Hollywood is a slaughterhouse where cool movie ideas go to die. Here are ten films that were tragically cut down before their time, simply because they were just too friggin' awesome.
Fans of the popular video game wept tears of joy when a Halo film was announced in 2005. Other bodily fluids escaped when it was announced that the Lord of the Rings guy (Peter Jackson) was on board to produce and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) was in talks to direct. But suddenly, in the fall of 2006, both of the studios financing the film bailed out.
Why it didn't get made: The rumored budget offered about 200 million reasons, with a dollar sign in front. To break even, every single person who bought the last Halo game would have to go see the film version seven times. Also, Microsoft's deal included demands that Gates & Co. have creative control over the project. If you don't see why that would be a problem, then you've apparently never heard of Microsoft.
Sure, somebody will make a Halo movie some day (Twentieth Century Fox re-acquired the rights in June of 2007), but it won't be the beautiful love child of Lord of the Rings and Aliens that fanboys dreamed of the moment the heard "Halo" and "Peter Jackson" in the same sentence. It's more likely come back as a bargain basement $60 million production, most likely with a wrestler in the lead. And no matter how bad it is, the geek crowd will give them a big opening weekend and the studio will make a tidy little profit. Direct-to-DVD sequels will surely follow.
And while we're on the subject: We won't be seeing Peter Jackson's The Hobbit any time soon, either. New Line booted him from the project, their revenge for a lawsuit he brought over some disputed Lord of the Rings profits. Let us grieve for all the great movies that would get made if Hollywood wasn't full of greedy douchebags.
Whether or not you think Unbreakable was a great movie, you almost have to agree it was a great idea for a movie. It's a grown-up superhero film, without the silly costumes or CGI monsters or preposterous plans to take over the world -- Just a taut battle of wills between extraordinary men, both of the roles played by charismatic superstars. But right as the story reaches its crucial apex, where the hero tracks down the evil genius and realizes he must Stop Him at All Costs, the film abruptly ends. Credits.
That there was supposed to be a sequel (in fact, a trilogy, according to Willis) is obvious. What is not obvious is what in the holy hell M. Night Shyamalan was thinking.
Everyone knows the reason superhero sequels are usually better than the original (think X-Men 2, Superman 2, and Spider-Man 2) is because they don't have to devote half their running time to the tedious origin story. The origin story is always boring, with the pre-superhero protagonist stumbling around like an everyday dumbass for an hour. Shyamalan, for reasons science may never unravel, decided to make Unbreakable nothing but the origin story, stretching that part across the entire running time and saving the actual awesome Good vs. Evil super-battle for the next film.
Why it didn't get made: Not enough people went to see the origin story part. Not after the first weekend, anyway, when crowds of moviegoers sat blinking as the lights came up, thinking someone had stolen the last reel. The Sixth Sense-esque word-of-mouth producers had been banking on turned out to be literally one word: "Ass."
And while we're on the subject: Did you know Shyamalan was in talks to direct the first Harry Potter movie back in 2001? Even those of you who don't like the director have to admit that he probably could have made a more interesting first film than Chris Columbus crapped out. Plus, at the end, maybe we would have found out Harry was actually DEAD THE ENTIRE TIME.
Dan Aykroyd has been desperately pushing for a Ghostbusters sequel for over a decade (yes, we're refusing to acknowledge that Ghostbusters 2 exists). He wrote a script years ago called Ghostbusters: Hellbent (later changed to the more descriptive Ghostbusters in Hell when co-conspirator Harold Ramis got involved) where the ghostbusting crew wind up in a version of New York that exists only in Hell. As the original actors aged and the film continued to not get made, the script was changed to accommodate new, younger group of comedy all-stars to play newly-hired ghostbusters-which, for better or worse, was going to include Ben Stiller.
Why it didn't get made: Because "Billy" didn't want to get within ten feet of the thing, according to Aykroyd. "Billy" is Bill Murray, who didn't like how the second movie turned out (what second movie?) and has since dedicated his life to making more serious films. To be fair, special effects are fun to watch but not so much fun to act in. Murray, now in his late 50s, probably didn't want to spend half a year in front of green screens, covered in slime and getting thrashed around by hydraulic monsters, with Aykroyd and Ramis calling him "Billy" and giving him big thumbs-up signs the whole time
And while we're on the subject: Before the original Ghostbusters came around, Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were in talks to make Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was scrapped when Aykroyd came up with the idea for Ghostbusters.
If at the mention of "Fletch" you groan and say, "That '80s Chevy Chase movie?" then we're very, very ashamed of you. Long before that film came along, the Fletch character appeared in a dozen very smart, funny novels by author Gregory McDonald. You should read them. No, not right now.
In 2000 Kevin Smith and Miramax got the rights to Fletch Won, a McDonald novel about a young Fletch that takes place before the Chevy Chase movies. It seemed like a perfect fit: It saved Smith from the burden of coming up with a story, and it let him focus on writing the crude, rapid-fire dialogue that is his one unique talent.
Pretty much every young male actor in Hollywood was mentioned in connection with the role (Matthew Perry, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, many more) but we'd have rolled the dice with Chris Rock, who apparently wanted the part very badly. The difference in race from the original Fletch shouldn't have been an issue. At worst, they could have just digitally added Chevy Chase's face and had Chris Rock dub the dialogue.
Why it didn't get made: Smith said he wouldn't direct the movie unless his best friend for life Jason Lee got the part. Shortly thereafter, Miramax announced that Smith wouldn't be directing the movie. Once again, Smith's career was evidently set back by his insistence that he only work with actors he's had at least one drunken pillow fight with. Since this limits his choices to Lee and Ben Affleck (and we're thinking the latter would not only have ruined the franchise, but would have incited fans to pile up all the copies of the novel and hold a Nazi-style book burning) the studio is wisely developing Fletch with another writer and director.
So everything's back on track! On the other hand, apparently the lead in talks to play Fletch is now-brace yourself-Zach Braff.
And while we're on the subject: Maybe Kevin Smith shouldn't take over other people's franchises after all; his Superman Lives script (widely available online) had the potential to be one of the worst movies ever made.
Sci-Fi fans seem doomed to choose between silly action movies (like Transformers or Independence Day) and slow, existential lower-budget fare (like Solaris). What we want is more films like The Matrix, goddamnit, where they can delve into metaphysical ideas and still get a solid hour of zero-gravity kung fu. (Seriously, Hollywood, why is that so hard?) Fans saw a ray of light a few years ago with word that none other than Fight Club's David Fincher was on board to direct a big-budget adaptation of Rendezvous with Rama, an Arthur C. Clarke classic about a mysterious 30 mile-long cylinder that comes humming toward Earth like Gaia's lost vibrator.
Why it didn't get made: Money. If you want to make a Rama film you'll need nine digits just to get a seat at the table (remember, Fincher is the guy who needed a $90 million budget to make a movie about two guys fighting in their basement).
Merchandising on Rama wouldn't exactly be a gold mine, either. Little Timmy isn't going to spend hours with his 100 foot-long plastic Rama mothership, contemplating how it symbolizes man's eternal struggle against the cosmic unknown. While the producers hunted in vain for funding, Fincher's schedule filled up with other, less interesting projects (Panic Room, Zodiac).
And while we're on the subject: Fincher was supposed to direct Mission Impossible III as well. If he had taken the job, he could have simultaneously saved both that franchise and the TV show Lost, which languished without JJ Abrams (who had to basically abandon it in order to direct MI:III).