Hollywood’s perceived lack of originality has become one of the major talking points in film over recent years, with discontent growing among viewers who are simply sick of their favorite movies being butchered for a quick buck. We all watched as the internet went into meltdown over the all-female Ghostbusters, though the general consensus was that the 2016 remake wasn’t as bad as many feared. It isn’t necessarily the quality of the films being remade that is the issue, however; it’s the sheer volume.
Remakes used to be something of a rarity; a once in a blue moon event that everyone would talk about regardless of whether they approved or not. Now, the only thing a remake makes you feel is exhaustion, if it manages to stir any emotion at all. New takes on old classics are produced with such regularity that it has become impossible to get excited over them, and for every one that makes it to our screens, there is another that didn’t. Here are 15 Insane Remakes That Were Almost Made.
15. American Psycho
When talk of an American Psycho remake first started, the film was little more than a decade old. While it polarized opinion upon release at the turn of century (some calling it savage and shallow while others dubbed it brave and slick) Mary Harron’s adaptation of 1991 novel of the same name became an instant classic and certainly doesn’t feel dated upon a rewatch today, making this pitched remake all the more insane. One person who didn’t see it that way, however, was the book’s author Bret Easton Ellis, who had this to say regarding an all new adaptation:
“Haters beware: I just had a long discussion with Noble Jones, the writer/director of the “new” American Psycho movie. His take is genuine.”
Jones’ only experience of any note at this point was as a second unit director on David Fincher’s The Social Network, though both Ellis and producer Lionsgate felt that he was up for the challenge of updating the film for the modern age. He ultimately wasn’t given the chance to show his worth, with a largely negative reaction contributing to the remake being shelved. FX then announced that they were planning a TV series centered around a 50-year-old Patrick Bateman grooming his apprentice in the ways of being a psychopath, though that has also yet to materialize.
The term “development hell” is used a little loosely nowadays, but there really isn’t any other way to describe the ill-fated live-action remake of Katsuhiro Otowo’s seminal manga-turned-anime Akira. The Hollywood take on this cyberpunk classic has been in the works for well over a decade, with Warner Bros. acquiring the rights back in 2002. Since then, the project has become a revolving door, with countless actors, writers, and directors becoming briefly attached before walking away. The blame for this insanely lengthy delay is usually laid at WB’s door, with the studio hitting numerous snags in the form of whitewashing accusations.
One of the earliest rewrites of the film changed the iconic Tokyo setting to “New Manhattan”, and casting calls were later put out for Caucasian leads, causing outrage among the hardcore fanbase of this distinctly Japanese property. Producers also found themselves in over their heads with the sheer amount of manga source material– even the 1988 anime couldn’t make the most of it, and that was directed by Otowo himself.
While it has been declared dead in the water on a number of occasions, this is a rumor that simply refuses to die. The latest name to be linked to the seemingly cursed project is Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin.
13. Rock’N’Roll High School
Rock’N’Roll High School is just one of many cult classics directed by Roger Corman, the man who helped to launch the careers of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and James Cameron to name a few. However, none of his proteges were behind the proposed remake of Corman’s tale about a group of students that continually drive their principals to madness through their unwavering love of rock music. That idea came from Howard Stern.
In 2008, the radio DJ announced his intention to remake the cult comedy in partnership with former Dimension Films executive Dan Gross. The film (which was to be released under the title Howard Stern Presents Rock’N’Roll High School) would be privately financed, with Stern looking to strike a distribution deal with a major studio upon completion. Alex Winter of Bill & Ted fame was reportedly brought on board to pen the script, though there has been no indication that the modernized version of Rock’N’Roll High School ever got past a first draft.
12. The NeverEnding Story
Studios are usually met with fierce opposition when it comes to remaking classic ‘80s kids films, though The NeverEnding Story is one that you can certainly make a case for. While Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 adaptation of Michael Ende’s novel is remembered fondly by many, the author himself was far from pleased with how it turned out. Ende felt that the film deviated from his book so much that he attempted to have production halted, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit against the producers.
This deviation from the original story that Ende spoke of was to be addressed when Warner Bros., The Kennedy/Marshall Company, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way entered into negotiations to remake the movie, with their intention being to concentrate more closely on the nuances of the novel than Petersen’s film did. Those negotiations were ultimately fruitless, however, with the process frustrated by rights issues, according to producer Kathleen Kennedy: “It’s very, very complicated with Warner Bros., and other books that have been written with similar characters. It’s too bad, because there’s an opportunity with that book because it’s so beautifully written, but I guess it’s not meant to be.”
11. Romancing The Stone
Robert Zemeckis’ Romancing The Stone not only gave the director his first taste of success, it acted as a launch pad for Kathleen Turner’s career and cemented Michael Douglas’ position as a top leading man. The film was a brilliantly woven blend of action, adventure, and romantic comedy. 20th Century Fox had every intention of recreating it for a new audience.
Rumors about a potential remake of the film began circulating in 2007, though it wasn’t until 2011 that they began to gather some pace. News broke that Fox had begun their hunt for a director, looking for someone up-and-coming rather than a household name. Their search for new leads wasn’t quite as subtle, however.
