5 Iconic Movies That Weren't The Director's First Choice

Even if a film looks like a deeply personal project ... it's probably not.
5 Iconic Movies That Weren't The Director's First Choice

In a perfect world, every film director would get to make everything that they want to, and everything that they want to make would be a John Wick sequel. However, even when something looks like the most personal project ever, it's usually the director's second or third choice. Some of the most famous movies ever made weren't even options when the director was focusing on what they REALLY wanted to make. For example ...

Before His Spider-Man Trilogy, Sam Raimi Wanted To Do Thor

Despite changing stuff around from the comics (instead of mechanical web shooters, Peter Parker now has mutant spider buttholes in his wrists), it's obvious that Sam Raimi loves and understands Spider-Man. His trilogy nails the character and themes around him, and because of this, you might think he'd spent his whole life wanting to tackle a Spider-Man project. However, his original vision involved a few more shoulder pads.

Due to the success of his first superhero film, Darkman (and by "success," I mean that it's a good cult classic that some people saw), Raimi was put in connection with Stan Lee, a guy who basically takes up three spots on the Mt. Rushmore of comic creators. And together they devised a plan for a movie based around the God of Thunder, Thor. But this was in 1991, when the only widely acclaimed superhero films had been the first two Superman movies (and Tim Burton's Batman, depending on if the critic was having a good day.) And so, in the most 1991 response ever, 20th Century Fox responded to the idea with "Comic books don't make good movies."

Again, this was 1991, so this massive studio didn't know that 1) Comic books can make for GREAT movies, 2) They'll eventually make for ALL movies by the 2020s, and 3) They'd be bought out and absorbed by Disney. But Raimi was probably pretty used to letdowns like that. He'd only made Darkman in the first place because he couldn't get the rights to the 1930s pulp hero the Shadow. And apparently he made a bid to replace Tim Burton on the Batman films before Joel Schumacher burst through the wall with his McDonald's sponsorship. But in the end, it would all work out. Raimi would go on to direct two awesome Spider-Man films and one that people write "Is it ACTUALLY good?" thinkpieces about. It's every director's dream!

Steven Spielberg Only Made Schindler's List After He Traded Films With Martin Scorsese

In 1994, Steven Spielberg was having perhaps the best year in the life of any filmmaker ever. He swept the Oscars with Schindler's List, earning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction. Sucks about the other awards, though ... PSYCH! HE WON THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS FOR JURASSIC PARK (Best Sound, Best Sound Effect Editing, Best Visual Effects). That said, he probably wouldn't have completed his Oscar Infinity Gauntlet if he'd gone with his first choice, Cape Fear.

Cape Fear, about a psychopath who stalks his former public defender because he believes that he didn't represent him properly, doesn't really seem like it would be of much interest to Spielberg in his, um, Hook period. But he was set on making it and turning it into one of his typical Amblin productions, because everyone watched E.T. and thought "Ooh, do serial killers next!" Meanwhile, little-known artist Martin Scorsese was trying to figure out how to do Schindler's List and not piss everyone off about the violence in the film like he'd done with Last Temptation Of Christ and Goodfellas.

Scorsese found doing the concentration camp scenes troubling, and Spielberg "wasn't in the mood" to make a movie in which Robert De Niro strangles Joe Don Baker while the latter, in a scene that's haunted me since childhood, drinks a cocktail of Jim Beam whiskey and fucking Pepto Bismol.

And so they decided to simply switch movies, because apparently you can do that when you're the two biggest American directors working. The rest is history: Spielberg won all of those awards, and we got to see De Niro beat the hell out of Nick Nolte for like the entire third act of a movie. Equal trade, I'd say.

Related: How 8 Great Movies Would Be Even Better With A New Director

We Only Got District 9 Because There Was No Halo Film

2006 was a weird year for Peter Jackson. He was coming off the success of his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, which to this day is probably the best film adaptation of a book series of all time, and King Kong, which was three hours long and my dad fell asleep during it. But any plans that he may have had to then adapt The Hobbit were being beaten up in an alley behind the New Line Cinema offices. They kicked Jackson off the project due to a dispute he had with them over not being paid enough for Fellowship Of The Ring. Apparently, they were snubbing him over the cash made from those seven-inch-wide special edition LOTR DVD sets that everyone bought back in 2004.

