55 Unfortunately Unfinished Films
This week, John Green looks at 55 films that never made it to the silver screen.
Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. I think my brother is about to get eaten by an anglerfish.
1. This is mental_floss on YouTube, and did you know that Martin Scorsese wanted The Clash to star in Gangs of New York before Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis came along?
So The Clash are like "Ugh, should I stay or should I go?" and then they went, or alternately, The Clash were like "I'm sorry Martin Scorsese, but London is calling." Those are both terrible jokes.
Anyway, that's the first of many tragically unfinished films that I'm going to tell you about today.
2. Both David Lynch and David Cronenberg were in consideration to make a Star Wars film, although they both claim they were only approached and nothing further.
3. And speaking of David Lynch films that were never made, Ronnie Rocket was going to be his follow up to Eraserhead. The film is about a three-foot tall man who runs on electricity. In a 2013 interview, Lynch said that he's still open to making the film actually but fears not being able to find the industrial-looking locations that he needs. He claimed, quote, "Cheap storm windows and graffiti have ruined the world for Ronnie Rocket."
4. There are a couple films that couldn't be completed because a star died halfway through the shooting process, like the 1962 movie Something's Got to Give which would have starred Marilyn Monroe.
5. Then there's the famously cursed adaptation of the great comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces, like when John Belushi was cast in 1982 and then died. The role was given to John Candy in 1994 and then he died. The same thing happened to Chris Farley in 1997. What is this?! And then, a few years later, Will Ferrell hoped to star in the film but it still looks like it's not going to get made. I-I-I-I … just don't die Will Ferrell. I need you in Anchor Man 5.
6. In 1989, Sergio Leone, the director of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, had secured 100 million dollars in financing for his war epic Leningrad, which he wanted to star Robert De Niro, but Leone died mere months before they were going to start production.
7. And then there's the Disney version of The Little Prince, which was written by none other than Orson Welles and storyboarded in the 1930s, but then never made.
8., 9., 10. There have been a few other Disney movies that weren't ever made, including an adaption of Roald Dahl's The Gremlins, a 2009 remake of Yellow Submarine, and Uncle Stiltskin, the story of Rumplestiltskin.
11., 12. Orson Welles also tried to adapt Heart of Darkness into a film before it was rejected by his studio, RKO, for being too costly. He then attempted to take on an adaption of The Smiler With a Knife starring Lucille Ball which RKO also rejected. The film he then made? Citizen Kane.
13. When Orson Welles died, by the way, he left behind 300,000 feet of his film for Don Quixote which, if you've ever actually read Don Quixote, is kind of hilarious … but also tragic. Like the book! He made several films for the sole purpose of financing Don Quixote and he spent, like, 30 years trying to shoot and complete the project in locations like Mexico and Spain and Italy, but then he died.
14. The 1990s saw the development of a Tim Burton-directed and Kevin Smith-written film titled Superman Lives starring none other than Nic Cage as Superman and also, presumably, Clark Kent. Luckily for our imaginations, photos of Cage as Superman have leaked online; unluckily, copyright law prevents us from showing them to you.
15., 16. The were a bunch of Spider-Man movies that were never made, like a fourth film in the Tobey Maguire series which started and stopped production, and also a 1991 film written and directed by James Cameron in which Spider-Man lives on an ocean liner and is 8 feet 6 inches tall and blue.
17., 18., 19., 20., 21., 22. Other abandoned superhero movies that made it into various stages of production and planning include Plastic Man, The Flash, Green Arrow, Dazzler, and Silver Surfer, which I would still like to see, but that's nothing compared to a 1965 Batman versus Godzilla movie that was never made. I mean, how can you not revive that project, Hollywood? You made the movie Battleship. Please, if not that, at least 1964's Godzilla versus Frankenstein. Here are some other A-number-1 ideas, Hollywood: Batman versus Duckie, Batman versus Boba Fett, and Batman versus Dwight Eisenhower.
23. Bradley Cooper was supposed to play Lucifer in an adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost but the special effects budget was too large for Legendary Pictures to handle. I mean, there are a lot of flying angels in that book, so production stopped in 2012.
24. Francis Ford Coppola spent almost 20 years planning a science fiction film titled Megalopolis. He even had 30 hours of footage filmed, specifically sequences of New York pre- and post-9/11. A major part of the film's plot involved rebuilding New York, so after 9/11, Coppola stated, "I feel as though history has come to my doorstep." But then production got too expensive and stopped later in 2001, so … so much for history at your doorstep, dude.
25. Before David Lynch adapted Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to make the film in the 1970s starring some people you might have heard of, like Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dali. He also wanted Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack. Again, finances made the film impossible, which makes sense because apparently Dali insisted to be paid 100,000 dollars per hour. Ridley Scott was later hired to make Dune but had to drop out so we got David Lynch, which, you know, not so bad.
26. Mel Gibson was preparing to make an adaption of Fahrenheit 451 in 2006 but you may remember that there were other things going on in Mel Gibson's life in 2006 so, yeah, no.
27. In 1971, Stanley Kubrick wrote to a colleague, "It's impossible to tell you what I'm going to do except to say that I expect to make the best movie ever made." We'll never know if he was right because Napoleon never went into production. The budget was around 5.2 million dollars, which is like 33 million dollars in today's terms, and the Romanian Army had even agreed to be in the battle scenes because, you know, this was pre-CGI, but Kubrick couldn't get the money together. He continued to work on the movie until his death in 1999, collecting one of the world's largest and most comprehensive archives about Napoleon inside of his own house, and the saga isn't over yet because Steven Spielberg hopes to make a miniseries from Kubrick's script.
28. Ridley Scott planned to adapt Cormac McCarthy's violent novel Blood Meridian but later stated, "I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel," which, by the way, is what many hundreds of movie producers have said about my book, Looking for Alaska, in the last ten years.
29. David Fincher worked for a long time on a remake of the film Heavy Metal but he couldn't get it made because it was impossible to get a studio to sign on to an R-rated cartoon. Even after famous directors agreed to join the project like James Cameron, Zack Snyder, who directed 300, and Gore Verbinski, who directed Pirates of the Caribbean, Fincher still couldn't get the project going.
30. Peter Jackson hired Neill Blomkamp to direct a movie based on the Halo video game series, but the movie stopped production in 2006, and then Jackson and his partner felt really bad for Blomkamp so they helped him get 30 million dollars for his passion project which would become the Oscar-nominated District 9. Moral of the story? Get Peter Jackson to feel bad for you because then he'll find you 30 million dollars.
31. In the 1960s, John Lennon desperately wanted to play the role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Paul McCartney would be Frodo, Ringo Starr would be Sam, and George Harrison would be Gandalf and no, I am not making this up. Stanley Kubrick was approached to direct the movie but J. R. R. Tolkien owned the movie rights to his book and wouldn't allow the project to happen. You monster! I'm just going to put this out there right now: If the boys from One Direction want to star in a movie version of An Abundance of Katherines, I'm in.
32. You guys remember when I compared One Direction to the Beatles? Sometimes movies do get made but then they're lost, which is what happened to Quentin Tarantino's 1987 film My Best Friend's Birthday. Only 36 out of 70 minutes of the film survived due to an unfortunate fire.
33. What?! They're both boy bands! Alright, another example of an apparently lost film is Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales, one of Richard Pryor's first movies. For years, it was rumored that Pryor's wife destroyed the film's negatives, never to be seen again, but then in 2005, a Director's Guild film retrospective apparently featured clips from the movie, so is it gone forever? We still don't know.
34. One of the biggest mysteries to film fans is The Day the Clown Cried from 1972. Jerry Lewis directed and starred in his first serious film about a clown entertaining children in a Nazi concentration camp. The film was finished but Lewis never allowed it to be released for still unknown reasons.
35. In 1977, the great Roger Ebert wrote a screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? which would have been similar to the Beatles' films but starred the Sex Pistols. Two days into filming, production stopped due to financial problems but Ebert posted the screenplay on his blog in 2010.
36. Before Martin Scorsese made the Oscar-nominated film The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan wanted to make a Howard Hughes biopic starring Jim Carrey. After the fact, the director said, "Luckily, I managed to find another wealthy, quirky character who is orphaned at a young age." That character was, of course, Batman.
37., 38. Sylvester Stallone has been trying to direct a movie about Edgar Allan Poe for like, forever; he envisions Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead role, but if they can't pull that together, might I suggest that they revive the unfilmed script Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula. I mean, imagine the possibilities, and also the GIFs, and further, the GIFs.
39-55. And we return to the salon to finish up with some movie sequels which were in various stages of planning and production before they were canceled, like E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears, Airplane III, Gladiator 2, Mrs. Doubtfire 2, Elf 2: Buddy Saves Christmas, Chinatown, which was supposed to be the start of a trilogy, The Breakfast Club sequel, Forrest Gump 2: Gump and Co., Brazzaville, the sequel to Casablanca, Basic Instinct 3, directed by—who else?—Sharon Stone, Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?—Mark, that one isn't real, is it? Seriously Dude, Where's My Car? How did that not get made? We just gotta put that one on Kickstarter and it'll get done like that. Then there's Kill Bill: Volume 3, Twister 3D, Gremlins 3D, The Matrix 4, Napoleon Dynamite 2, and Beetlejuice 2: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.
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