Ricky Gervais has a post up on the Daily Beast about the biggest regret of his career:
I was on holiday with my girlfriend Jane in about 1999 in Hungary (yeah, I know, odd choice, but money was tight). We visited this huge Victorian museum one day, and as I was walking round I had an idea for a movie in which all the exhibits came to life and started running amok ... Huge effects, an amazing spectacle. When we got back to our hotel room, I started writing the screenplay.
Of course, this fledgling screenplay did not become the blockbuster Ben Stiller franchise Night at the Museum. It's hard to take the ever-sarcastic Gervais seriously here—to see the post as more than a playful way of silhouetting his truly regrettable career moves, e.g. ending The Office after 12 episodes and bashing powerful celebrities at the Golden Globes. But there's something about the details of the story that makes me want to believe it.
I'm sure most of us have had our own ideas we never followed through with that someone else did: the real estate agent who passed on the now-gentrified neighborhood; the subway musician who claimed he gave John Lennon the idea for "Imagine"; the Winkelvoss twins.
We've all probably experienced something akin to this feeling, this Follow-Through Remorse. My own, sad run-in with Follow-Through Remorse happened two months ago when I learned that a first-time screenwriterlanded a 7-figure deal with Warner Brothers to adapt the life story of tortured genius, code-breaker and computer inventor Alan Turing. Two months have passed, and I've yet to delete the folder on my computer labeled "The Alan Turing Story," which I created in early 2006. I never got beyond the second page.
What gives certain people the ability to turn 40 pages into 400? To turn a sketch into a prototype? To finish writing fanciful scripts about museums that come to life? Were I a popular science writer, I might cite a recent peer-reviewed article involving experiments with mice and babies that produced counterintuitive results that might make you go, "Hm. Interesting." I might be able to tell you that the mice with great ideas and no self-confidence never got as much cheese as the mice with good ideas and some self-confidence. And how some mice are content just blogging about it all.
Or I could just paste a mildly comforting Gervais quote and call it a day. Here he is, reflecting on his Night at the Museum near-miss: "What did I learn from this mistake? Nothing at all."