But no worries, as Jackson had other irons in the fire. He was helping to shepherd a young director named Neill Blomkamp in making an adaptation of the game Halo, using his own production company. That's a film that would certainly allow for Jackson's trademarks of elaborate fantasy universes and making shitloads of money. But there was a problem: All of the production companies behind the film (20th Century Fox, Universal, and Microsoft) couldn't decide what they wanted to do with it. And because you can't really tell a billionaire executive "Hey, that would be a disgrace to both the game and storytelling itself," most of the blame fell on Blomkamp.

Eventually, the project sank under the weight of everyone grasping for control of it, and the Jackson/Blomkamp team moved on to District 9, an alien action thriller with heavy political messages about apartheid. And some of those guns that you see in District 9, like the assault rifle? Apparently those are just models that were developed for the Halo film, but painted white. So if you watch District 9 and you squint reeeeeeeeally hard, maybe you can still get a Halo movie out of it after all.

Related: 5 Reasons Great Directors Eventually Make A Bad Movie

The Shining And Barry Lyndon Only Got Made Because Stanley Kubrick Couldn't Fund Napoleon

Stanley Kubrick, who is famous for being totally chill and not, like, obsessive about his films at all, wanted to make a movie about French Emperor Napoleon for a long, long time. He'd done years of research, designed bunches of costumes, and basically had the whole thing laid out. And then a movie called Waterloo came out, and if you want to guess how it did at the box office, let me ask you a question: Have you ever seen Waterloo? Or heard anyone talk about it? OK.

Suddenly, audiences weren't into hip new portrayals of early 19th-century warfare, so everyone Kubrick had in mind to finance his epic dipped out. And so he made another historical drama, Barry Lyndon, instead, and had to settle for the conciliatory prize of some Oscars and an eventual spot in the Criterion Collection. But have you ever seen Barry Lyndon? Probably more of you than have ever seen Waterloo, but still. It wasn't exactly a Star War.

In the mid '70s, Kubrick had also planned to make a movie about the Holocaust, but that was initially shelved when the writer he approached admitted that he didn't " know the first thing" about the Holocaust, which might be a problem for such a project. Kubrick figured it was finally time to seek something more commercial. In that decade, with Jaws, The Exorcist, Halloween, and The Driller Killer, few things seemed as hot as horror, so he eventually landed on making The Shining, which was successful enough. Basically, an entire decade of Kubrick's career, one in which he made two bona fide classics that people still treasure to this day, only occurred because he never got a shot at Napoleon.

Related: 5 Ways Modern Movie Directing Has Changed (For The Worse)

Twin Peaks Came Only After David Lynch's Failed Marilyn Monroe Movie

In the late '80s, David Lynch was coming off of a cult classic Eraserhead, the widely praised Elephant Man, the "Ha! You did that!" Dune, and the bizarre, wonderful Blue Velvet. They're all surreal in their own ways, which makes one of his next choices sound pretty tame: a film about Marilyn Monroe. So where is that classic Lynch weirdness? Oh, it's in the climax, in which Lynch planned to feature Monroe as the victim of a conspiratorial murder rather than a drug overdose.

Warner Bros. probably faxed back "F*cking NO" after reading that little tidbit, and so Lynch and his creative partner Mark Frost were left movie-less. But Lynch's agent told him that he should try doing a TV show. More specifically, a show about "America -- your vision of America the same way you demonstrated it in Blue Velvet." And considering that the most famous scene in Blue Velvet has Dean Stockwell singing Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" into a lamp while Dennis Hopper does a speedrun of every human emotion in the corner, Lynch knew EXACTLY what the agent meant by that.

Lynch and Frost pitched Twin Peaks to ABC, using the central concept of a popular young woman who dies under mysterious circumstances that even Lynch will say is pretty much based on Marilyn Monroe. The show would go on to become a cult classic, even though ABC got through the first season and was like "ENOUGH WITH THE ART PROJECT, LYNCH. WHO DID THE KILLING?" So the story of a movie that ended with a studio not wanting to know who did a murder ended with a TV show losing ratings because executives absolutely had to know who did a murder.

Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Cracked. He's on Twitter, which is kinda neat.

For more, check out Proof JJ Abrams Doesn't Understand Star Wars:

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