There might be filmmakers with more impressive resumes out there, but writer/director W.D. Richter earns massive bonus points for having his fingerprints on two of the weirdest, most beloved cult films of the 1980s. He co-wrote the screenplay for John Carpenter’s 1986 martial arts camp-fest Big Trouble in Little China, and a few years earlier he directed the delightfully strange The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. That film infamously teased a never-made sequel in its closing creadits: Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. With Buckaroo having just celebrated its 27th anniversary last week (April 15th), MovieFone chatted up Richter to reminisce about Buckaroo and speculate if we might someday see that sequel after all.
Buckaroo certainly wasn’t a huge financial hit (with a reported box office of around six million dollars, against a budget of seventeen million), but the production was working uphill from the get-go, allegedly courtesy of producer David Begelman, who Richter says was a thorn in Buckaroo’s side from the get-go. “He was the guy who said, ‘Go ahead, you can make this movie,’” recalls Richter, “but he never got it on any level.” Pretty cheeky, then, to announce a sequel in the movie’s end credits, even if it was at least partly a joke. Richter reportedly laughs when asked about the sequel, and continues:
That seems like a real cheat, to put it there and not make the movie. But again, if the movie had gone out to make a fortune, we would have made it. But [Begelman] is the strangest person I’ve worked with. Then he committed suicide, verifying our feeling that he was insane. But it was constantly wacky stuff like, ‘You can put on that choreographed ending, but, you know, I don’t really believe in this movie.’ So, I have to say that people want to see this work print because they just think that they are going to get a few more treats. You know, maybe another Jeff Goldblum moment that they are deprived of now. We couldn’t put it in the DVD because we couldn’t find the footage because Begelman didn’t run a normal studio. We found some of the negatives but not a work print where you could say, ‘that’s how we cut it.’ There’s a lot of that film in a vault somewhere and it’s in pristine condition — the negative — but you can’t get at it.
Why was there never a sequel?
I believe MGM owns the theatrical rights. The other big insanity for Buckaroo is that the paper trail for the rights is almost impossible to follow. Warner Bros. wants to do an adult animated version of Buckaroo. PolyGram sold it to MGM as a big bundle — all these films move around. And then, finally, you’re sitting at a studio that you found out purchased part of someone’s library and they are reluctant to do anything with the title because they don’t know for a fact that David [Begelman], who was a notorious double dealer, might not have sold the international rights in perpetuity to some guy in Bangkok. And even if they are enthusiastic about doing a sequel, they’ll say, ‘our legal department is saying we don’t have a clear chain of title here, so we’re not going to stick our heads up, invest money, and then discover that some guy says, “Oh, by the way, I have all the international rights.'”
So we will never see Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League?
Technically, we have not violated our promise to the audience. We try to keep the franchise and the brand alive, anyway, because we never know when somebody is going to say, ‘Yeah, make something else.’
So Buckaroo fans probably shouldn’t hold out hope for Crime League, assuming any of them still doing so are after nearly 30 freakin’ years. Sadly, it’s probably much more likely that somebody will buy the rights and do a remake full of twentysomething actors from the CW. Maybe Richter should launch a Kickstarter campaign. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Buckaroo TV series…
You can read the full interview with W.D. Richter right here, and you can watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension over on Netflix.