It's important to remember that despite the numerous sophisticated ways we can now track a movie's progress from inception to cinema release, there's still no one magic formula that ensures that a film is a financial success.
Studio execs are almost as in the dark now as they were back in the days when Hollywood was finding its feet. Movies are an expensive gamble and people may pull funding if they don't feel that they're going to get a return on their investment.
With this in mind, is it any wonder that we have so many sequels, remakes and adaptations these days? They're the closest thing Hollywood has to a safe bet.
Most of the time movies are scrapped because of budgetary concerns and other perfectly valid reasons. Then there are the others that are abandoned for rather dumb or odd reasons. As you may have guessed from the title, we're here to concentrate on the latter.
Here are the 19 Movies That Were Canceled For Stupid Reasons.
19 Spider-Man 4
We're all acutely aware about what happened with Spider-Man 3. Director Sam Raimi had his hand forced by studio execs and thanks to corporate meddling, an overstuffed and undercooked Spider-Man story was delivered to theaters worldwide. Whilst received poorly by fans, the movie went on to make a ton of money, so a sequel was inevitable.
Sony wanted Raimi back, but the director was understandably hesitant. They promised more creative control, but it soon became apparent that this wasn't going to be the case. Raimi wanted The Lizard as the movie's big bad, but Sony apparently wanted a villain with a human face so audiences could connect.
The Vulture was chosen to serve as the main antagonist, but the studio wasn't done. They wanted Adrian Toomes (played by John Malkovich) to become the new editor of The Daily Bugle for some baffling reason and also have Felicia Hardy (Anne Hathaway) to be revealed to be his daughter.
Not only that, but Hardy wouldn't have been Black Cat, but Vultress, an all-new (and almost certainly terrible) character. The studio's inflexibility led to Raimi leaving the project, along with the main cast. This led to a hasty reboot and the rest is history.
18 At the Mountains of Madness
Cuddly cult director Guillermo del Toro doesn't seem to have much luck when it comes to the box office. His movies have plenty of fans and critical acclaim, but never seem to be huge financial successes, at least domestically.
Perhaps the one project of his that seemed like the safest bet was his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. The movie's budget was to be $150 million, it had both Tom Cruise and James Cameron producing. The studio even loved the project, but the rub came due to GDT's insistence that the movie be R-rated.
The director admits that this was a mistake. In an interview with Collider, del Toro reflected on the canceled project, saying that things would have gone better if he'd agreed to a lower rating: “If ‘Mountains’ had been PG-13, or I had said PG-13 … I’m too much of a Boy Scout, I should have lied, but I didn’t.”
Granted, a more family-friendly version of the horror epic wouldn't have been the ideal solution, but at least the movie would have been made in some form. Talks broke down over the contentious issue and At the Mountains of Madness was shelved as a result.
Based on the sheer amount of critical love and money the Pixar movies have earned, it wouldn't be controversial to state that they're pretty much the gold standard when it comes to childrens' entertainment.
The studio's fourteenth feature film, Newt, was already in production before it was delayed in favor of making Cars 2, but studio heads seemed eager to return to Newt and fix the various script issues that had plagued the project.
However, it was not to be. The project was handed from director Gary Rydstrom to the more experienced Pete Docter, but they still couldn't make it work. When asked about the scrapped plans, Pixar head honcho John Lasseter revealed that Newt was too similar to Blue Sky Studios' Rio.
Details are still sketchy, but it seems that a combination of these things resulted in Newt never seeing the light of day. Pixar's commitment to story notwithstanding, it's still silly to can a movie because it had plot similarities to Rio, which is considered by most to be a fairly unremarkable and unmemorable kids' film.
Pixar could have almost certainly done the concept better and it's a real pity we'll never get to see it.
16 Justice League: Mortal
We're so used to studios having superhero movies confirmed for years to come, it's actually fairly difficult to remember how things were before. During Batman's cinematic heyday in the form of The Dark Knight, another DC movie was underway.
This was George Miller's Justice League: Mortal. It had an awesome ensemble cast including Armie Hammer as Batman, Adam Brody as The Flash and Megan Gale as Wonder Woman. The movie was all set to start shooting, but ran into a litany of frustrating problems.
