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By Mike Johnson on 2017-09-30 13:54:00

by Mike Johnson @ 12:31 PM on 4/27/2017

Earlier this week, it was announced that TriStar Pictures would be producing a film based on the life of WWE's Vince McMahon titled Pandemonium.  

The script, by Craig A. Williams (who wrote Disney's live action Underdog adaptation few years back) was originally written back in 2015 and has undergone several drafts, the earliest dated 2015.    Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the team behind the excellent NBC drama This is Us are attached to direct, having most recently directed Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot starring Tina Fey.  Michael Luisi (head of WWE Studios, which recently came on board after the script was bouncing around Hollywood independent of the WWE) and Aperture Entertainment's Adam Goldworn will produce.  Charlie Gogolak of Zaftig Films is listed as Executive Producer, which means that he's involved financially but not involved in the day to day process of bringing the film to life.

So, with Vince McMahon, a controversial figure much larger than life and with such a wealth of stories and colorful characters involved, what would a film on McMahon's life feature?  The early drafts of the screenplay, which I am very familiar with after speaking to a number of sources and friends in the Hollywood community, may tell the tale.    Obviously, spoiler warnings are included regarding the current vision for the film, although we will touch upon whether this vision will survive as the pre-production evolves.

Based on those I have spoken with, the script begins in the 1970s with Vince, already married to Linda (who is working as a waitress in a nudie bar), frustrated by his different job exploits going nowhere.  His frustration is doubled by the fact that when he visits his father (Vince Sr., presented as the old-timey wrestling promoter, cursing up a storm in every scene as he talks down to his son) who's WWWF is featuring half-empty buildings.  Vince implores to his father that the audience doesn't care about the wrestling but really wants drama and theatrics.  His father doesn't want to hear it and blows his son off, demanding he doesn't get involved in wrestling.    There is a scene in a later draft where Vince is exiled to Bangor, Maine to be the local promoter and is blown away after witnessing Led Zeppelin live in the building, realizing the lesson of how important lighting, music, etc. are to changing the presentation of pro wrestling. 

We are told there is an amazing scene early on where, in the nudie bar, Linda tells Vince she is pregnant (with Shane McMahon) and Vince declares the mother of his child won't work in a place like this and they leave.  The manager tries to stop Linda from leaving before the end of her shift and ends up in a fight with Vince, who trounces him.  The script then makes it clear that Linda is turned on by what Vince is done.

There is also a "wink-wink" line where Linda says that she and Vince could never be the political type but perhaps their kids will be one day.

Eventually, Vince is brought in as an announcer after his father gets WWOR TV and doesn't want to pay his announcer a "national, union" wage, realizing Vince is family and is exempt from union fees.  Vince becomes an announcer and eventually negotiates a one million dollar buyout of his father, keeping Gorilla Monsoon on as his number two.  

In the earlier drafts, Monsoon is a much bigger character in the film, explained to me as being portrayed as being what Pat Patterson was in the real-life version of WWE.   In the first draft, Monsoon ends up on the stand during Vince's steroid trial, playing the role that Hulk Hogan would in real life, as the former McMahon confidante, now forced into a situation against him.  The later draft of the script puts Hogan in that role.  It was described to me in both versions as being just like Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas facing down his former mob pals when he testifies against them.  

A major change from real-life in all the drafts of the script is the idea that Vince Sr. passes away during the McMahon trial, which obviously did not happen.  McMahon Sr. passed away before the first Wrestlemania, way earlier than the mid-1990s during the height of the McMahon trial.   In both versions of the script, Vince and his father have a moment where they make amends before his passing, leading directly into a major scene where McMahon, on the stand in his defense, has a big dramatic monologue about how the government shouldn't be in the business of his and other blue collar people, turning the jury sympathetic to him before he is cleared of all charges.  The trial sequences were described to me as very The People vs. Larry Flynt-inspired with the idea that Sean O'Shea, the prosecutor, was out to expose that McMahon's company was playing to kids but really had a disgusting underbelly.  

In the craziest twist, over the course of the trial, Vince's infidelities are exposed, shocking his family,  After he is found not guilty, there is a scene where Vince is a limo with them as they all rail against him for the terrible person he is, only for them to flip the switch on him and tell him that's the making of their next great heel.  So, the Montreal Screwjob never happened and Mr. McMahon, in this version of the story, was inspired by Vince being exposed for being terrible person over the course of the trial.  I was told this version is maintained over the different drafts of the script.

