Hollywood's Repeated, Inexplicable Attempts at a 'Stretch Armstrong' Movie
By Nick Greene
For decades, some of Hollywood's biggest studios have tried to bring Stretch Armstrong to the big screen. The film rights for the rubbery, gelled corn syrup-filled toy were first sold to Disney in 1994, and since then an absurd amount of time and effort have been spent pursuing the possibility of a Stretch Armstrong movie.
Multiple smart, award-winning film producers and executives have all at one time believed that this was a good idea. Money has been thrown at a whole battalion of established screenwriters tasked to write countless pages about Stretch and his various origin stories. Some versions have come close, but none have been made.
Culled from various sources (most notably Thomas Golianopoulos' oral history in The Hollywood Reporter), the following quotes help relay one of Hollywood's most inexplicable sagas. From Danny DeVito to Taylor Lautner, we remember the various Stretch Armstrongs that almost came to pass.
1994: DISNEY GETS THE BALL ROLLING.
“Our basic story was, a Tim Allen kind of single dad, who is a research scientist, is trying to balance his work life with raising his two kids and he’s stretched too thin, which I’m sure is the metaphor we used, and then he accidentally takes this serum and gets stretchy powers. It was a family comedy. It wasn’t really a superhero movie.” — Greg Erb, co-writer of an early version of the script for Disney, talking to The Hollywood Reporter.
Erb’s script was in response to Disney’s distaste for earlier versions written by other well-known screenwriters. These were, according to a Disney executive at the time, “heavy on gags on stretchy arms, legs and necks—the obvious stuff.” They had wanted a family movie, presumably one low on jokes about the toy’s sole, defining characteristic.
Tim Allen turned down the role, and the script was deemed too old-fashioned. New writers were brought in to revive the project.
“My version took place in San Francisco because I wanted to use the bridge and those streets. I wanted to stretch the living hell out of him. At one point, he saves an armored truck that goes off the bridge. There were all these big fun set pieces. There is one where he stretches so high that he is past the fuselage of a jet.” —Screenwriter Michael Kalesniko, also to The Hollywood Reporter.
Numerous actors were considered to play Stretch, including Woody Harrelson, Sinbad, and Mel Gibson. Disney eventually offered the role to Danny DeVito. He accepted, and the studio reportedly planned to pay him $10 million. His version never got off the ground, however, due in part to an unnavigable impasse: DeVito reportedly refused to do the movie if there were any jokes in the script about his height. There were, and so the project was dropped.
2009: UNIVERSAL PICTURES GREENLIGHTS STRETCH.
“Stretch Armstrong is a character I have wanted to see on screen for a long time. He’s an unconventional kind of super hero with a power that no one would want. It’s a story about a guy stretching—if you will—the limits of what is possible to become all that he can be.” —Brian Grazer, in a 2009 press release announcing that Stretch Armstrong will go into production.
Jackie Chan was briefly considered to replace DeVito, but the project stalled. The rights to Stretch Armstrong were then sold to Brian Grazer, who didn’t do much with them until 2008, when Universal Pictures struck a deal with Hasbro to produce movies based on their toys (2012's Battleship starring Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, and Rihanna is an example of the fruits of this contract).
“In the past two years, Taylor has emerged as a real star at the global box office. He brings the perfect balance of energy and athleticism to the role of an unlikely superhero with a fantastic superpower.” —Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley in 2010, discussing why Lautner is a perfect fit to play Stretch Armstrong. “[Stretch is an] uptight spy who stumbles across a stretching formula, which he takes and must now adjust to in everyday life and when fighting crime.” —The Hollywood Reporter, in 2010, describing a little bit of the new Stretch's background and motivation. “The awesome thing with toys is, it doesn’t give you a storyline, so you get to create it. The development process for this movie has been awesome.” —Taylor Lautner, relating awesome things about toys in 2010.
Evan Almighty writer Steve Oedekerk was hired to write the new screenplay, and Ron Howard was even briefly rumored to direct. This version of Stretch Armstrong would be filmed in 3D, and Twilight star Taylor Lautner was chosen to star as the hero. It was slated for an April 2011 release.
2012: RELATIVITY MEDIA ENTERS THE STRETCH BUSINESS.
“This origin story will be a gritty actioner introducing the character of Lucas Armstrong and the life-or-death consequences he will face after undergoing a transformation granting him superhuman abilities.” —A Relativity Pictures press release from 2012 describing their version of the movie, which would be written by Dean Georgaris (who wrote the Manchurian Candidate remake).
Despite all the excitement drummed up by Universal Pictures, the studio abandoned their Stretch Armstrong project in 2012. Relativity Media swooped in to pick up the rights, and Taylor Lautner subsequently parted ways with the new production company. The screenplay about the "uptight spy" was also dropped.
"Stretch Armstrong is an incredible character who will make an amazing movie, and we know that Hasbro has some new ideas they are looking at. Relativity and Hasbro have a tremendous relationship, and we decided to focus on other projects. We look forward to continuing to work together." —Relativity press release, 2014, announcing that they had canceled production of their "gritty" Stretch Armstrong movie.
As of this writing, there are no plans to make a Stretch Armstrong movie. This post will be updated if and when that changes.