10 Potentially Amazing Movies That Never Happened (But Almost Did)
Movie history is littered with films that failed to get off the ground, from historical epics to sci-fi thrillers to even a version of ‘Lord of the Rings’ that would’ve starred the Fab Four.
Some of these films went no further than the conceptual stage, others lost funding and some were derailed by tragedy. Still, they all deserved to see the light of day. Check out 10 potentially amazing movies that never happened.
‘Heart of Darkness’
Originally, Orson Welles planned an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novella ‘Heart of Darkness’ as his first film. But RKO Pictures deemed the movie too expensive to shoot, so it was abandoned after a small amount of pre-production work, including makeup tests. Eventually, Welles decided to make ‘Citizen Kane’ as his debut Hollywood picture instead.
The screenplay for ‘Heart of Darkness’ languished for years, tied up in rights issues with the Welles estate. But in 2012, it was performed for the first time ever at a staged reading in London.
‘The Masque of the Red Death’
According to author Donald Richie in his book ‘The Films of Akira Kurosawa,’ the legendary filmmaker once planned an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ set in Japan. But by the time the script had been written, the Japanese film industry began focusing on low-budget monster movies like ‘Godzilla,’ and Kurosawa’s adaptation was lost forever.
‘The Hot Zone’
In 1992, journalist Richard Preston published a New Yorker article about a small outbreak of the Ebola virus near Washington, D.C. After the article appeared, Fox optioned the story and Ridley Scott signed on to direct a movie adaptation with Jodie Foster and Robert Redford. But arguments between the stars regarding the prominence of their roles caused both to leave the project.
Eventually, director Wolfgang Petersen helmed a fictionalized account of the incident called ‘Outbreak,’ starring Dustin Hoffman and leaving Scott’s version in limbo.
‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’
You probably already know about Peter Jackson’s involvement with the now-defunct ‘Halo’ movie, but Jackson’s visual-effects workshop, Weta, also briefly worked on another fanboy favorite, ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion.’
In 2003, Weta produced roughly 30 pieces of concept art for a live-action version of the seminal anime, including early character design and even preliminary sketches of the towering Evangelions themselves.
But the film has been in turmoil ever since, primarily due to bankruptcy and lawsuits. Rumor has it that the search for a director is still underway, and it could be released anytime between now and 2015, but we’ll believe it when we see it.
Francis Ford Coppola filmed approximately 30 hours of test footage and even met with potential actors for his sci-fi epic ‘Megalopolis,’ but the film never came out because of 9/11. The plot deals with the reconstruction of New York City after a “disastrous incident” and Coppola felt the film hit a bit too close to home.
“[9/11] made it really pretty tough,” he said. “… a movie about the aspiration of utopia with New York as a main character and then all of a sudden you couldn’t write about New York without just dealing with what happened and the implications of what happened.”
There is, however, concept art and at least one screenplay available for the flick online. Plus, Coppola has never officially abandoned the project, so there may still be hope. While promoting his recent Blu-ray set, Coppola revealed he was working on an epic project with an investor with deep pockets. Could this be ‘Megalopolis’?
‘Rendezvous With Rama’
Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi novel, ‘Rendezvous with Rama,’ which deals with a mysterious alien spaceship that strays into Earth’s solar system, seems like perfect summer blockbuster fodder. But a movie has yet to materialize despite the involvement of big names such as Morgan Freeman and director David Fincher.
According to Freeman, who hopes to star in and produce the movie, the problem lies in finding a suitable script, but he insists it will eventually be made. Fincher himself has abandoned the project several times in the past but told MTV in 2011 that he might start work on it after his remake of ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,’ which itself has appeared to stall. In the meantime, enjoy this fan-made short. It might be as close as we ever get to a ‘Rama’ movie.
Alfred Hitchcock was responsible for dozens of shocking films, but ‘Kaleidoscope,’ which deals with a “necrophiliac serial killer in New York City” who preys on women, could’ve been the most shocking of all.
Although Hitchcock insisted the film could be made cheap for under a million dollars with a cast of unknowns, Universal balked given its graphic sex and violence. Eventually, Hitchcock repurposed several of the film’s ideas in 1972’s ‘Frenzy.’ Not much remains of the original movie today except for racy test footage and a handful of pre-production stills.
‘Napoleon,’ an historical biopic based on the 19th century French military and political leader, was meant to be Stanley Kubrick’s most sweeping, grandiose movie ever. The director completed an obsessive amount of research and pre-production work over the span of two years, scouting locations, getting costumes made, securing funding and even choosing a tentative cast with Jack Nicholson in place as the lead. (Everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Laurence Olivier would’ve played supporting characters.)
But, alas, it was not meant to be. After several other historical films flopped at the box office, ‘Napoleon’ lost funding and Kubrick’s would-be epic faded into oblivion. It lives on, however, in a massive hardcover tome released several years ago called, ‘Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made.’ Steven Spielberg, who collaborated with Kubrick on ‘A.I.,’ recently revealed he’s developing a ‘Napoleon’ miniseries based on Kubrick’s screenplay.
‘Lord of the Rings,’ Starring The Beatles
It seems crazy, but rumor has it The Beatles once wanted to star in an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings,’ with Paul McCartney as Frodo, John Lennon as Gollum, Ringo Starr as Sam and George Harrison as Gandalf. At one point, Stanley Kubrick was approached to direct, but he turned the film down due to the source material’s complexity.
The final nail in the coffin came when Tolkien, who held film rights at that point, allegedly nixed the idea. Apparently, the author didn’t fancy the notion of The Beatles running roughshod all over Middle Earth ‘A Hard Day’s Night’-style.
‘Isobar”s basic plot, in which a plant-like alien runs amok on the maiden voyage of a futuristic transatlantic train, may sound a bit silly, but this failed sci-fi/horror film had a lot going for it.
For starters, it was to be directed by disaster-flick auteur Roland Emmerich of ‘Independence Day’ and ‘White House Down‘ fame, and produced by Joel Silver, whose credits include ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Predator.’ (The script was by ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Commando’ screenwriter Steven de Souza.) Plus, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Walter Matthau and Jim Belushi were set to star.
But just as set building was about to commence, Carolco Pictures collapsed under the weight of several box-office bombs and filed for bankruptcy in 1995. As a result, ‘Isobar’ withered and audiences never got to experience what could’ve been the most epically ’90s action movie of all time.