Timing seems to be the key issue here. Production was scheduled to take place in Australia, thanks to the country's attractive tax breaks. The movie was apparently deemed “not Australian enough” for the government to qualify for the rebates and everything was moved to Canada at the last minute.
Miller had barely enough time to recover from that massive setback and the movie ran headlong into another crisis – the WGA Writer's Strike. The combination of these things killed the movie dead and the cast and crew moved on to other projects.
15 Two Terminator Salvation sequels
The Christian Bale-starring Terminator Salvation was meant to be the start of a whole new Terminator trilogy, but as we all know, that's not quite how it panned out. The Salvation sequel ran aground when The Halcyon Company, the rights holders for the franchise, filed for bankruptcy soon after the release of the first movie.
The rights were put up for sale as Halycon tried to claw back some desperately-needed cash. The trouble is, many thought the asking price of $60-70 million was way too high. The only offer they got was from Joss Whedon for the considerably smaller amount of $10,000.
After shopping around the rights, Pacificor - the hedge fund behind Halycon's money troubles, ended up purchasing them for a cool $29.5 million. Pacificor had no creative interest in the property and the rights were given to an agency to sell off.
Any chance of a Salvation sequel died with the deal and the franchise was eventually rebooted with Terminator: Genysis, another supposed trilogy starter that fell by the wayside.
14 The 1960s Lord of the Rings
In perhaps one of the craziest “What If?” movie pitches ever, there was a time when The Lord of the Rings was going to star The Beatles and be directed by Stanley Kubrick. J.R.R. Tolkien sold the movie rights to Universal Artists and the Fab Four were apparently very enthusiastic in it. They approached Kubrick for the job and the legendary director had some interesting words for John Lennon.
Kubrick apparently stated that the book trilogy was “unfilmable” due to its immensity. With us being in futuristic space year 2018, we know that Peter Jackson managed to film the unfilmable in the early 2000s, but in the late '60s the prospect was a lot more difficult and daunting.
Best of all, Tolkien put his foot down because of his distaste for The Beatles' music. In a letter to an associate, Tolkien complained about the noise around his neighborhood. He especially hated one of his neighbours, a young man which he wrote was practising with his band “evidently aiming to turn themselves into a Beatle group.”
13 Revenge of the Nerds remake
In 2007, it looked like we were all set for a remake of cult raunchy comedy Revenge of the Nerds. The movie got two weeks into filming before it hit a brick wall.
Firstly, the Fox exec overseeing the production reportedly hated the dailies and moved to have drastic changes made. This is pretty standard, but the movie's other problem was a lot more unusual.
The remake's filming location - Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia finally got round to actually reading the script. You'd have thought that they should have at least Googled the movie's name before giving their approval, but it seems nobody thought to.
The script was deemed too crude for Emory to sign off on and the crew were forced to pack up and move. They soon found that none of the other potential locations had the required “big campus feel” and the movie was sunk.
12 Hippie Hippie Shake
In a rarity for this list, Hippie Hippie Shake was actually completed and probably exists in some form in a dusty backroom somewhere.
Based on the memoir Hippie Hippie Shake: The Dreams, the Trips, the Trials, the Love-ins, the Screw Ups: The Sixties by Richard Neville, the movie went through numerous directors, writers and repeated setbacks for around 8 years before a satisfactory script was found and work could actually begin.
Filming started in 2007 with Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy in the lead roles. In 2008, the infamous British tabloids reported on Sienna Miller's high-profile and well publicized affair with married actor/musician Balthazar Getty.
There were rumors that the film's release was delayed until the media whirlwind surrounding Miller died down, despite the studio's insistence to the contrary. For some unknown reason, the movie never got a theatrical run and still hasn't been released on any platform.
Action movie maestro Paul Verhoeven got very close to making his passion project, Crusade, in the early '90s. It was to be a huge historical epic with plenty of sword and sandal action.
The script was written by Walon Green, the scribe behind The Wild Bunch. Verhoeven had an impressive cast assembled too, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jennifer Connelly, Robert Duvall, and John Turturro.
When it came to the final meeting with Carolco Pictures, Verhoeven just couldn't keep quiet. The studio asked for a guarantee that the movie's huge $100 million budget wouldn't balloon any further.
According to Arnie, Verhoeven took exception to this and launched into a rant: “There's no such thing as guarantees! Guarantees don't happen and if anyone promises you guarantees, they're lying! ... There's no guarantee that we're going to make it 'til tomorrow!"
