The Mississippi guys who made a shot-for-shot remake of Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as teenagers are now at the “just add money” stage for an original action-adventure film they want to make in the state.
In 1982, at the age of 11, Gulfport resident Chris Strompolos called school acquaintance Eric Zala and hatched a plot to remake “Raiders.” Seven years and $5,000 later they finished.
After parting ways as adults, the filmmakers were unexpectedly reunited after a VHS copy of their film made it into the hands of Spielberg, who sent them a thank you note and called it “the best piece of flattery George (Lucas) and I have ever received.”
Since its theatrical debut in Austin, Texas, in 2003, “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation” has now shown in 80 venues worldwide and been featured in Vanity Fair, Variety, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone, among others. Zala has just returned from attending three showings in New York, and the film is scheduled for a screening at the New Jersey State Theater in August.
Now in their 40s, Strompolos and Zala have co-written “What the River Takes,” a Southern gothic action-adventure feature about a young man who thought his father was dead and discovers years later he is being held captive by a mysterious river cult. It would have an ideal budget of $10 million.
“This is a passion project that embodies everything we love about the Mississippi landscape but also contains all the elements that Eric and I love about cinema. Bottom line is this is a film that can be done in a very cost-effective way,” Strompolos said. “If we could raise $100,000, we could get it off the ground and take it to phase two of development, which is working with casting agencies to package the talent. We’ve reached out to Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen’s people, Morgan Freeman. But nothing’s confirmed or locked in.”
Zala said, “There are two schools of thought: Just because you remade a $22-million movie on your allowance doesn’t mean you can direct a major motion picture. Others say, ‘Wow. I’d like to see what you can do with an actual budget.’ Cinema is in our DNA.”
The duo, under their production company Rolling Boulder Films, is putting the finishing touches on their business plan, which they will shop to independent investors. The movie “could be feasibly translated into either a slate or a single project – depending on the investors’ interest,” said Zala, who believes the newly enhanced Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive will help.
A New York University film school graduate, Zala worked for video game company Electronic Arts before returning to Ocean Springs to refocus on his dream of making a movie in Mississippi. He is the director of the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center.
In addition to working on Rolling Boulder projects, Strompolos currently works at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City, Calif.