Development hell is an interesting and abstract concept in the film industry. It refers to the place that movies go to die. A script will be written, generate some buzz around Hollywood, and get picked up by a producer or a studio. But what happens after that is anybody’s guess. Anything can fall apart in the development stage. The production company can go under, the producers can let the option expire, the attached actors can drop out. Thankfully, Netflix is here to rescue lost movies. Here are 5 Movies Netflix Saved From Development Hell (& 5 Movies We Hope They Save).
10 Saved: Triple Frontier
Triple Frontier has been in development since 2010 and it didn’t make it in front of audiences until earlier this year. It was in development for so long that Ben Affleck signed on, dropped out, and then signed on again before it went into production. The Hurt Locker’s Mark Boal wrote the script for this thriller about ex-soldiers pulling off a heist gone wrong in South America and Kathryn Bigelow was originally set to direct. Stars that came and went include Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Casey Affleck, Tom Hardy, and Channing Tatum. When Netflix finally picked up the project, they hired J.C. Chandor to direct and contribute some rewrites to the script, and gave him a mega-sized budget of $115 million.
9 Hope they save: Doc Savage
A new movie featuring the ‘30s pulp adventurer Doc Savage has been planned for a while. The Nice Guys director Shane Black has been in line to helm the film, while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is signed on to star in the title role. The Rock is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood right now—if not the biggest—and Netflix needs that kind of hook to bring audiences back to their original content after letting their consistent quality dip. Doc Savage has been in development hell since the ‘90s, so it’s about time for this one.
8 Saved: Murder Mystery
Adam Sandler has been making a movie for Netflix every year since 2015 and the streaming service seems determined to keep that going for as long as they can. This year’s Sandler film, Murder Mystery, the story of a working-class couple caught up in a murder involving a rich family, has actually been in and out of development since 2012.
The script was written by James Vanderbilt (as a member of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, the writer nailed the rich people’s dialogue and botched the poor people’s dialogue) and went through a ton of actors. Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Colin Firth signed on and dropped out before the producers landed Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.
7 Hope they save: Rendezvous with Rama
Ever since 2003, Morgan Freeman has been trying to spearhead a film adaptation of the seminal Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi novel Rendezvous with Rama. Movie buffs will recognize Clarke as the writer who teamed up with Stanley Kubrick to map out his masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, and also wrote the film’s accompanying literature. At one point, Freeman managed to get David Fincher in the director’s chair and announced that filming would begin in 2012, and yet, nothing has happened. Netflix already has an established working relationship with Fincher; they could get this one back on track in no time.
6 Saved: The Irishman
Martin Scorsese has been talking about his plans to direct an adaptation of the true-crime novel I Heard You Paint Houses—about the life of mob hitman Frank Sheeran—for years. The earliest announcement of the film came as far back as 2007. However, with a budget initially set at $100 million to depict Robert De Niro as Sheeran at different ages, every studio was reluctant to fund it. That’s where Netflix stepped in, and they didn’t back down even when the budget ballooned to $200 million. The movie, co-starring Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, is on the way to the streaming service later this year.
5 Hope they save: The Last of Us
Screen Gems purchased the film rights to the acclaimed zombie horror video game The Last of Us in 2014, with Sam Raimi attached as a producer. By 2016, Raimi said that the project had come to a “standstill.” Since the game is one of the most beloved in recent memory and it was adored for its complex narrative and lovable characters as well as its action sequences and gameplay, it’s about time it made it to the screen. If Raimi is struggling to find the right producers for The Last of Us, Netflix may wish to throw its hat into the ring.
4 Saved: The Other Side of the Wind
Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind was released on Netflix in 2018 in its completed form after over 40 years in development. It’s a crazily meta movie with a film-within-a-film about an aging Hollywood director who screens his unfinished final film—extra meta because, for a while, it was an aging Orson Welles’ unfinished final film—and stars John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich. The latter teamed up with producer Frank Marshall to oversee the completion of the film for its release on Netflix. It was accompanied by a documentary about Welles called They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.
3 Hope they save: A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces, published 11 years after the author’s suicide, has long been considered “unfilmable.” It’s a movie adaptation that everyone wants to see and no one wants to make. In the 40 years since the book first hit shelves, a ton of different actors and directors have been attached: John Candy, Chris Farley, Richard Pryor, John Goodman, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis. The closest it came to production was with Steven Soderbergh directing Will Ferrell and Lily Tomlin in the lead roles, but it fell through. Soderbergh has since said that the project has “bad mojo” attached to it, but maybe Netflix could be the one to finally save it.
2 Saved: Army of the Dead
After the release of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004, the director began developing a sequel titled Army of the Dead. It would be set in Las Vegas and explore other corners of the zombie-infested world set up by the original. Over a decade after the project was first announced, Netflix has revived it with Snyder back in the director’s chair.
It won’t be a sequel to Dawn of the Dead anymore; it’ll be a standalone movie. The newly retooled version will star Dave Bautista as the leader of a band of mercenaries as they head into Vegas through hordes of the undead in order to pull off a daring heist.
1 Hope they save: At the Mountains of Madness
Guillermo del Toro has been working on an adaptation of the classic sci-fi horror novella At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft for years. He wrote a script with screenwriter Matthew Robbins in 2006, but said that studios were “very nervous about the cost and it not having a love story or a happy ending.” Del Toro has blockbusters under his belt, a shelf full of Oscars, and a reputation as one of the world’s best directors—what does he have to do for Hollywood to finally let him helm his passion project!? He has given up on trying to get the movie made, so maybe Netflix should just give him a call and offer him a blank check.