Famed poet Mick Jagger once sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and in the case of the following movies that never were, that is certainly true. Here we take a look at some movies that, for better or worse, never made it from the depths of development hell. These films are forever filed on the “what if” shelf alongside Burton’s ‘Superman’ film and Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’. Enjoy!
How do you follow up an Oscar winning modern classic which ended with its lead actor dying? You hire the guy who sang a duet with Kylie Minogue to write the script.
Nick Cave, who has turned his hand to screenwriting with the excellent ‘The Proposition’ and at one stage was co-writing the upcoming ‘Crow’ reboot, was approached to try and resurrect (literally) the hero of the Ridley Scott epic.
“[Crowe] rang me up and asked if I wanted to write Gladiator 2,” Cave explained. “For someone who had only written one film script, it was quite an ask. ‘Hey, Russell, didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?’. ‘Yeah, you sort that out.’”
“So, [Maximus] goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there’s this one god, there’s this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity and so the many gods are dying, so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and his followers,” Cave explained.
“I wanted to call it Christ Killer,” he continued. “In the end you find out that the main guy was his son so he has to kill his son and he was tricked by the gods. He becomes this eternal warrior and it ends with this 20-minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild.”
The final 20 minutes of the film involved Maximus chasing his son through time from the Crusades to the Western Front to the killing fields of Chechnya and finally to the operations room of The Pentagon. The Pentagon would presumably contain a lot of phones, which would see Crowe in his element. Surprisingly Scott and Crowe were keen. Warner Bros not so much. They didn’t want to see their sword and sandals epic turned into an insane, science fiction, bounty hunter movie.
Cave, presumably with his tongue pressed firmly into his cheek, described the script as such “It was a stone-cold masterpiece, I enjoyed writing it very much because I knew on every level that it was never going to get made. Let’s call it a popcorn dropper.”
To be honest, when I first read the outline I thought it was terrible. But the more I think about it, the more I wish this film had been made…if for no other reason than I would have loved to see a poster with the title “Gladiator 2: Christ Killer” adorn my wall.
Darren Aronoskfy has carved himself out a reputation as the place comic book movies go to die, with the RoboCop reboot, the Watchmen adaptation, and The Wolverine all being scheduled to be adapted by the Black Swan director. Before eventually being plucked from development hell and made elsewhere.
In 2000, following the Batman and Robin disaster, Warner Bros. were looking to inject some fresh blood into the property and hired Aronofsky following the success of his second feature, Requiem for a Dream. Aronofsky then brought in comic writer Frank Miller, who had worked with the director on (surprise surprise) an unproduced script for Ronin.
In the book Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made, the director disrobes his plan to resurrect the Bat franchise:
“My pitch was Death Wish or The French Connection meets Batman. In Year One, Gordon was kind of like Serpico, and Batman was kind of like Travis Bickle”.
The movie would have veered wildly off course from the comic book material it was supposedly based on. In Aronofsky’s version a young Bruce Wayne is found in the street after fleeing, following his parents’ murder and taken in by ‘Big Al,’ who runs an auto repair shop with his son, the imaginatively monikered ‘Little Al’, who would replace the more traditional version of Alfred. To give you some idea of how different this take would be, Michael Clarke Duncan was reportedly approached to play the role. Working as a mechanic in the shop Wayne becomes more and more disgusted with the ever growing crime and corrupt cops in Gotham and vows to take action. In the script Bruce is penniless as he has not come forward as the heir to the Wayne fortune, despite a widespread media campaign to find him.
Weird enough for you? Well it gets better.
- Selina is described as “a long, lean black woman” in her early 20s, a dominatrix who’s carved out a miserable existence for herself in a brothel called the Cathouse.
- Bruce dosen’t travel the word, he instead reads books on various types of combat and practices them.
- Bruce uses mostly chemical based weapons when fighting. He learns how to create them by reading “The anarchists cookbook”
- James Gordon is suicidal and at one point puts a gun in his mouth and tries to kill himself.
