With so many sub-par movies being released every year one would think that the big studios are willing to produce anything. Case in point, turning a series of puzzle videogames into a trilogy of feature length films.
Even with all of the questionable material floating around Hollywood, the studio bigwigs have a history of shooting down the dreams of filmmakers and audiences alike. Whether it be a runaway budget, the death of a major player, studio meddling, or because the film didn’t have enough merchandise tie-in opportunities, there have been a number of films that have gone the way of the dodo. Even the biggest, most legendary filmmakers of all time aren’t immune to this.
Join us as we have a look at some of the most promising films that will never see the light of day – these are 15 Movies From Iconic Filmmakers That You’ll Never See.
15. Dune – Alejandro Jodorowsky
The 1965 science fiction epic Dune by Frank Herbert is widely considered one of the greatest literary works of the genre, winning numerous awards and being cited as one of the most popular science fiction books of all time, selling over 12 million copies as of 2000. So it’s no surprise that Hollywood was interested in getting a share of that very lucrative pie.
In 1971, the film adaptation rights to the book were sold, however the film would languish in development as the film passed between numerous directors and screenwriters. Finally, in 1974, a French consortium purchased the film rights, and pegged avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky to direct.
Jodorowsky, known for his bizarre and provocative films, originally planned for Dune to be a ten hour feature, collaborating with the likes of surrealist painter Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, and Swiss artist H.R. Giger (who would later go on to create the xenomorph of the Alien series after meeting Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon on set).
Jodorowsky spent $2 million of the film’s $9.5 million budget on pre-production alone, and as the storyboards and script were being finished, financiers were beginning to pull out. There have been reports that the shooting script ballooned to a 14-hour runtime, and the lavish sets and effects that Jodorowsky had been planning would’ve far exceeded the film’s modest budget.
The film rights to Dune would bounce around for another few years until David Lynch finally brought a version to the big screen, one that the director himself disowned and was met with lukewarm reception. A well received documentary about Jodorowsky’s failed adaptation, titled Jodorowsky’s Dune was released in 2013, leaving sci-fi fans lamenting what could have been.
14. Napoleon – Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick is one of, if not the most, fastidious directors in all of cinematic history. His meticulous attention to even the smallest details is the stuff of Hollywood legend, resulting in dense, complex films that fans will be analyzing until the end of time. His obsessive devotion to his craft is what has cemented him as one of the greatest film directors of all time.
After the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick turned his sights on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor who conquered the vast majority of Europe in the years following the French Revolution. Kubrick thought that Napoleon was the most interesting man who had ever walked the Earth, and spent years seeking out every little detail about the Napoleon’s life, including sending one of his assistant’s to literally follow in the footsteps of the Emperor.
Kubrick’s extensive research led to the development of a film based on Napoleon which he believed would be “the greatest film ever made”. The historical epic would be filmed on location in France, and since this was the 60s and CGI was just a random combination of letters, Kubrick enlisted the Romanian army to pledge 40,000 soldiers and 10,000 cavalrymen to act in the battle scenes. Ultimately the film was cancelled due to the projected cost of filming, and the commercial failure of Waterloo, another Napoleon biopic that was released in 1970.
The fact that Kubrick had amassed 15,000 location stills, 18,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery and digested hundreds of books offering information ranging to what kind of food Napoleon ate to what the weather was like on a particular day, Kubrick’s Napoleon would have been a sight to behold. Despite the acclaimed director’s passing in 1999, there is a chance that audiences will finally be able to see Kubrick’s vision unfold. In 2013 Stephen Spielberg had announced that he had partnered with Kubrick’s family and HBO in order to adapt Kubrick’s Napoleon into a miniseries.
13. Don Quixote – Orson Welles
Actor, director and cinematic icon Orson Welles left quite a few films unfinished at the time of his death in 1985, but his greatest passion was Don Quixote. Beginning filming as far back as 1955, Welles continued to work on the film for decades, scraping together the cast and crew whenever he could drum up enough cash. Welles was enamored by the antiquated virtues of the characters in Cervantes’ novel, planning to transpose the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza into the modern era as “living anachronisms”.
