Captain Ahab had Moby-Dick; Linus van Pelt had the Great Pumpkin; and, in the five years since “Arrested Development” has gone off the air, fans of that underdog Fox comedy series have spent their lives pining for a film adaptation that would further the adventures of its deeply dysfunctional Bluth clan.
Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator of “Arrested Development,” and cast members including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Michael Cera have also done their part to keep hopes of a movie alive, mentioning the project in numerous interviews, often along with apologies for why it still wasn’t happening yet.
On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Hurwitz tossed a few more crumbs to the “Arrested Development” faithful at a New Yorker Festival event that reunited him with the show’s ensemble cast, telling the audience that a movie was still in the works, along with a new set of television episodes that would serve as a prelude to the film.
Asked by the event’s moderator, Nancy Franklin, for an update on the movie, Mr. Hurwitz said, “We’re 80 percent of the way to an answer,” which was understandably greeted by some laughter.
Mr. Hurwitz went on to say that he and Ron Howard, the director and producer who was the “Arrested Development” narrator, “had been talking about this for ages and trying to get this going.”
Mr. Hurwitz continued: “We don’t completely own the property, there are business people involved and studios and that kind of thing. Just creatively, I have been working on the screenplay for a long time and found that as time went by, there was so much more to the story. In fact, where everyone’s been for five years became a big part of the story. So in working on the screenplay, I found even if I just gave five minutes per character to that back story, we were halfway through the movie before the characters got together.”
So, Mr. Hurwitz said, “We’re trying to do a limited-run series into the movie.” After a wave of excited applause died down, he continued, “We’re basically hoping to do nine or 10 episodes, with almost one character per episode.”
The first episode, he said, could focus on Buster Bluth, the deeply neurotic brother played by Tony Hale. “The latest joke we have,” Mr. Hurwitz said, “is that it’s Cambridge, Mass., and there’s all these scientists in lab coats and they’re waiting for somebody. Buster comes through the door in a white lab coat – ‘Let’s begin’ – and they say, ‘Oh, no, you don’t get to wear the lab coat. We’re experimenting on you.’ ”
Assuming Mr. Hurwitz and his “Arrested Development” confederates are not performing their own experiment on their fan base, he said he was about halfway through a screenplay with his co-writers Jim Vallely and Dean Lorey, but did not specify a studio for either the movie or television components, or a network that might broadcast the new episodes. The project, he said, “requires studios to work together that don’t typically work together, film and TV.”
Mr. Bateman, who played Michael Bluth, the lone, sane member of the family, said: “There’s business left to be done, but creatively we are all on board and have a very specific plan about how it would come out and what we would do and when we would shoot it. I think we’re targeting next summer to shoot it.”
Mr. Hurwitz added, “Perhaps the series is in the fall. This isn’t my decision.”
By way of apology, Mr. Hurwitz also said that while he and the “Arrested Development” team had intimated in the past that the movie wasn’t coming together because Mr. Cera – who has since been propelled into leading roles in films like “Superbad” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” – was standing in the way, this had all been an inside joke gone wrong.
“I kind of was perpetuating a little thing, like, wouldn’t it be funny if Michael Cera was the holdout. Let’s put that out there. And Michael had that Andy Kaufman thing. And then it really turned ugly, quickly. So I really just have to say, for those of you that have been following this saga, Michael’s always been great.”
Just when it seemed everyone had made amends and cleared their schedules, Mr. Cera piped in: “Actually, I do have a thing.”
Later on Sunday, Mr. Bateman posted the following message on his Twitter account:
'It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ‘13. VERY excited!'