Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

What’s the difference between a spin-off and a sequel?

The question is, of course, triggered by an interesting news story involving former sex-addict (bless!) Michael Douglas. A little over a decade ago, the creased star was involved in a more than usually rancorous divorce with some woman named Diandra …

Wed, Jun 30, 2010, 15:28

   

The question is, of course, triggered by an interesting news story involving former sex-addict (bless!) Michael Douglas. A little over a decade ago, the creased star was involved in a more than usually rancorous divorce with some woman named Diandra (sounds like a soft drink, but it’s actually a lady). As well as a cool $45 million cash sum, the female party secured the rights to a share in any “spin-offs” from Douglas projects initiated during their marriage.

Ms Tizer (do I have that right?) has, thus, made it clear that she will be expecting a cheque when the receipts from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps start rolling in. “Hang on a moment,” Douglas’s people say. “The Oliver Stone movie is not a ‘spin-off’; it is a ‘sequel’.”

Spin-off?

It’s not for us to decide the moral ifs and buts of this story, but I do think that, purely in semantic terms, the Douglas camp has a point. It is, mind you, a tricky argument. I think it is fair, say, to call Get Him to the Greek a spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow was, surely, only a peripheral character in the first film. A true sequel must centre on the main characters. But, I hear m’ learned friends for Ms Fanta say, the protagonist of Wall Street was Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox rather than Douglas’s Gordon Gekko and Fox only takes a cameo in Money Never Sleeps. Hmm? I think that Fox is the hero of Wall Street in the same sense that Jonathan Harker is the hero of Dracula. That’s to say you’d be disappointed if Hammer offered a sequel called Jonathan Harker has Risen From the Grave. That would be a spin-off. Wouldn’t it? A sequel to Dracula requires, well, Dracula.

Doesn’t it?

Oh, I don’t know.

Sequel?