The film that Welles envisioned went through numerous changes, with the director constantly changing the script and discarding previously shot segments in favor of entirely new sequences. Since Welles was funding the film on his own, outside of the studio model, he never felt pressure to complete the film, instead regarding it as a personal project that would only be completed when he was personally satisfied.
This mindset would result in numerous delays, a script that spanned over 1,000 pages and mountains of footage. At the time of his death, Welles was still talking about seeing this project to fruition, however his footage, which consisted of over 300,000 feet of film, was left in various parts of the world with virtually no organization. According to legend, Welles purposely stored his footage in different countries and even went as far as to mislabel the reels, as he feared that the film would be re-edited without his control (something that had happened to him numerous times before on various studio-backed projects).
Nevertheless, a cut of the film was put together in 1992 and was met with criticism, as the film was hastily put together with only a fraction of the existing footage being used. The result was a film that varied in image quality and lacked a cohesive soundtrack, not to mention a complete absence of a script.
12. Conversations with Vincent – Tim Burton
Vincent Price was an American actor who had appeared on stage, radio, television and over 100 films throughout his career. Director Tim Burton was highly influenced by Vincent Price’s work, being a fan of the actor’s films since childhood. Burton would first work with his idol on his 1982 short film Vincent, in which Price provided the narration.
From this relationship, Burton once again worked with Price in his 1990 film, Edward Scissorhands in which the actor appeared as the inventor. During the filming of Edward Scissorhands, Burton approached Price with the idea of making a documentary about the actor’s life under the title Conversations with Vincent.
Burton conceived the film as an independent film that would be produced under his own production company, and began shooting the film in 1991. The project was put on hold when Burton began work on 1992’s Batman Returns, and then again in 1993 after Vincent Price passed away.
In 1994, Burton announced that he was re-editing the existing footage with Price into a one hour documentary titled A Visit with Vincent, however during his work on the film, Burton felt as though it was simply too personal for him to release to the public, and shelved it.
11. 100 Years – Robert Rodriguez & John Malkovich
It should come as no surprise that the actor who once made a movie about a tiny door in an office building that enables the people who crawl through it to control him like puppet would make a movie that won’t be seen by the majority of the people on the planet right now.
In 2015, director Robert Rodriguez and actor John Malkovich got together with Louis XIII cognac to create a film inspired by the 100 year process of making a bottle of Louis XIII. The result was a movie that will not be seen, by anyone, until November 18, 2115. The physical film will be touted around to various film festivals and cities in a specially designed bullet proof safe, the door of which cannot be opened until the built in timer reaches the premiere date 100 years into the future. 1,000 people, including Rodriguez and Malkovich, have received tickets to the premiere in 2115, which are intended to be passed on to the descendents of the recipients.
While Rodriguez and Malkovich have released teaser trailers depicting three vastly different depictions of what the world may look like 100 years into the future, the teasers feature no footage from the actual film, and its plot is being kept a tightly guarded secret. Whether the filmmakers are trolling us after imbibing a few too many bottles of Louis XIII cognac or not is a question most of us will never know the answer to, but we have to admit, it’s a titillating project all the same.
10. Superman Lives – Tim Burton
After the unmitigated disaster that was Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, in which Christopher Reeve’s Superman fights a burly surfer bro with a bad manicure, Warner Bros. decided to resurrect Supes for the big screen with a phrase that is commonplace in cinema today, but would have been more obscure back in 1998: reboot.
Comic enthusiast and filmmaker Kevin Smith penned the screenplay, Nicholas Cage was set to play the titular hero (this was the late 90s and Cage was coming off a string of box office hits), and Tim Burton, who cut his superhero chops with 1989’s Batman and its 1992 sequel Batman Returns, was in the director’s chair. It certainly seemed like this film could have been good, but most consider the fact that it was shelved a blessing in disguise after some grainy set photos appeared online, showcasing a long haired Cage looking less than enthused to be in a sparkly, poorly designed Superman suit.