This was a time when Katherine Heigl was still considered a pull to movie-goers, and the actress was wanted for the role of lonely romance novelist Joan Wilder. The part of American exotic bird smuggler Jack T. Colton was reportedly a two horse race between Taylor Kitsch and Gerard Butler. Looks like we dodged a bullet on this one.
10. Revenge Of The Nerds
Yet another flick from 1984 that was lined up for a remake that never materialized, Revenge of the Nerds follows a group of college punching bags as they attempt to stop their ongoing torture at the hands of fraternity the Alpha Betas. The titular nerds decide to fight fire with fire, starting their own fraternity and playing their tormentors at their own game. The stage was all set for an up-to-date retelling of Revenge of the Nerds, until the school they were scheduled to shoot at pulled out.
Officials at the Atlanta-based Emory University decided that they didn’t want their school associated with the kind of shenanigans that director Kyle Newman (Barely Lethal) planned to stage on campus. Fox Atomic shifted the production to nearby Agnes Scott College, though the smaller campus proved unsuitable for the scale of the film and it was subsequently canned by studio head Peter Rice, who was highly disappointed with the dailies he was receiving.
Fox Atomic was a short lived arm of 20th Century Fox, founded in 2006 to deal with teen genre movies such as this one. Just two years later, Atomic began scaling back their marketing and in 2009 all of its films still in development were moved to various Fox branches. Revenge of the Nerds wasn’t one of them, and the Fox Entertainment Group have stated that there is little chance of the remake being resurrected.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon’s long running series Buffy The Vampire Slayer is so ingrained in popular culture that it’s easy to forget that it was predated by a theatrical version. The 1992 film was also penned by Whedon, though the director felt compelled to create a TV show when the final cut of the movie deviated from his original vision for Buffy considerably. The show ended its seven season run in 2003, with rumors of another film first surfacing in 2008, fueled by Sarah Michelle Geller’s admission that she hadn’t ruled out returning to the role.
That wasn’t the only thing she had to say at the time, also wading into the argument over whether Buffy’s story actually works in a feature film format. The star of the first Buffy movie (Kristy Swanson) took the brunt of the blame for its failings, though Geller absolved her fellow actress of blame and insisted that “the story is better told over a long arc.”
This didn’t stop Warner Bros. from optioning the rights to Buffy. The studio were approached by actress and first time writer Whit Anderson, who had written a script focused on an all new, older version of Buffy that they believed would go down well with the Twilight obsessed audience of the day. Unfortunately for WB, the market quickly became saturated with teen vampire flicks and the Buffy remake gradually lost all relevance.
8. Time Bandits
Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits was the first film in the director’s so-called trilogy of imagination, three films about “the craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible,” according to the man himself. While the two films that followed (1985’s Brazil and 1989’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) were both reviewed more favorably, Time Bandits was identified as having the most potential when it came to a remake.
Talk of an updated version first popped up in gossip columns over a decade ago, though the first concrete evidence that eleven-year-old Kevin’s adventure through time was going to be given the remake treatment came in 2011. Variety reported that former Handmade Films Intl. executives Guy Collins and Michael Ryan were in talks with producers over the film, describing it as a “big screen kids action franchise.”
The fact that the word “franchise” was mentioned was a clue to how much potential Collins and Ryan believed the project had, though, in the true spirit of Terry Gilliam, it never saw the light of day.
7. The Warriors
Tony Scott’s suicide in 2012 was a blow for fans of the British director’s often underrated work, especially those who had been looking forward to what was still to come from him. Scott had put a lot of energy into his long awaited remake of 1979 gangland classic The Warriors, though sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
The director revealed details of his vision as early as 2005, telling MTV that “It’s very different from what the original is like. I love the original, but this is a very different tone and a very different feel. The encounters will be more like Kingdom of Heaven. It will be the Warriors stacking up against 3,000 gang members. It’s contemporary; it’s going to look like the L.A. riots, with fires burning after Cyrus gets shot at the beginning.”
Scott isn’t the only director to have offered an opinion on what a new Warriors movie should look like. Crank director Mike Neveldine revealed that he was teaming up with fellow helmer Brian Taylor to remake the classic in the style of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, but a year has passed with no further news on their joint venture.
6. Yellow Submarine
Robert Zemeckis is currently in recovery from his career-threatening addiction to performance capture 3D, though when he was in the height of his obsession with the technology he had plans to remake 1968 animated Beatles feature Yellow Submarine. The director already had Christmas heart-warmer The Polar Express, Norse saga Beowulf and Disney’s A Christmas Carol under his digital belt at this stage, and he saw Yellow Submarine as the perfect successor: “I think Yellow Submarine is a perfect example of a movie that can be re-envisioned in digital cinema and be absolutely beyond spectacular. We haven’t gotten the word yet on the two surviving Beatles, whether they’re interested in doing it or not.”
