Atuk – Sam Kinison – screenplay


This is one of the most infamous scripts in the history of Hollywood.

I think it is a very funny screenplay that would have been a good vehicle for Sam Kinison, who it was obviously adapted for (the numerous “Oh! Oh!” exclamations throughout being the most obvious indicator).

The script is infamous for supposedly being “cursed” and partly responsible for the deaths of several major comedic actors in the 1980s and 1990s.  The “Atuk Curse” has become one of the better known “urban legends” in Hollywood.  It’s first victim, supposedly, was John Belushi, who had read the script and was reportedly enthusiastic about taking on the role of Atuk in 1982.  Shortly afterwards, he was found dead of a drug overdose.

Years later, the part was offered to comedian Sam Kinison, who accepted it in 1988.  The version shown on this site is the final shooting script which was used on the first (and last) day of shooting on the film.  Christopher Walken and Ben Affleck were also cast in it. Kinison filmed at least one scene for the film before he grew dissatisfied with the script, and he demanded that parts of it be re-written on the spot, halting production.  He left the set in disgust and refused to return, and the production company filed a lawsuit against him which was a large part of what made him financially destitute when it was settled a couple of years later.  Not long after that, while talks were underway for him to continue the project and finish the film, Kinison died in a car crash in the Nevada desert.

The curse supposedly struck again in 1994, when John Candy, who had been approached for the role of Atuk, was allegedly reading the script when he suddenly died of a heart attack on March 4th (the day before the 12th anniversary of Belushi’s death).  It was around this point in the production’s history that the press began to speak of a “curse”. Some believe that the curse struck twice that year, since in November, Michael O’Donoghue died of a cerebral hemorrhage.  O’Donoghue was a writer / comedian who was also a friend of Belushi and Kinison and, the story goes, had read the script (in some version of the tale they even worked on it together) before recommending it to both of them.

The final victim of the “Atuk curse”, to date, was said to be Chris Farley, who idolized John Belushi.  Like his idol, he was up for the role of Atuk, and was allegedly about to accept it when, also like his idol, he died of a drug overdose in December of 1997.  According to some versions, the curse would strike twice more, only six months later in May 1998, when Farley’s friend and former Saturday Night Live cast-mate, Phil Hartman, was murdered by his wife.  Farley is said to have shown the “Atuk” script to Hartman, before his death, and was encouraging him to take a co-starring role (possibly that of McKuen).

Special thanks to my friend Julian DiLorenzo for tracking this classic bit of lost cinematic history down!


About Subterranean Cinema

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2 Responses to Atuk – Sam Kinison – screenplay

  1. unclesporkums says:

    Happy to help, Don ol’ buddy!

  2. Julian says:

    Here’s the cast they had assembled before production shut down.
    Atuk – Sam Kinison
    Michelle – Kelly Lynch
    Bishop – Ben Affleck
    Alexander McKuen – Christopher Walken
    Vera – Tuesday Weld
    Misa – Ricki Lake
    Harry Dean Stanton – (Unknown Role)

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