The red flags only multiplied from there, with reports of the film undergoing extensive rewrites which incorporated a giant spider, polar bears and the schlocky gaudiness of Joel Schumaker’s interpretation of Batman. Despite some of these eyebrow raising elements, the film was supposed to draw heavily from the comics, and deliver a Superman who was wrestling with his identity, responsibility and place amongst human beings in a similar way to Henry Cavill’s Superman in the recent films helmed by Zack Snyder.
9. Kaleidoscope – Alfred Hitchcock
In the mid-60s, Alfred Hitchcock’s career had hit a low point. The commercial and critical flops of movies like Marnie had inspired Hitchcock to create something bold. Inspired by Italian filmmakers of the time like Michelangelo Antonioni, Hitchcock began to experiment with bold new filming techniques and technologies like handheld filming and utilizing natural light. Re-energized, Hitchcock began crafting a story that would be dark and disturbing featuring rape, necrophilia, and plenty of murders.
The film revolved around a young, gay bodybuilder who would lure women to their deaths. The narrative was to unfold from the perspective of the killer, and feature some of the most brutal murder scenes committed to film. Many of Hitchcock’s friends and colleagues questioned the aggressive violence suggesting that it might be too much for audiences, but Hitchcock pushed forward, undeterred.
Hitchcock eventually brought the film to Universal/MCA, who balked at the movie, citing the script’s violence as well as the “ugly” appearance of the main character. Hitchcock tried to persuade the studio by saying he could make the movie for less than $1 million, mainly by hiring unknowns, but still the studio refused. Ultimately the film, which was going to be titled either Frenzy or Kaleidoscope, was never made.
Hitchcock did recycle some of the elements from this unrealized project when making his 1972 picture Frenzy, however they were significantly toned down from what audiences would have seen originally. Unfortunately all that is left of Hitchcock’s flirtation with avant garde cinema is an hour long silent test footage reel.
8. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – Terry Gilliam
In what has to be one of the most well known accounts of a film being stuck in development hell, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has begun production eight separate times over the course of seventeen years. Production of the film began in 2000 and was intended to be filmed entirely in Spain and Europe, making it one of Gilliam’s most ambitious projects, however numerous obstacles ultimately prevented Gilliam from completing the film.
Shooting began in a barren area near Madrid, only to discover that there was a military base nearby and the fighter jets that would pass overhead made most of the audio completely unusable. A short time later there was extensive flooding which washed away the majority of the equipment. French actor Jean Rochefort, who was portraying Don Quixote, was diagnosed with a double herniated disc and had to leave the production, which would be the death knell for the film, as Gilliam had spent two years casting the role and Rochefort had spent seven months learning English in preparation. In 2002, a documentary film called Lost in La Mancha was released, chronicling the series of unfortunate events that would become known as “the film that didn’t want to be made”.
The film bounced around for a number of years with legal issues, financing problems and the availability of actors all contributing to the numerous delays that plagued the production. As of March 2016, Gilliam has said that he was rewritten the script and received financing to make the film. With numerous false starts, audiences can only cross their fingers and hope that this version of the film makes it to the finish line.
7. Newt – Pete Docter
As of this writing, Newt is the only film to be announced and subsequently canceled by Pixar. The animation behemoth might as well be printing money with all of the wildly successful films that the studio has developed, like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars. Given the success of its films and the strength of their franchises, it comes as a surprise that Newt would be scrapped.
Pixar announced Newt back in 2008 with a 2012 tentative release date. They even included a little “NEWT X-ING” sticker on Andy’s closet door in Toy Story 3 as an Easter Egg for eagle eyed viewers, but by 2010, Pixar unceremoniously dropped Newt from its release schedule. When pressed for an explanation, John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar Animation said that the plot of Newt was too similar to the plot of the (then) recently released Rio, which revolved around exotic birds who can’t stand each other but slowly develop a relationship born from a series of whacky adventures.
