The Cursed Comedy That Can’t Get Made

By Brian Myers | Published

Hollywood lore is ripe with “cursed” films. From the mysterious deaths that plagued the cast members of Poltergeist to the on-set disasters of The Exorcist and The Omen, it’s been pretty clear that some productions have had some unexplained, and likely coincidental, happenings associated with them. But one alleged curse revolves around a film that has never been made, its roots in a script written for a movie titled Atuk.


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In 1963, the novel The Incomparable Atuk was published and later adapted into a screenplay by National Lampoon writer Tod Carrol. The screenplay, like the book, is the story of an Inuit hunter that finds himself in New York City.

Its lead character, Atuk, is meant to hold a mirror up to audiences and thrust a satirical film about the fallacies of Western culture and traditions, focusing chiefly on the racism and bigotry that go under the radar.

Though the film rights were secured in the early 1970s, it was nearly a decade later before pre-production could begin. Tragedy soon struck as its slated star, John Belushi, died from a drug overdose. This death would mark the first, but not the last, untimely passing of someone cast in the role of Atuk.

Kinison And Candy

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Fast forward to 1988 to United Artists taking the script and trying again. This time around, it’s comedian Sam Kinison who was to play Atuk.

After a nasty falling out with the studio, Kinison abandoned the project and was summarily sued for breach of contract. Though Atuk didn’t stall because of Kinison’s death, the comedian/actor died unexpectedly four years later in a tragic car accident.

But Kinison and Belushi would not remain the only two performers associated with Atuk that would meet an early demise. SCTV star and actor John Candy was given the script in the early 1990s and was interested in playing the role of the Inuit hunter in what could have been a great “fish out of water” story.

Sadly, the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles star died of a heart attack in 1994.

O’Donoghue And Farley

Following Candy’s death, actor Michael O’Donoghue was a consideration. Briefly. Before he could get far into Atuk‘s script, the Saturday Night Live actor and writer died of a brain hemorrhage.

Believers in the curse over Atuk say that it didn’t stop there, either. Rumors of comedian Chris Farley‘s interest in the stalled production was swirling around Hollywood when the actor died of a drug overdose in 1997. Though Farley wasn’t officially cast in the role, some superstitious people still attribute his untimely death with the doomed script.

Phil Hartman

The last performer that is rumored to be a victim of the Atuk production is the late Phil Hartman. While his interest in the script cannot be gauged with any official certainty, it’s widely rumored that Farley showed his friend Hartman the screenplay not long before his death. Hartman, the star of News Radio and iconic member of the Saturday Night Live cast, was murdered in 1998 by his wife.

Will We Ever See Atuk?

Will the film Atuk ever get made? It’s certainly not the only screenplay that showed promise and was summarily shelved. But whether there’s an actual curse on the production or if the deaths of six comedic actors are sheer coincidence remains a point that’s still argued amongst fans to this day.

Sources: Geek Slop The Spokesman Review