The director got more and more heated and incredulous, despite Schwarzenegger kicking him under the table to get him to quit whilst he was ahead. Carolco passed and instead invested in Cutthroat Island, which would turn out to be a flop.
10 A Catwoman solo movie
Way before the Halle Berry abomination had even been summoned from the dark dimension, Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer had pursued the idea of a spin-off from Batman Returns. A solo Selina Kyle movie had been floated for a while and both Burton and Pfeiffer were eager for more feline fun.
Speaking to a contemporary movie magazine, screenwriter Daniel Waters described his draft, concerning an amnesiac Selina moving to Oasisburg, a neighboring city to Gotham, akin to Palm Springs.
According to Waters, Oasisburg is “run by superheroes, and the movie has great fun at making fun at the whole male superhero mythos. Then they end up being not very good at all deep down, and she's got to go back to that whole Catwoman thing."
It could have been a lot of fun and a great opportunity to see Pfeiffer inhabit the role again. Burton approached Warner Bros with the script, but due to the financial success of Batman Forever, WB were done with dark Batman films. The Catwoman movie was scrapped and Warner Bros went on to nearly kill the entire franchise with Batman & Robin. Good job, guys.
9 I, Claudius (1937)
In 1937, filmmaker Alexander Korda wanted to create a British movie that would rival the biggest Hollywood epics. That film was to be I, Claudius. He hired esteemed director Josef von Sternberg and assembled a cast of acting heavyweights including Charles Laughton, Emlyn Williams and Merle Oberon.
The production was dogged with problems from the start, but soon Korda was clashing with Laughton over Charles' interpretation of the character. Then von Sternberg started butting heads with Laughton too.
The film's production ground to a halt at one point due to Merle Oberon being involved in a car accident, resulting in superficial injuries. There were even whispers that the accident was staged to win a big insurance payout, thus limiting the film's total losses, but nothing was ever confirmed or denied.
The whole thing imploded under all the strain of these repeated setbacks and personality clashes and I, Claudius was never finished.
8 Star Trek: Planet of the Titans
The original Star Trek series ran for three seasons before being unceremoniously canceled. However, the fandom was strong and the popularity of the reruns meant that a big-screen adventure for the Enterprise crew was on the cards.
After passing on an pitch that was see Kirk et al literally fight God, Paramount chose to develop Planet of the Titans, in which the Enterprise would find a remote world that was home to the titans of Greek mythology.
Filming was slated to start in 1977, but Paramount president Barry Diller nixed the whole thing last minute. Apparently he didn't like the script and found it “too pretentious."
Planet of the Titans director Philip Kaufman offered up an alternate and dumber reason. Apparently, studio execs were scared by the success of some hot, new sci-fi movie called Star Wars and felt that there weren't enough sci-fi fans around to support both Star Wars and Star Trek.
Even back in the late '70s this could be considered short-sighted, but in this day and age it's nigh-on ridiculous.
7 Who Killed Bambi?
If you ever wanted a punk-rock version of A Hard Day's Night starring The Sex Pistols, you almost had your weirdly specific wish granted in 1978. The screenplay was written by none other than Roger Ebert and it even got to the filming stage before the plug was pulled.
According to Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, they managed a negligible amount of filming before Fox execs read the script, were horrified by what was on the page and decided to put a hasty stop to the movie's funding.
Years later, the original director Russ Meyer and his associate, Jim Ryan shared an elevator ride with the people who killed Who Killed Bambi? According to Ryan, they learned that the final vote was cast by iconic actress and Fox shareholder Grace Kelly, who was dead against the studio releasing another X-rated movie.
Some of the shot footage ended up in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle and many years later, Roger Ebert posted the full screenplay on his blog for all to view.
6 The Story of William Tell
In 1953, Errol Flynn was on the downswing of his career. He needed a hit badly and decided to bet it all on The Story of William Tell.
The movie was going to be his comeback and he practically exhausted what was left of his personal fortune to get it made. Additional funding was to come from a wealthy Italian count. Sets were built and footage was filmed, but alas, it was not to be.
The count failed to live up to his end of the contract and Flynn was left with no choice but to abandon the movie. In a contemporary newspaper, he simply stated “Certain Italians who are responsible for financing the film have run out on me."