During the trial, there is a great scene where Shane and Stephanie McMahon, in High School, are taunted over their father's legal issues, leading to the siblings beating the hell out of their tormentors in a school hallway, beating them into lockers and all, a scene right out of a pro wrestling battle.

The Ted Turner rivalry is brought up, including the infamous "I'm in the 'Rassling Business" phone call that Vince McMahon has recounted over the years, but there's no Eric Bischoff to be found.  Instead, in this version, Jim and David Crockett work for Turner and they go after Hogan.  I was told the second draft of the script featured more on the Monday Night War but it is not a major factor in the early versions of the script.   Verne Gagne is also mentioned and featured in early scenes based around McMahon taking the company national and stealing talent.

Lots of names that were featured by WWF are featured in the script.  In one sequence, the film portrays that Vince found Junkyard Dog as a construction worker, Roddy Piper in jail, Jimmy Snuka as a porn actor, etc. and transformed them into pro wrestlers.  Obviously, that wasn't the case.  I was also told there is a scene where Vince drives Linda to Montreal for their anniversary and throws a fit in a French restaurant because he hates their food, leading to the owner coming out - the owner being Andre the Giants - and that all along, the trip was Vince's way of scouting this giant he has heard of.  The idea is that Vince then brings Andre into the business.  Again, not how that happened.  A later draft features Vince stealing Hogan from the AWA and having him trained.  Again, not the way it happened.  

I am told there are a LOT of racy elements in the versions of the script that have circulated.  Steroid use, including a brawl between Randy Savage and Roddy Piper on a plane, with the idea that it was brought on by roid rage is featured in a later draft.  There is a scene in the most recent draft of the film where Hogan is dealing with steroid use hurting his sex drive and indeed, the size of his genitals.   There is a scene where a female wrestler propositions Vince, leading to him instead telling Linda (in front of the female wrestler) what was suggested, so instead Linda leads Vince into the stands at MSG to do the deed herself with her husband.

Vince and Linda are presented, especially early on, as foul mouthed people who know what business they are in.  Linda's one order to McMahon is that he can do whatever he wants to present his persona and the company to the public - lie all he wants - but between them there can only be truth.  As their success builds, the two marvel that pro wrestling could sell out Madison Square Garden (of course, it had for decades, but that's not the story the film wants to tell) and that Wrestlemania brings in millions, leading to a scene where they and Monsoon all sit there slack-jawed in happy shock over how the show did.  The idea that Vince gets lost in the success (and the sex and drugs and rock and roll that comes with it) is played up while he realizes how badly he's hurt Linda when it all becomes public.

One version of the script features a scene where Randy Savage and Vince have a conversation about how Savage is popular with young women the same age as Stephanie, leading to Savage telling Vince he would never think of touching her.  That is the only time that oft-repeated rumor is mentioned, and you can pretty much guarantee that scene will never see the light of day for all the obvious reasons.

The script opens with a warning that the story is "as true as anything in professional wrestling" (well, in many cases, the story isn't true, even about professional wrestling) and closes with a post-script about how successful WWE as a company has been in recent years, featuring scenes of the different family members being involved.

Some of the other names that pop up in the different versions of the script include The Iron Sheik (who is seen leaving his family and saying goodbye to them in an AMERICAN accent), Nikolai Volkoff, Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino, Jay Strongbow, Baron Mikel Scicluna and many others, legitimate and fictional alike.

So, what happens to this version of the McMahon story now that WWE Studios is on board and with McMahon, will obviously have complete approval power on the project?  From speaking to those I know in the Hollywood circles, I am told that at least one complete rewrite will be ordered that will expunge a lot of the racier elements of the script and one would assume, references to Stephanie McMahon and Randy Savage as well as change the characterization of Vince Sr. and others who are featured in the project that don't line up with presentations that Vince McMahon and WWE are happy with.  The belief is that since Vince has sold the rights to his life story in order for this project to move forward, he will have complete approval over the final version of the script well before it begins filming.

We are told that process is just starting and new writers may be brought into the fold.  There is currently no timetable to bring the film before cameras at this time, so no casting is underway.  

So, way before this thing is being produced, it's already adding to the mythos and the strange story of the McMahon family.

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