Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro reveals why he didn't return to helm Pacific Rim: Uprising. The original film was a modest success domestically in the United States but a much larger hit internationally. A sequel was always in the cards creatively but Legendary Pictures, along with Universal Pictures, took their time to decide whether to proceed with the second movie or not.
Eventually, Pacific Rim 2 (then titled Pacific Rim: Maelstrom) was announced in 2015 with del Toro directing — only to be halted just before it was supposed to go in front of cameras in Toronto. The future of the sequel was in question until a few months later when it was given the greenlight but with a new name in Pacific Rim: Uprising. A new script was written and director found in Steven S. DeKnight who recently wrapped production.
Del Toro is still attached as a producer but there's always been the nagging question as to why he stepped down from helming the project. The reason, del Toro revealed to Collider in an interview, simply came down to timing:
The timing started to suck. I had this little movie that I wanted to do - The Shape of Water - very, very much. At one point it was Justice League Dark or Pacific Rim, I said, ‘Let’s go to Pacific Rim.’ The reality is they said, ‘We’re gonna need to postpone,’ because they were changing hands - Legendary was going to be sold to China, to a Chinese company [called the Wanda Group]. They said, ‘We’ve gotta wait nine months’ and I said, ‘I’m not waiting nine months, I’m shooting a movie,’ and I went and shot [The Shape of Water] and we chose Steven DeKnight.
The other interesting bit to come out of that interview is the answer to another question which fans have of the sequel. Del Toro worked on several drafts of Maelstrom before DeKnight took over, so many people have wondered how much the original plan has stayed intact. Del Toro said:
I wrote a screenplay, developed two or three drafts of that screenplay - this is different than what I developed, and I’m OK. A producer is in the corner, the director is in the ring.
That all seems to fit since the announcement of the Wanda Group purchasing Legendary came just three months after Pacific Rim: Maelstrom was put on indefinite hiatus. That's about enough time for negotiations for the acquisition to take place. Another issue that has been widely reported was that the budget was rejected for being too large so a revised budget and screenplay needed to be submitted. We don't know if that had any bearing on whether DeKnight eventually landed the job or led to the rewriting of the screenplay but it would track as well.
In the end it may not matter as one of the best things to come from the delay and switching of the directing guard was that John Boyega was attached as the new star of the film franchise. He'll be playing the son of Stacker Pentecost, who was portrayed by Idris Elba in the first Pacific Rim, and adds some significant star power to the project.
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