Pixar has never shied away from developing their films in the past, even when they were confronted with copycats (see: A Bug’s Life/Antz, Finding Nemo/A Shark Tale), so this throwaway explanation was again called into question. Last year, Pixar finally opened up about the cancellation of Newt, saying that they weren’t pleased with the production and brought Pete Docter, who previously worked on Monsters, Inc and Up, to help. While working on Newt Docter pitched a brand new idea, one that excited Pixar execs and bumped Newt from production. That movie would eventually become the 2015 film Inside Out.
6. Crusade – Paul Verhoeven
Crusade was a medieval action epic that was set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as a peasant who is manipulated into joining a bloodthirsty campaign to bring Christ to the Middle East. The script from Walon Green, the man who penned The Wild Bunch, was said to be one of the bloodiest ever committed to paper, however the film was not going to be just a mindless hack and slash film. Instead, director Paul Verhoeven, the man behind Total Recall and Starship Troopers, wanted the film to be a critical evaluation of religious fanaticism, against a backdrop of blood and guts, presumably.
With a cast that included one of Hollywood’s most bankable action stars ready to roll, Crusade seemed like a no brainer for studio execs. Unfortunately, a meeting between Verhoeven and studio bigwigs at Carolco ended poorly, as the studio heads wanted a guarantee from Verhoeven that the budget for Crusade would not exceed $100 million, to which Verhoeven replied with a tirade of insults.
Crusade’s nail in the coffin came when production studio Carolco, shaken by the prospect of Crusade ballooning over budget, decided to fund the cheaper Renny Harlin film Cutthroat Island, a pirate epic that has since been called one of the biggest cinematic flops of all time. The failure of Cutthroat Island at the box office bankrupted Carolco, and sank Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger’s Crusade for good.
5. Something’s Got To Give – George Cukor
Something’s Got To Give is an unfinished film from 1962 that was a loose remake of My Favorite Wife from 1940. Notable for being Marilyn Monroe’s final film, the production was plagued by Monroe’s personal problems and finally abandoned after her death in 1962.
The film revolved around a woman, played by Monroe, who was believed to be dead following an accident at sea, only to return after five years to find that her husband had since remarried. The film was Monroe’s first in over a year, but she was beset with chronic illnesses throughout production. Director George Cukor decided against postponing the film, opting to shoot around Monroe’s availability, which led to extensive script rewrites. Over the course of a month, shooting was constantly delayed due to Monroe’s sporadic appearances on set, and the production quickly fell behind schedule.
With the studio losing money, tensions on set increased. Monroe attempted to drum up publicity for the film by appearing nude in a scene (the first time a mainstream hollywood star had done so), but the media attention was not enough to distract producers from the increasing budget, which Monroe had been blamed for.
Director George Cukor spearheaded a campaign to get Monroe fired, which led to her role being recast until Monroe was re-hired with various stipulations. Filming was set to resume in October of 1962, but with Monroe’s death in August, the film was shelved completely. Roughly nine hours of unedited footage sat in the vaults at 20th Century Fox until it was discovered and assembled into the one hour documentary, Marilyn: Something’s Got To Give in 1990.
4. Justice League: Mortal – George Miller
Way back in 2007, Warner Bros. was working to bring DC Comics’ biggest superhero team, the Justice League, to the big screen. Visionary director George Miller was brought on board to helm the project,and it seemed as though things were proceeding without too many snags. A script was finalized, storyboards had been drawn and casting was a wrap. Miller was ready to start production when a series of events put the project on hold.
First was the 2008 Writers Guild of America strike. Then came the shift of relocating the shoot to Canada from Australia, due to what Warner perceived as an insufficient tax break from the Australian government. As production was met with delay after delay, Warner Bros. got cold feet, fearing that the film would simply be too costly to produce. This led the studio to focus on the relatively cheaper individual superhero films before investing so heavily in a Justice League film. Originally 2011’s Green Lantern was going to kick off the DC shared universe, but after that trainwreck, the ball didn’t start rolling until 2013’s Man of Steel. With two Justice League movies slated for release in the near future from Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder, fans have to wonder what could have been if Miller’s vision had come to fruition, especially after the awe-inspiring spectacle of Mad Max: Fury Road.
