhaps a bit cautiously, “it may have been a nice movie.”