Back in 2001, writer/director Richard Kelly unleashed both his first feature film and what most still regard as his best work: Donnie Darko. An ’80s-set coming-of-age tale crossed with a sci-fi thriller, Darko starred a young Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular character, a quirky teenager with few friends and a desire to mostly be left alone. That is until he meets Gretchen Ross, a sort of kindred spirit. The two quickly fall for each other, but Donnie hardly has time to focus on his personal life, what with his ongoing premonitions of disaster that just happen to be accompanied by the presence of a man in a creepy bunny suit.
Despite earning acclaim from most critics, Donnie Darko was far from a box office hit, just barely making back its modest production budget in theaters. Where the film really found its audience was home video, with Darko earning such a devoted cult of followers that Kelly was eventually able to re-release a special director’s cut of the film that restored some of his original creative choices that didn’t survive the journey to theaters. Unfortunately, the director’s cut also seemed to go out of its way to explain some of the lingering mysteries associated with Darko’s rather complex plot, with many regarding these particular changes as being for the worse.
Darko would eventually receive a loose sequel, in the form of 2009 direct-to-DVD film S. Darko, which Kelly had no part in. Bearing little in common with the original, S. Darko was widely panned, and is now mostly forgotten. Thus, it’s really not too surprising that Kelly might be interested in eventually crafting a true sequel to his first feature, capable of emulating the elements of the original Darko that so captivated fans in the first place. When asked about the subject during a recent interview with HMV, Kelly offered the following comments:
“I think there’s something much bigger and more ambitious to do in that universe. It’s big and expensive and I think there’s time to get to that. I want to make sure we’ve got the budget to do it justice and not to compromise anything. Another story in this world needs resources and we need to have that in place. I need to get my next film out of the gate and then we can go back and look at it.”
While the fact that Kelly wants to make a “big and expensive” proper sequel to Darko is certainly interesting, one does wonder whether any studio would be willing to give him that kind of cash at this point. In the years since Darko, Kelly hasn’t exactly been a hit machine, with 2006’s Southland Tales bombing in spectacular fashion, earning back less than a million of its $17 million budget. Then, 2009’s The Box did only slightly better, just barely making back its $30 million budget.
If by some circumstance Kelly does end up getting the chance to make the Darko sequel he wants though, one wonders what creative avenue he would head down. Gyllenhaal and Malone are obviously noticeably older now than they were in 2001, and additionally, Donnie didn’t exactly end the original film in sequel-ready condition. If Kelly were to instead go the route of crafting a story set within the same universe but with new characters, he runs the risk of turning off diehard fans who want to reconnect with the old cast. There’s seemingly no way he could please everyone, but then again, Kelly has never really been the type of filmmaker who cared that much about doing so.
We’ll keep you updated on the Donnie Darko sequel as more information becomes available.