3. At the Mountains of Madness – Guillermo del Toro
The man who has given us some truly chilling nightmares, seamlessly blended the occult and superheroes, and delivered an homage to kaiju movies by making a movie about giant robots beating the tar out of giant monsters, has had his sights set on adapting one of the most influential horror writers that ever lived for the better part of a decade.
Guillermo del Toro is one of the countless visionaries whose work has been influenced by the writer H.P. Lovecraft, and del Toro’s passion for Lovecraft’s work led him to pursue a film adaptation of one of the author’s most well known stories, At the Mountains of Madness. Lovecraft’s story dealt with a routine scientific expedition to Antarctica that unravels as the scientists come face to face with an ancient alien civilization, forcing them to face the reality that humanity is nothing but a blip on the radar in comparison to these ancient lifeforms.
Del Toro completed the script in 2006 and began shopping At the Mountains of Madness around to different studios. Del Toro was pushing for a $100+ million budget with an R rating, a combination no studio wanted anything to do with. When Ridley Scott’s Prometheus opened in theatres in 2012, del Toro seemed to say goodbye to his passion project for good, stating that At the Mountains of Madness was simply too similar to Scott’s quasi-Alien prequel about a group of scientists who come face to face with humanity’s creators and potential destroyers.
The rumors of del Toro realizing his vision have not totally faded away, with reports surfacing that the director is still shopping the film around and is even willing to make compromises like softening it to secure a PG-13 rating.
2. Megalopolis – Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola made some of the greatest films of all time in the form of Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Conversation, all within a decade. After the 1970s however, his creative output was less than stellar. While some claimed that the famed director had simply lost his touch, the real reason Coppola directed clunkers like The Rainmaker and Jack was to appease studio bigwigs so that his dream project would be given the green light.
Titled Megalopolis, the film was going to be a massive film in both budget and scope, casting more A-listers and award-winners than you could name. Although the film’s purported 212-page script has never seen the light of day, reports claim that the film would’ve followed a man’s dream to build an idealized world that would begin with a dazzling, future vision of New York City.
It has been said that the release of 1999’s The Phantom Menace reinvigorated Coppola; he was focused on bringing Megalopolis to life more than ever, due to the state of the art CGI that The Phantom Menace employed. After 9/11, however, Coppola realized that New York City could no longer be at the center of his picture, so he went back to the drawing board. Years would pass, studios would back out and money would dry up. Eventually. it became apparent to Coppola that Megalopolis, his dream, was just that.
1. Batman: Year One – Darren Aronofsky
Before Christopher Nolan breathed new life into Batman after the debacle that was Bat-nipplegate, Warner Bros. planned on revitalizing the franchise with Requiem for a Dream director Darren Aronofsky.
Wanting to wipe the slate clean after the neon Gotham and the terrible puns that littered its streets in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, Aronofsky drew his inspiration from Frank Miller’s celebrated graphic novel Batman: Year One, and even brought Miller on to help with the script.
After Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Zack Snyder’s recent take on the character in Batman v Superman,the idea of a dark and brooding Batman seems like something guaranteed to make bank. According to Miller, Aronofsky’s vision would have taken the Caped Crusader into some seriously dark territory.
The concept was for Batman to be an older incarnation that had shunned his life of wealth and privilege to live on the streets of Gotham so that he could truly empathize with the people. He was going to be taken in by a mechanic and his son, Big Al and Little Al respectively, who would be his confidants and mentors. The Batmobile would be a ‘suped up Cadillac and the Bat Cave was going to be an abandoned subway tunnel underneath the garage where all three men worked. Aronofsky wanted his Batman to be violent, grim, and strictly for adults only.
When the executives at Warner Bros. read the script they immediately passed on the project, criticizing the violence and tone. According to Miller, the Warner studio heads wanted a movie they could take their kids to, and at the same time, sell a boatload of toys. Unfortunately, Aronofsky’s Batman would accomplish neither of those things, and the project was shelved for good.
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