So many things can go wrong on the way to getting a film in front of the camera. It actually feels like a miracle that anything actually gets made in Hollywood. To that end, dozens and dozens of intriguing works have gotten nails in their coffins before shooting could begin. The gods of cinema don’t discriminate either. It can happen to A-list directors just as often as it happens to no-names.
Today, we’re going to be looking at ten of the most interesting abandoned or unmade projects ever. Last summer, we ran down movies caught in Post-Production Hell. Those are the lucky ones though. They actually got made. The ten you’ll see below never even got to begin shooting. We may see one or two of these get done one day, but by and large, they’re lost to cinematic history.
DIR. Tim Burton
Why not start with one of the most notorious unmade blockbusters in history? This lost project came damn close to shooting, but the story of its origins and eventual undoing has surpassed it, legend-wise. Kevin Smith went on the road telling the story of writing the first draft during his “Evening With” events, while a whole documentary called “The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?” was put out a few years ago. In short, once Tim Burton signed on, it got expensive, as can happen. So, we’ll never have Nicolas Cage as Superman. We’ll always have the stories though.
DIR. Paul Haggis
Wrestler turned author Mick Foley made his fiction debut with this coming of age story. It’s a tremendous novel, one that could potentially even be made into an Oscar-worthy film. Paul Haggis at one point was interested in making it. As these things go, however, nothing ever came of it. There hasn’t been any chatter about a “Tietam Brown” adaptation in years, signaling that this book likely won’t ever become a movie.
DIR. Martin Scorsese
There have been myriad works that Martin Scorsese never saw make it to filming. This biopic of George Gershwin is chief among them, partly due to having initially been another collaboration with Paul Schrader. Interestingly, this remains unmade due to another Scorsese project. When the master was ready to get started on “Gershwin,” the suits at Warner Bros. preferred he make a Dean Martin biopic. Scorsese would have done both, but the WB folk got stubborn. Go figure, neither ended up happening.
7“A Confederacy of Dunces”
DIR. David Gordon Green
A number of filmmakers tried to get this adaptation before cameras. It arguably came closest a few years ago when David Gordon Green was at the helm. Harold Ramis tried in the 1980s, Steven Soderbergh in the 90s, but Green had actually gotten closer, utilizing Soderbergh’s script. Unfortunately, Miramax got cold feet at the eleventh hour and it remains unmade. It’s purported to be an unfilmable novel, so perhaps it’s actually for the best?
DIR. David Fincher
The first of two David Fincher titles on this list, though they’re hardly the only ones that the filmmaker has seen fall apart. Fincher had wanted to make this graphic novel adaptation, which sees a young Elliot Ness hunting a serial killer, but it never happened due to, you guessed it, “creative differences.” David Lowery has also since failed to get it off the ground, but of course, the thought of Fincher doing another serial killer film gets your tongue wagging. Sadly, it was not to be.
DIR. Stanley Kubrick
The legendary filmmaker was known to be an obsessive, but even with all that dedication, he never made this biopic. After “2001: A Space Odyssey,” this was supposed to be his next gigantic production. A script was written, one that is floating around the internet today, but it just got too expensive. A recurring theme on this list, to be sure. For some, this is perhaps the greatest movie never to be made. It’s certainly a shame that we’re short a Stanley Kubrick film.
4“RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA”
DIR. David Fincher
The other Fincher work cited here is possibly his most ambitious to date. This one officially was taken off of life support over a decade ago. An adaptation of an Arthur C. Clarke science fiction story, the director had wanted to team back up with Morgan Freeman for it. However, between struggling to find money and Freeman being hurt in a car accident around then, it just never came together.
3“AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS”
DIR. Guillermo del Toro
Few projects on lists like this got closer to being made than this one. Guillermo del Toro was poised to direct this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, with Tom Cruise in the lead. What sullied the deal? Well, del Toro was insisting on an R rating for the high budgeted film, which was balked at. Periodically, del Toro talks about giving it another go, but for now, we just have the juicy thought of the filmmaker getting this one off the ground.
2“BATMAN: YEAR ONE”
DIR. Darren Aronofsky
We might actually still eventually see this one come to fruition, depending on what Matt Reeves does with Batman. This, however, is the Darren Aronofsky interpretation of the seminal Frank Miller graphic novel. Aronofsky had worked with Miller on developing a script, imagining Bruce Wayne for the screen in a far grittier way than even Christopher Nolan would opt for. Warner Bros. wanted to course correct from the Joel Schumaker days, but this was too much for them. Aronofsky doing Batman could have been something special though, that’s for sure.
DIR. Kevin Smith
This sequel is a unique situation for one reason in particular. It wasn’t unmade due to studio interference or money issues. Instead, it was due to one of the stars not being interested. Kevin Smith wrote a screenplay, had financing and was all set to make this sequel, but Jeff Anderson decided he was done with the role of Randal Graves. To Smith’s credit, he respected those wishes and never considered an alternative. Still, this looms large as a project that will never get made. It may emerge in another form, perhaps by publishing the script, but the film is lost to the ages.