With 28 feature films under his belt, Steven Spielberg is one of the most prolific directors working in Hollywood today. While he's directed more than his fair share of classic films, there are still a few blockbusters that Spielberg could have made throughout his career but didn't for various reasons. Here are 12 movies the Academy Award-winning director almost made.
In 2006, Steven Spielberg was attached to direct Interstellar for Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Entertainment. He loved the eight-page story treatment that featured wormholes and time travel from film producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan signed on to write the project in 2007, but Spielberg officially left the project when DreamWorks moved from Paramount to Walt Disney Pictures in 2009, and Nolan's brother Christopher stepped in to direct.
2. American Sniper
After the success of Lincoln in 2012, Steven Spielberg lined up an adaptation of American Sniper, a biopic about the military life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who was considered "the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," as his next project. Bradley Cooper bought the film rights to the autobiography with plans to co-produce and star. Spielberg was brought on to direct and produce for Warner Bros. Pictures and DreamWorks, but the director and movie studio dropped out of the project when his vision didn't line up with Warner Bros.' planned budget. Instead, Clint Eastwood stepped in to direct.
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Steven Spielberg optioned The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 1991. He wanted Tom Cruise to play the lead role, but he dropped out to direct Jurassic Park and Schindler's List instead. If he had made The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it would've been the first time Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise worked together. However, the pair found each other again for Minority Report in 2002 and War of the Worlds in 2005.
"Tom and I had been friends for many, many years," he told Entertainment Weekly. "We had considered working together. Benjamin Button, we had talked about maybe doing together, long before Minority Report. But nothing quite gelled for either of us."
In 2008, David Fincher took on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt in the titular role and longtime Spielberg collaborators Kathleen Kennedy (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and Frank Marshall (Raiders of the Lost Ark) as producers.
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
In 2000, then-Warner Bros. CEO Alan Horn offered Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to Steven Spielberg after the studio bought the film rights to the widely popular young adult book series. Spielberg had a few ideas of what he wanted do with a Harry Potter movie, including combining the first two books into one film and making it computer animated with Haley Joel Osment as Harry Potter. Alas, Warner Bros. and J. K. Rowling were deeply opposed to Spielberg's pitches.
"I just felt that I wasn't ready to make an all-kids movie and my kids thought I was crazy,” Spielberg told the BBC. “And the books were by that time popular, so when I dropped out, I knew it was going to be a phenomenon. But, you know I don't make movies because they're gonna to be phenomenons. I make movies because they have to touch me in a way that really commits me to a year, two years, three years of work."
He decided to make A.I. Artificial Intelligence instead, while Warner Bros. hired Chris Columbus to direct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets.
5. Cape Fear
Before Martin Scorsese was brought on to direct, Steven Spielberg was attached to helm the 1991 remake of Cape Fear. Spielberg left the project to focus on Jurassic Park and Schindler's List, but remained one of its producers with Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte already signed on to star.
6. The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3
After the success of The Sugarland Express in 1974, Spielberg was interested in directing the New York City subway heist film The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 for United Artists. Studio executive David Picker recognized that the young director had talent but thought the movie would be better suited for director Joseph Sargent, with Spielberg going on to make Jaws instead.
7. Big Fish
In 2000, Steven Spielberg was briefly attached to direct Big Fish. He reportedly wanted Jack Nicholson in the role of Edward Bloom, a retired businessman with a knack for spinning tall tales. Spielberg dropped out of the project to complete Minority Report and start production on Catch Me If You Can instead, while Tim Burton was brought in to direct Big Fish for Columbia Pictures. Albert Finney was cast to play older Edward Bloom, while Ewan McGregor played the younger version.
8. Memoirs of a Geisha
Steven Spielberg wanted to bring Memoirs of a Geisha to the big screen since the book was first published in 1997. He bought the film rights with intentions of directing it, but the director opted to take on A.I. Artificial Intelligence instead. However, Spielberg remained one of the film's producers, as Rob Marshall directed the film adaptation in 2005.
9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Steven Spielberg agreed to direct The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Jim Carrey in the titular role in 2003. It would have been a co-production between Paramount and DreamWorks, but the director dropped out of the project in 2004 when a script couldn't come together in time. He opted to work on War of the Worlds and Munich instead, while Jim Carrey also dropped out to star in Fun with Dick and Jane.
Ben Stiller signed on to star and direct The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in 2011 and it was released two years later.
10. Rain Man
According to screenwriter Ronald Bass, Steven Spielberg began working with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise on Rain Man, but later forfeited his directing duties to make Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Barry Levinson was brought on to direct, and it won four Academy Awards in 1988, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Dustin Hoffman.
11. White Lightning
In 1973, Steven Spielberg expressed interest in directing Burt Reynolds in the action film White Lightning for United Artists. He worked on it for a few months before taking on The Sugarland Express because he felt he wasn't the right director for it.
"The one thing that came to me that I almost made was White Lightning, the Burt Reynolds picture," Steven Spielberg told Film Comment in 1978. "I spent two-and-a-half months on the film, met Burt once, found most of the locations and began to cast the movie, until I realized it wasn’t something that I wanted to do for a first film. I didn’t want to start my career as a hard-hat, journeyman director. I wanted to do something that was a little more personal."
12. E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears
During the success of its first theatrical run during the summer of 1982, Steven Spielberg considered making a sequel to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial called E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears. He co-wrote a nine-page story treatment with screenwriter Melissa Mathison that followed evil aliens coming to Earth to kidnap Elliott and his friends, only to have E.T. come back to save the day. Smartly, Spielberg never made E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears because he felt that it "would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity."