Steven Spielberg is one of the few film directors that everyone – cinephile or not – can name. It’s not often that filmmakers become bona fide celebrities, but when they bring icons like E.T. and Indiana Jones to the screen and made the entire world scared to “go back in the water,” people tend to take notice.
Still, even a filmmaker as seasoned and well-known as Spielberg, with a track record as laden with hits as his, can struggle to get projects funded. Movies are a fragile thing in Hollywood, and they can easily fall apart. So, here are 10 Unrealized Steven Spielberg Projects We Want To See.
10 Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper
In the earliest days of his career, Steven Spielberg developed a biopic of Thomas Crapper, the guy who invented the flushing toilet, entitled Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper. The movie was intended to have a satirical tone, playing a ridiculous story full of toilet humor completely straight as an Oscar-baiting biopic.
Spielberg doesn’t usually touch comedic material, but this was developed a few years before his resounding failure with the WWII farce 1941, so he was still optimistic about his comic talents. Frankly, it sounds like it could’ve been a great movie if it had the right script.
9 The Catcher in the Rye
Back in 2003, it was reported that Steven Spielberg was working on a film adaptation of the classic coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye. Many actors, ranging from Marlon Brando to Jerry Lewis to Leonardo DiCaprio, have attempted to bag the role of angsty hero Holden Caulfield, while directors dating back to Billy Wilder have tried to mount an adaptation of the movie.
It’s often been included on lists of novels that are “unfilmable,” but that hasn’t stopped people from trying. Unfortunately, Spielberg hit a bump in the road when the author, J.D. Salinger, a famous recluse, refused to relinquish the screen rights to his book.
In the early ‘80s, Steven Spielberg was working on a movie based on the comic book character Blackhawk with Dan Aykroyd attached to star. It would’ve been a fun, exciting, pulpy, action-packed movie about a bunch of WWII-era pilots led by a mysterious figure named Blackhawk.
He was one of four characters – along with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – to carry his own comic book between the ‘40s and the ‘60s, so he’s pretty iconic. As of 2018, Spielberg’s Blackhawk movie is back on. He’s got his regular collaborator David Koepp preparing a script and Spielberg will at least produce the movie (and maybe direct it).
7 Who Discovered Roger Rabbit
As far back as 1989, Steven Spielberg was working on a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Robert Zemeckis’ blend of animation and live-action, with his protégé J.J. Abrams. Over the years, the premise of the sequel has changed quite a bit. Bob Hoskins’ death created a huge story problem, and there’s even been talk of digitally resurrected him, Tarkin-style.
When the budget escalated past $100 million and the studio got cold feet about the amount of CGI the project might involve, the whole thing was called off. Zemeckis has since blamed Disney for the lack of sequel: “The current corporate Disney culture has no interest in Roger, and they certainly don’t like Jessica at all.”
6 The Haunting
The Haunting is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and it would be pretty difficult for any remake or reboot or “reimagining” to do it justice. However, Steven Spielberg would’ve had a better chance than Jan de Bont did. Before the latter came along with a big-budget Haunting remake starring Liam Neeson that swept the Razzie nominations, Spielberg was working on a screenplay for a Haunting remake with none other than Stephen King.
The “King of Horror” would’ve written a well-structured, well-constructed, and above all, frightening script, and then the “King of Entertainment” would come in and realize it beautifully on-screen.
5 Close Encounters of the Third Kind sequel
While Close Encounters of the Third Kind wasn’t as big a hit as that other sci-fi movie that came out in 1977, Star Wars, but it did gross over $300 million at the worldwide box office and it was highly acclaimed by critics. Along with Star Wars and Superman: The Movie, it led to a resurgence in the science fiction film genre.
Spielberg was once considering making a sequel to the movie centered around the government covering up the aliens’ arrival, but ultimately decided against it: “The Army’s knowledge and ensuing cover-up is so subterranean that it would take a creative screen story, perhaps someone else making the picture and giving it the equal time it deserves.”
4 Indiana Jones and the Monkey King
George Lucas wrote the screenplay for Indiana Jones and the Monkey King, an Indy adventure that saw everyone’s favorite archeologist searching for the Fountain of Youth, in response to the mixed reception to Temple of Doom’s darker themes. This was a script written by Lucas himself and Steven Spielberg was all geared up to direct it.
But at the last second, Spielberg commissioned rewrites by Chris Columbus and the project ended up in the gutter. Last Crusade is a great movie, but we could’ve had both. The nature of the Indiana Jones movies means they can be a long-running serial adventure – that’s the whole point!
3 Untitled Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic
In 2009, Steven Spielberg bought the life rights of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. with the intention of making a biopic about him. At the time, Spielberg said the movie would focus on one particular aspect of King’s life: “I wouldn’t call it a biopic, it’s more a story of King and the movement and also about how his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi helped to shape his moral core.”
Like Ava DuVernay’s own acclaimed MLK movie Selma, this one would tell a small story from King’s life, rather than trying to tell the whole thing from his birth to his assassination. It could’ve been an interesting little historical drama.
2 Reel to Reel
In the early ‘80s, Steven Spielberg contacted sitcom producer Gary David Goldberg about the possibility of collaborating on a semiautobiographical musical called Reel to Reel about a filmmaker named Stuart Moss working on a remake of the sci-fi classic Invaders from Mars.
By 1983, Spielberg had abandoned the project and started working on a darkly themed sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark instead, but it would’ve been interesting to see this one. It sounds like it would be unique, insightful, and a lot of fun. However, it seems as though its time has passed and it couldn’t be made today.
1 Night Skies
After tackling alien life in an existential way in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg felt like shaking it up with Night Skies. This would depict aliens as violent, malicious, and evil, like we’ve never seen them in a Spielberg movie, except that God-awful Indy movie that had aliens in it.
Night Skies – a.k.a. “Straw Dogs with aliens” – was conceived as a horror movie about a family terrorized by aliens on their farm. Instead, Spielberg decided to call off the project and split the unused material into a horror story about a family being terrorized by malevolent forces, Poltergeist, and a melodramatic kids’ movie about an alien visitor, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.