LOS ANGELES – Fans outraged that a sequel to a beloved film is in the works are no longer out in the cold.
A spokeswoman for Paramount Pictures, which owns the rights to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” said Wednesday that the studio would fight producers working on a follow-up to the 1946 classic. Directed by Frank Capra, the film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a desperate family man who imagines what his town would be like if he’d never been born.
“No project relating to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ can proceed without a license from Paramount,” the studio noted in a statement after Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions announced their sequel plans Monday. “To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”
The Internet collectively groaned this week when Bob Farnsworth, president of Nashville, Tenn.-based Hummingbird Productions, and Allen J. Schwalb, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Star Partners, unveiled their pitch for “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” a follow-up that would focus on Bailey’s grandson.
Farnsworth and Schwalb said the film would star Karolyn Grimes, who played Bailey’s daughter in the original film, as an angel who comes to the aid of her nephew. The producers estimated it would cost between $25 million and $32 million.
Apparently, Farnsworth and Schwalb, who did not return messages seeking comment, forgot one important detail: They didn’t ask the film’s owner for legal permission. Farnsworth previously told the Hollywood Reporter trade publication that the rights to “It’s a Wonderful Life” were in the public domain.
Not quite. While a lapsed copyright led TV stations in the 1970s through early ’90s to repeatedly broadcast the film, Paramount has controlled the rights for the past 14 years, after it acquired Republic Pictures as part of its purchase of Spelling Entertainment.
Farnsworth and Schwalb not only lacked the blessing of Paramount – and fans everywhere – but their proposed sequel also isn’t supported by the family of Frank Capra.
Capra’s son, Tom Capra, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the family hadn’t been contacted by Farnsworth and Schwalb.
“If he was still alive, he would have called it ludicrous,” Capra said. “Then, I think he would have called his lawyer. Why would you even attempt to make a sequel to such a classic film?”