- Carmine Falcone is omitted from the script and replaced by Gillain B.Loeb as the mob boss.
- At one point he dons a cape and hockey mask and resembles Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th films
Perhaps best of all is how Batman get his name. Having presumably stolen his father’s insignia ring while he lay dying. Bruce now wears this when cleaning up the streets and after punching a criminal with the ring that has an intertwined T and W. It leaves a scar on the victims head that is mistaken for, you guessed it a bat!!! This leads the media to dub him “The Bat Man”.
Much like the comic there is a lot of voiceover. With Bruce writing Twilight-esqe letters to his dead father. “Dear Father, I am ready for the next level. I realise now violence alone is not enough. I must become a detective, a scientist, a scholar of crime.” Or: “Father, it takes everything I have just to contain this fury. I can feel it in my chest. It wants to escape. I’m afraid of what I might do.”
Warner Brothers however were none too keen to turn their most popular superhero, into an 18’s rated hard-core version of the character.
You can read the script in full here
The Rat Pack were the original Las Vegas icons. Music, women, booze, gangsters, booze and more women. They were the embodiment of excess and success and who better to bring that to the big screen than Martin Scorsese? Nick Pileggi who scripted Goodfellas wrote the script that would focus on the dark and gritty side of the charismatic entertainers.
Scorsese put together an A-list and somewhat muddled cast. In the titular role of The King of Cool he would cast Tom Hanks, John Travolta would play Frank Sinatra, Jim Carrey (Jerry Lewis), Hugh Grant (Peter Lawford), which seem somewhat reasonable. However he then signed Adam Sandler to play Joey Bishop and in the strangest casting choice of all….Wesley Snipes was announced as Sammy Davis Jr!!!
With the cast and the script in place, the film was deep into pre-production, before Miramax exercised a clause in Scorsese’s contract to make another passion project of his ‘Gangs of New York’. When he had completed it he was set to pick the reigns of Dino back up. However, Warner Bros, with whom the director also had a contract with, got wind of a rival Howard Hughes project going into production with Christopher Nolan directing. Scorsese who commented that “I owed them a film for about 10 years. It was a complicated issue” was tapped to direct the now fast tracked movie about the billionaire recluse and began work on ‘The Aviator’.
By the time he had completed the film, his cast was no longer under contact, became unsuitable or were facing jail time for tax evasion. Scorsese recently has been trying to get a Frank Sinatra film up and running with Leonardo DiCaprio set to play Ol’ Blue Eyes.
It’s tempting to just leave the headline “The Beatles make Lord of the Rings” drop the mike and walk away. However, the story gets even better. J.R.R. Tolkien’s books have been made into a spectacular Oscar winning trilogy of films, and 2 overlong CGI heavy movies with a 3rd on the way. Lennon was a huge fan of Tolkien’s opus and was trying to persuade Apple, who produced the Beatles music and had started a movie division, to buy the rights to a movie adaptation.
Lennon, who was adamant that the live action movie stay true to the books, wanted the role of Gollum. . Apple loved the idea and approached a director who was none other than Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick had just finished Dr. Strangelove and was in prep for 2001. He reportedly loved the idea and the wheels were set in motion to start acquiring the rights. When word of the negotiations got out United Artists swooped in with an incredible offer of over $250,000.
Lord of the Rings would go through many more adaptations and false starts before Peter Jackson finally brought the movies to the screen. This included a failed John Boorman live action version that concluded a scene with Gandalf and Saruman engaging in a duel of words essentially a Middle Earth rap battle. A 12 minute animated film which was made purely to keep the rights, that culminated in the makers of the film trying to round people up on the streets of New York to pay 10 cents and sign a slip to say they had seen a colour version of Lord of the Rings so that the producer could legally extend his option on the rights. There was also the much loved animated movie that ends half way through The Two Towers and never received the funding to complete the planned 2nd movie. “It was something John was driving, and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage, but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it,” Jackson said during a press tour for The Hobbit.