Guillermo Del Toro Confirms AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS Is... DEAD

Updated: It's over. Guillermo has confirmed it to AICN and Criterion Cast. We're all truly screwed when a film by Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy), potentially starring Tom Cruise, from producers Don Murphy (Transformers) and James Cameron (Avatar), based on one of the greatest stories ever written - H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness - can't get off the ground. It's a huge sign of intent from Universal who are seemingly sick of greenlighting risky, obscure tentpoles (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Land of the Lost) only for them to underperform and in the past two years, they've ended the annual box office studio race in a highly disappointing 6th place. This year they are in 5th having seen movies with Vince Vaughn & Ron Howard (The Dilemma) and a movie with the backing of James Cameron (Sanctum) belly flop. The days of niche properties at Universal look soon to be over-taken by board game adaptations (Battleship, Oujia, Stretch Armstrong). Guillermo Del Toro will instead make Pacific Rim in September, a movie that will feature monsters and devastation and usually we would be excited but man... it sounds weak compared to At The Mountains of Madness. In response to email from Criterion Cast regarding the status of At The Mountains of Madness, Del Toro replied... 'Dead'. Original article follows.... Oh no, say it ain't so. Some fucking terrible (yes, swearing is justified here) news hit Deadline a few hours ago suggesting that Guillermo Del Toro's longtime passion project adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness is in severe trouble at Universal with it's June start date thrown into major doubt. The reason? Universal - who have been taking ill-advised risks left, right and center on obscure but expensive material only to lose a ton of money (think Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) are now balking at the huge $150 million budget and are literally shitting themselves at the prospect of handing over that kind of cash for an R-Rated horror movie, based on a property that only has a niche following. And once a studio gets cold feet on a project, it's pretty much game over. If these reports carry weight as they seem to, I will be astonished if Del Toro's film gets off the ground this year. The thing that annoys me and must be really hard to stomach for Del Toro is... why has all this happened now? Why did they Universal, who reports suggest were loving the pre-visual concepts and design work and who seemed to be genuinely excited about the film, wait this long before telling Del Toro that they really weren't sure? Nothing has changed much in the past year since the project seemed to officially be a go project - Del Toro's intended star Tom Cruise is still very much available to do the film to give the budget more credence (and if he doesn't do it, there's plenty of other actors out there that would be interested in this) and as far as we know, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Avatar director James Cameron, is still on board as a producer/creative consultant. We are kinda amazed that a project with such clear backing from James Cameron could be about to hit the can but that seems to be the reality sinking in today. Reports are suggesting that Legendary Pictures are putting the final touches on probable tentpole Pacific Rim that could end up being Del Toro's next movie and not 'Madness'. At this point, the Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy series helmer, who must now be severly depressed having wasted the best part of half a decade on both The Hobbit and At the Mountains of Madness - is probably ready just to direct something to prove to himself that he is actually a film director and not just a man Hollywood says no to when it comes time to hand over the cash. Based on a 25 page treatment from Clash of the Titans writer Travis Beacham, Pacific Rim is set in the near future where malevolent creatures threaten the Earth and humans must band together using their resources and technology to fit them off. It's a much more run-of-the-mill Godzilla style blockbuster full of monsters and grand-scale destruction and will come in PG-13 rated and on a smaller budget. I'm sure it will be great, Del Toro doesn't make bad movies and Pacific Rim will give him plenty of license to flex his creative juices but I will shed a tear tonight for At The Mountains of Madness that truly looks likes it doomed. There's talk that it may film if Del Toro makes Pacific Rim and becomes a hit but already with The Hobbit, Del Toro has shown that he isn't willing to wait around for a greenlight.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.