The Freeman interview points up the real reason RAMA couldn't get going ... he says he knows a good script when he reads, and to date nobody has licked RAMA as a screenplay. (or at least licked it and then been able to get it to Freeman.)
They've enlisted significant support for earlier attempts to make the film ... they had an agreement with INTEL to provide all sorts of help about 12 years ago, when it was envisioned as 160mil ... but that was then Fincher was insistent on shooting all the microgravity stuff as mo-cap, with live faces matted atop CG bodies. That would have looked godawful back then, but there's a decent chance that could look more credible now, though not for close views I fear.
I have avoided reading any of the RAMA sequels, but I've often thought the way to get RAMA made is to do a prequel that deals with the whole formation of SPACEGUARD angle (probably because I keep trying to come up with a populist way to get interest in the real space program, which could engender real interest by getting out to the asteroid belt and hauling back that enormous rock of platinum that would redistribute the balance of wealth on this world by magnitudes.) You could end that film on the hook of RAMA's opening.
The main problem they had with the script as of late 2000 -- I had a meeting with Freeman's partner to discuss a possible 'making of ' book -- was of coming up with a strong second lead (and I think that might still be the sticking point.) They were trying to make Jimmy the skycycle guy somebody in a lot of conflict with Norton, and really bolstering him up (I think as a BradPitt/Freeman dynamic a la Se7en.) In a way I think this echoes the TMP issue of Kirk-Decker, which just lacks interesting dynamics.
In the case of TMP, I think SOME of the problem could have been remedied in casting; they tested Frederick Forrest and Tim Thomerson and I believe Andy Robinson for Decker, and I think they all, especially Forrest, would have brought 'heat' that, while at odds with GR-mindedness, would have worked to help energize the movie (just like Shelby works in BOBW, even though she seems to be scheming like somebody in an 80s nighttime soap at times.)
My thought has been that you include aspects of Boris into the Jimmy character, so you have somebody who has a different spiritual belief system, and that would be a good baseline for conflict, one that potentially
could transcend disciplines of shipboard behavior.
I wouldn't mind them messing a little with the look of RAMA itself, because obviously (as that video short film shows), passing off the TVH tootsie roll as a multiKM cylinder doesn't quite have the dramatic impact necessary.
Picking the concept designers for this movie (now that Moebius, who was involved way back) is gone, would be a trip. Might be crowning achievement for Syd Mead to do ENDEAVOUR, though I'd be happy with Ron Cobb/STeve Burg as well.