Repo men turned up and hauled away the equipment and Flynn was declared bankrupt. Only a few snippets of the movie exist as well as the remnants of an expensive Alpine village set near Mont Blanc.
5 Midnight Rider
It's important to clarify from the off that cancelling a movie over the death of a crew member isn't a stupid thing. What is, however, is the series of events that led to such a tragedy during the filming of Midnight Rider. The Gregg Allman biopic ran into problems on the very first day of shooting.
They filmed on a railway line they apparently didn't have permission to be on. A speeding train came down the line, leaving the crew very little time to move everyone and everything out of the way. The train collided with a metal trestle and debris ended up hitting camera assistant Sarah Jones.
Jones fell into the path of the train and lost her life. Several other crew members were injured and taken to hospital. The director and several producers were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, bringing the whole tragic thing to an end.
Sarah Jones' family and friends set up a Safety for Sarah movement that called for greater awareness and safety on film productions.
4 Doc Savage
In case you're not aware, Doc Savage is basically the ultimate pulp hero. Back in the early 2000s, Frank Darabont was set to co-direct with Chuck Russell with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the good doctor himself. According to Arnie, the script was great, but the trouble came when it came to the asking price.
Darabont reportedly wanted a budget of $220 million. If made today for that amount, it would still rank as one of the most expensive movies ever made, but back in 2002, this was an insane amount of money, roughly equal to a budget of $300 million if adjusted for inflation. Schwarzenegger admitted himself that the movie's crazy budget was the main thing that held the production back.
It's a shame we never got to see Arnie tear things up as the Man of Bronze, but hopefully the announced Shane Black/The Rock Doc Savage collaboration comes to fruition in the near future.
3 The Return of Billy Jack
Starting in 1968 with The Born Losers, the Billy Jack series saw Tom Laughlin kick ass as half-Indian Green Beret martial arts master Billy Jack. The franchise was a commercial hit, although critics panned the later sequels.
The fourth Billy Jack movie, Billy Jack Goes To Washington, didn't even get a proper theatrical release and it was clear that Laughlin wasn't done with the franchise.
Almost a decade later, Laughlin set about making The Return of Billy Jack. The crew managed to get approximately an hour of the movie filmed, but things came to a sudden stop over some simple bad luck. Laughlin was filming a fight scene when he was hit with a prop breakaway bottle.
The trouble is, the bottle didn't break, giving Laughlin a nasty head injury. Production halted until Laughlin recovered, but by the time he did, the movie's funding had dried up. Without the necessary funds, The Return of Billy Jack was shelved permanently.
Video game movies are almost all uniformly terrible, but the Halo movie had a chance to buck that trend. It had a script written by Alex Garland, had Peter Jackson producing and had Neil Blomkamp directing. It should have been every bit the big blockbuster Halo fans were dreaming of, but it seems that simple greed was the thing that killed any chance of seeing Master Chief in his own movie.
From the very start of talks, Microsoft were apparently difficult. They demanded only the biggest studios to bid for their script and prospective studios were given a mere 24 hours to read the entire script and make an offer.
Throughout every stage of negotiations, MS wouldn't give an inch, flexing their corporate muscles to ensure that they didn't pay a cent in production costs. Not only that, but the big names involved in the production also came with big takes of the movie's profits. Production eventually collapsed, leaving gamers worldwide disappointed.
1 Sgt. Rock
Based on DC's Nazi-punching war hero, there was a point where Sgt. Rock was going to star in his own big screen adventure. The talent involved was undeniable.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the lead, John McTiernan was set to direct, Joel Silver to produce and the script was written by Steven E. de Souza, the man behind the scripts for Die Hard, 48 Hrs., Commando and The Running Man. It was practically an action movie supergroup.
Problems arose when Arnold learned that filming was going to take place in Yugoslavia. Apparently, he had agreed to do the movie on the condition they didn't leave the continental U.S. and he stormed off to have a word with the higher ups.
The movie ground to a halt and Arnie departed, leading to a domino effect as McTiernan and others followed suit. We don't know Schwarzenegger's reasons for wanting to stay put, but it's a real shame that such a fun-sounding movie was scuppered because of something so minor.
Can you think of any other movies that were canceled for stupid reasons? Sound off in the comments!
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