Whether or not Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s lack of enthusiasm played a part in the film being canned is unknown, but, after hiring a number of voice actors and even a Beatles tribute band, Zemeckis called the whole thing off. Disney departed the project in 2011, and despite the director being free to take it elsewhere, he had a change of heart regarding the remake: “That would have been a great one, to bring the Beatles back to life. But it’s probably better not to be remade, you’re always behind the eight-ball when you do a remake.”
5. Escape From New York
John Carpenter used the success of 1978’s Halloween to push his script for Escape From New York, co-written with Michael Myers actor Nick Castle in the wake of the Watergate scandal. A critical and commercial hit, the film was set in 1997 (the near future at the time of release) and followed Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisskin as he attempts to rescue the President, whose plane has crash landed on the island prison that Manhattan has become.
Carpenter himself gave the remake his blessing, admitting that he is curious to see how a new actor tackles the part of Snake. Russell wasn’t quite as receptive when it came to someone taking over his starring role, however, answering questions about the casting of Gerard Butler in 2007 with a wince: “I will say that when I was told who was going to play Snake Plissken, my initial reaction was ‘oh man!’ I do think that character was quintessentially one thing, and that is American.”
Scotsman Butler stepped down not long after, citing “creative differences” as the problem. Since then a number of actors have been linked with the role, namely Jason Statham, Charlie Hunnam, and Tom Hardy, all of whom, rather ironically, are British. While no stars are currently attached, Fox (who won the bid for the rights in 2015) set Luther writer Neil Cross to work on a new script.
4. The Dam Busters
Based on the true story of Operation Chastise, a mission carried out by the British RAF during WWII in which three pivotal German dams were targeted, The Dam Busters has been described as “one of the truly great true stories of the Second World War” by none other than Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings director is known to be an aviation fanatic and has harbored ambitions of remaking Michael Anderson’s 1955 classic for many years, though just when it was getting close to becoming a reality The Hobbit films happened.
Jackson initially tried to purchase the rights to the remake in the 1990s, but was told that he had been beaten to the punch by Mel Gibson. The Lethal Weapon star held onto them for a number of years, though finally dropped them in 2004, leaving the door open for Stephen Fry to pen a new script for Jackson to work from. Filming was set to commence in 2009, though Guillermo Del Toro’s departure from The Desolation of Smaug put an end to that.
While the project looks dead and buried right now, the New Zealand director has always insisted that he will have to return to it at some stage: “There is only a limited span I can abide of people driving me nuts asking me when I’m going to do that project. So I’ll have to do it. I want to, actually.”
3. The Addams Family
If ever there was a franchise and a director that made for each other, it’s The Addams Family and Tim Burton. It was not so long ago (2010, to be exact) that Universal Pictures announced that they had acquired the rights to use Charles Addams’ classic drawings, once a staple of The New Yorker and the inspiration behind Barry Sonnenfeld’s films from the early ‘90s.
Universal’s intention was to produce a Burton-led remake, with the director reportedly keen to focus more closely on the sharp wit of the early illustrations that both the TV show and the movies failed to capture. The best way to achieve this fresh take on the macabre family was with a whole new approach all together.
The film was set to be done in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas, not only using the same style of stop-animation, but with Burton serving as a puppet master to the whole project, though not necessarily directing the film. We’ll never know what his exact role would have been, as the project was canned in favor of a sequel to the wildly successful Despicable Me.
2. X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes
The abandoned stop-motion Addams Family is far from being Tim Burton’s only unrealized project. One such dead end was his planned ’90s remake of Roger Corman’s critically acclaimed ’60s B-movie X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, a sci-fi pulp classic that follows scientist James Xavier as he successfully develops a drug that allows him to see through objects, creating more problems for him than it solves.
Burton worked with eventual Blue Bloods producer Bryan Goluboff on a script that was set to be co-produced by DreamWorks and the now defunct Orion Pictures. While it certainly isn’t his bread and butter, Burton dipped his toe into the pulp movie puddle in 1996 when he turned the Mars Attacks trading card game into a film that evoked a number of genre classics, notably The Day The Earth Stood Still and Dr. Strangelove.
As the turn of the century approached news of another attempted remake broke, this time to be fronted by 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. While it likely would have differed from Burton’s vision significantly, in the end we didn’t get to see either.
Tim Burton isn’t the only director to have a planned adaptation of a ‘60s sci-fi classic go down the pan in recent years. B-movie enthusiast Robert Rodriguez spent a long time trying to develop his version of Barbarella (a cult French-Italian sci-fi based on Claude Forest’s comics of the same name), with his Planet Terror star Rose McGowan set to take over from Jane Fonda in the lead role. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, securing the required budget proved impossible.
The cost of making the picture in the way that Rodriguez envisioned began to add up, and when the figure exceeded $80 million, Universal turned their back on it. Despite trying to flog the idea to other studios, the only offer he got was from a German production company, who offered Rodriguez a $70 million budget on the condition that he shot the movie in Europe. With a wife and 5 kids at home, the director simply couldn’t commit to being away for the duration of the shoot, though he admitted that letting go of the project wasn’t easy.
Would you have liked to see any of these remakes? Let us know in the comments.