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).
It was Jim Carrey, before he got older and started making serious movies. It was Matt Stone and Trey Parker, before South Park got all preachy and libertarian. Their paths nearly intersected in a way that could have made, yes, we'll say it, Poop Joke History.
Forget about the terrifyingly bad film that did get made, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Stone and Parker were hired to write a Dumb and Dumber prequel back in the late '90s, right after the first film became a hit. Had they followed through, the result could have been a film so crude that society itself may have been in danger of total, immediate collapse (people eating each other on the streets, fathers clubbing sons to death with family dogs, etc.).
We can only guess at what the plot would have been. Perhaps it would have involved a terrorist plot to unleash a chemical bomb that causes every victim within a mile to become inflamed with ravenous homosexual lust. Maybe Harry and Lloyd could have stolen that bomb from the terrorists and realize the only way to keep it from detonating is by continually farting on it (it has a voice-activated detonator and, by sheer chance, Lloyd's farts sound exactly like the phrase "delay timer" in Arabic). Then maybe at the climax of the film they accidentally detonate the bomb at mid-field during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
Or, you know, not. We'll never know.
Why it didn't get made: When a hot, young talent hits it big, there's invariably a period where they're tempted to say "Yes" to every offer that comes in, for fear that people will stop asking. Stone and Parker were in that stage when they took this on, before they realized they'd be working 22-hour days meeting South Park deadlines.
Another factor: Jim Carrey decided he was too good for sequels right around the time of Ace Ventura 2, so chances are he wouldn't have come on board anyway (at which point the studio started talking prequel instead of sequel). Thus, the horror that was Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd was born. hoisted onto an unsuspecting populace, and then quickly forgotten, peace and reason returning.
And while we're on the subject: It's just as well that Dumb and Dumberer bombed. If the director (Troy Miller) had been given more movies, he may not have gone on to make the superb Flight of the Conchords TV show.
Three of the greatest films of all time were made by one guy, in one seven-year span. In 1974, two of the nominees for Best Picture were directed by that same guy. Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather films, come on, you know who he is) has been coasting on it ever since.
That's why no list of unmade masterpieces would be complete without Megalopolis, Coppola's pet project about a futuristic New York that's had pretty much every Oscar winner of the last decade attached to it at some point or another (including Nicolas Cage, Russell Crowe, and even some talented actors like Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, and Kevin Spacey). This, dear readers, was the mythical Good New Coppola Movie that Hollywood, and America, had been waiting three decades for. They've probably already etched the name of this thing onto a whole box of awards, just waiting for Coppola to actually make the damn film.
Why it didn't get made: Too ambitious, too expensive, maybe too much to undertake for an aging, talent-atrophying Coppola. They did some shoots in New York at some points, but were put on hold by 9/11; then the film's distributor went broke. It just seems like one of those cursed projects.
And while we're on the subject: George Lucas, not Coppola, was originally hired to direct Apocalypse Now. Considering what a drawn-out torture the Apocalypse production turned out to be, there's a good chance that in that alternate universe, Star Wars never happened. Dude.
Ah, Fartman. Hey, don't look at us like that. Shouldn't a well-rounded renaissance man be able to long equally for a Francis Ford Coppola epic and for a film about a superhero who can propel himself through the air using only his own gas?
Fartman is Howard Stern's Megalopolis. He's been trying to make a movie about the character since 1992, and he's serious about it. They had a writer and director lined up at one point, with a budget of $10 million or so from New Line. Writer J.F. Lawton spoke of the screenplay as if it was a 120-page excuse for a series of gratuitous lesbian love scenes.
Could this have been the worst movie ever made? Sure. But knowing Stern, the odds are good that every member of the audience would have left the film changed in some way.
Why it didn't get made: The studio wanted it PG-13, which ran somewhat against Howard's vision for the film. So instead we got 1997's autobiographical Private Parts, a pedestrian, friendly movie which mostly existed to prove to the world what a nice guy Howard is.
And while we're on the subject: If you think this sounds like the superhero movie that would kill superhero movies once and for all, picture this: Larry and Andy Wachowski wrote a Plastic Man script back in 1995. The star, according to internet rumor, was going to be Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens.
While 300 was tearing up the box office, somewhere Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven were glancing at each other and rolling their eyes, maybe making a sarcastic jerk-off motion with their hands.
Back in 1995 Arnold was set to star in the sword-in-guts epic Crusade, on a budget of $150 million with director Verhoeven (Robocop, Total Recall). The script (by Walon Green, who wrote The Wild Bunch) is considered one of the most brutally violent things ever put to paper.
Why it didn't get made: The studio, Carolco, wanted to make a big-budget pirate movie first. The result was Cutthroat Island, the biggest financial bomb in Hollywood history. Meanwhile, Verhoeven went off to direct Showgirls, one of the worst films in Hollywood history. The Cutthroat Island losses then forced Carolco into bankruptcy. Arnie went on to become governor of California, where his first act was to rope off the whole scene and declare it an official disaster area.
And while we're on the subject: To this day comic fans bemoan the loss of James Cameron's Spider-Man project from the early '90s. Well, if it had gotten made, Arnold was set to play Dr. Octopus.
Probably no single project in Hollywood history has been attempted as many times, by as many people, as A Confederacy of Dunces. For 26 years, directors, actors, producers, writers and studios have come and gone. So why, in a Hollywood where thousands of quickly-forgotten projects wash in and out like the tide, do they keep coming back to Dunces?
It's because the book, by John Kennedy Toole, is the funniest thing ever written. Don't try to argue. Scientists have proven it (they have a computer or something). The novel is one big, intricate clockwork of a joke, plot threads converging in ways so ridiculous it's almost impossible to grasp it all with one reading. You don't think of them awarding Pulitzer prizes to balls-to-the-wall comedies, but they gave one to Dunces.
Will Ferrell was all set to star in this one as recently as a year ago, with Lily Tomlin and Drew Barrymore and Mos Def (fans of the book will have an easy time guessing who plays which character). But, once again, the studio pulled the plug.
Why it didn't get made: Will Ferrell has said it's the movie everyone in Hollywood wants to make, but no one wants to finance. They're right to have doubts. Anyone who saw the Hitchhiker's movie knows how hard it is to translate a funny novel to the big screen. Too much of the comedy lies in the language, in pages of narration that won't be in the film. Whenever it's time to write the checks for Dunces, somebody always gets cold feet.
This film will always be the weird girl at the book store, the enigmatic one who listens only to bands you've never heard of and who just rolls her eyes when you try to make a joke. Hollywood doesn't need that girl, not with a line of slutty cheerleaders right behind her.
And while we're on the subject: Did we mention the project is cursed? John Belushi was set to star in the film in 1982, but just days before he was to meet with producers, he died. Then John Candy was on board, before his death in 1994. Then Chris Farley, before he died in 1997. Then, all plans to film in New Orleans were halted after the city was devastated by hurricane Katrina. Don't get us wrong, we want to see Dunces on the big screen. But there is a significant chance that, upon release, the sky itself will burn with unholy fire and the rivers will flow red with the blood of the innocent.
Instagram influencers are often absurd.
Well, this is terrifying.