(As our editor Matt Holmes turns 25 today, hes out of office and we are going to re-publish some old favourites.) With the frustrating news breaking last week that Guillermo Del Toros adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness (based on an H.P. Lovecraft story) is dead, I began thinking about some of the other potentially great projects that audiences were tragically destined to never see. From further research its clear that the major directors that have worked within the industry have abandoned vast numbers of productions that would have easily been big money makers and both critical and financial successes. Indeed, filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Orson Welles have abandoned dozens of projects, even after beginning production on some of them! Read on to discover the ten unrealised features that wed love to have seen completed
10. GEORGE SLUIZERS DARK BLOODGeorge Sluizer's Dark Blood starred River Phoenix as Boy, a widower who lives as a hermit on a nuclear testing site. In this tale of a dystopian future, Boy waits for the end of the world while making dolls he believes have magical powers. Boy ends up helping a couple (Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis) when their car breaks down whilst travelling through the desert. Only 11 days short of completion, the production was shut down by the tragic death of Phoenix outside the Viper Room in LA from a drug overdose. Angry at the loss of expenses through the abandonment of the production, Phoenix's grieving mother was sued by the films producers for $6 million to compensate for this, claiming that the actor had not declared his drug use! Needless to say, the case eventually collapsed. What finished portions of the film remain in existence are still entirely owned by director George Sluizer. Whilst he will never complete the film for general release now that Phoenix is gone, he has suggested that he intends to use it as footage in a documentary about the actors life. Some really raw footage on YouTube remains the only scenes released to the public to this day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7nj37ZxeJs
09. JERRY LEWIS THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIEDJerry Lewis, known predominantly for his comedy films and cabaret acts with partner Dean Martin, was also fond of directing. Behind the camera of some of his most successful work (including The Bellboy and The Nutty Professor ) his unique gift for comedy proved an excellent skill when it came to directing. However, how he thought he could turn a film about a clown hired to entertain children as they are sent into a darkly humorous comment on society is beyond me. Whilst it was intended to be a piece of comic pathos on one of humanitys darkest hours, it simply screamed of bad taste. Lewis began production believing that he was creating something worthwhile on the horrors of the Holocaust, however it soon became apparent that his changes to the script (in an attempt to make the clown character he played more sympathetic) meant the film left a bitter taste in any viewers mouth. As well as narrative set backs, production was hindered by a lack of money supplied by producer Nathan Waschberger (who eventually ran out of money before production completed), the damage and late delivery of equipment and the major problem that Waschbergers option for the screenplay had expired before shooting began (he apparently paid an initial $5000 fee to authors Joan OBrien and Charles Denton, but failed to send a further $50000 that was due before production began). Filming was all but complete when production was shut down due to the lack of financing and it is reported that Lewis owns the only videotaped copy of the film in existence (the whereabouts of the original negative is unknown). In his autobiography Jerry Lewis in Person, the director claims that he will release a version of the film for public viewing if he can return to Sweden for some final pick-up shots. However, the likelihood of this happening is very slight and Lewis refuses to comment on the film in any interviews. Whether or not this is a bad thing remains debatable! If, however, you have a pressing urge to view the film it seems the only way of doing so is by getting yourself invited to one of the exclusive screenings put on by long time Hollywood insiders. However, if its highly unlikely that youll find yourself invited to such an event Im afraid youll have to class this as one of those films that you simply werent meant to see
08. ALFRED HITCHCOCKS THE SHORT NIGHTAfter a rather insipid citical and viewer response to Family Plot (1976), Alfred Hitchcock intended to return to his comfort zone for what he intended to be his last film. This project was based on the novel The Short Night, a spy thriller by Ronald Kirkbride. A British double agent manages to escape from prison and flees to Moscow, where his wife and children are await him. An American agent plots to intercept him but falls in love with the double agents wife in the process. The Short Night was to be the directors third attempt to produce a more realistic James Bond film. His previous two attempts, Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969) had had a limited critical and box office success and The Short Night was envisioned as Hitchs return to form. Clint Eastwood, Walter Matthau and Sean Connery were all courted as possible male leads, the latter said to be the favourite. Liv Ullman was asked to play the double agent's wife. Problems began early in the pre-production stage, when James Costigan, the first writer employed to pen the adaptation, had a number of disagreements with the director. Hitchcock eventually asked for Costigan to be paid off and removed from the project! Previous collaborator Ernest Lehman then agreed to tackle the script, but his feeling that the story would be better focusing on the American spy did not tally with Hitch's own ideas. The final blow to the Lehman-Hitchcock relationship came when the writer decided to remove the double agent's escape from prison out of the adaptation. After an argument with the director Lehman left the project and Norman Lloyd (an old friend of Hitchs) took on the job. In a hurry to get the ball rolling, Hitchcock suggested that Lloyd start work on the screenplay straight away, but the writer refused, stating that they were unprepared. Hitchcock, angry at Lloyds objections, fired the writer and decided to work on the screenplay himself. Throughout the epic pre-production saga both Universal and the various writers involved were worried by Hitchs failing health. Eventually, the director was forced to abandon the project, as his health continued to decline. What was intended, as a grand farewell to his followers, never came into fruition and the world was unfortunately left with the rather uncharacteristic Family Plot as the final work of one of the cinemas greatest directors.
07. DAVID LYNCHS RONNIE ROCKETBased on a script director David Lynch had penned over a whole decade, Ronnie Rocket was a project close to its creators heart. Intending to combine many typical Lynchian thematic obsessions including an idealised image of 1950s culture, an industrial design aesthetic, midgets and physical deformity Ronnie Rocket was the film he originally intended to make after Eraserhead (1976). After viewing Eraserhead, executive producer Stuart Cornfield approached Lynch with an offer to help with his next project. Lynch suggested Ronnie Rocket, but soon realised that nobody would option it and thus shelved the idea. Instead, the director asked Cornfield to find a script he could direct and the beautifully touching The Elephant Man (1980) was the resulting production. Later, Lynch returned to Ronnie Rocket in the early 90s, when he pitched the idea to French Production Company CIBY-2000 as one feature in a three-picture deal. The company passed on the project and Lynch went on to film a feature based on his television series Twin Peaks entitled Fire Walk With Me and another movie, Lost Highway. Ronnie Rocket has since returned to the shelf, but Lynch never refers to it as dead, simply in hibernation. Ann Kroeber, the late wife of Lynchs sound designer Alan Splet has suggested that Ronnie Rocket has failed to be made not due to any production companys lack of interest in the project, but because Lynch is unwilling. Either way, it seems that Ronnie Rocket is not likely to launch any time soon But, for those desperate to know more, a variety of scripts for the film float around the internet and are available for a leisurely peruse or to download.
06. TERRY GILLIAMS THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTEIn the first of two adaptations of the Miguel de Cervantes novel that failed to materialise, surrealist director Terry Gilliam had designs to bring his adaptation to the screen in the early 2000s. Casting Jean Rochefort in the lead role, a number of problems quickly arose to throw production off kilter: Rochefort was discovered to have a back problem that meant he winced in pain every time he rode a horse (which was a lot!) and a flash flood destroyed sets, locations (including the colour of the landscape) and equipment in Spain, which rendered the previous footage redundant. The relatively small budget was quickly exasperated and very little useable footage was available to show for the time and money spent on shooting. Subsequently the production was shut down. Along the road to getting the film back into production a number of names have been attached to appear in various roles, including Johnny Depp in a supporting role, Vanessa Paradis as the love interest, as well as Gerard Depardieu and Michael Palin as replacements for Rochefort. Finally, pre-production reportedly restarted in 2008 after a lengthy legal rights battle between the projects French producers and German insurers was finally resolved with Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor attached to star. However, yet again funding fell through and by September 2010 the project was shelved yet again. Unfortunately, it seems that the man who killed Don Quixote may just have killed him for the last time. However, Gilliam forever lives in hope that he will be able to complete the film, but until that time we have the excellent documentary Lost in La Mancha (2002) to enjoy, which chronicles the directors original doomed attempt to bring this epic tale to the screen.
05. FRANCIS FORD COPPOLAS MEGALOPOLISMegalopolis a science fiction tale of epic proportions has been described by director Francis Ford Coppola as a highly personal film. He has claimed that his major studio productions from the 90s Bram Stokers Dracula (1992), Jack (1996) and The Rainmaker (1997) were made to generate enough finance to get his pet obsession off the ground. So why, I hear you ask, with three financial hits did Megalopolis never come to fruition? Well, it came very close, with test shots produced in New York and meetings with potential actors progressing well. However, the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre happened soon after progress started to be made and this threw a spanner in Coppolas works. For a film that heavily featured an aspiration for a utopian NYC, it suddenly became impossible for the director to create such an impression. Coppola toiled with what direction to take the film in but ultimately found he couldnt achieve anything without finding himself forced to acknowledge the implications of one of Americas greatest tragedies. Coppola spoke of the film a few years back;
"The setting is modern New York. It deals... with the idea that the future world we're going to live in is being negotiated today... It's kind of a shape-of-things-to-come film in which the characters are concerned with artists, businessmen, proletariat all having a stake in the future but very few of them having a hand in what it's going to be like. It's a little bit like an Ayn Rand novel."A few concept images were leaked too; Megalopolis was subsequently shelved in 2007, with Coppola claiming to not have entirely turned his back on it. Whilst he hasnt ruled out returning to the idea he has yet to do so, instead making and releasing Youth Without Youth (2007) a romance story wrapped up in a medical fantasy/mystery Tetro (2009) a drama revolving around the relationship of two brothers and the upcoming Twixt Now and Sunrise (2011) a gothic film created out of an alcohol induced dream the director had in Turkey! The possibility of Megalopolis remains, but it seems that viewers will have to suffice with Coppolas other personal projects, rather than his grand science fiction feature.