Taking stock is perfectly natural this time of year. A fresh start always offers the best microscope through which to observe the goals we achieved or left incomplete (like the goal of making a list of goals (I’ll get to it soon, stop bugging me)), and one of the most fascinating ways I know to take stock is to look at what movie projects never made it to the finish line.
I’ve looked at 16 recent abandoned movies so far, all of which remain unmade (including the Arrested Development movie whose inclusion in the first list commenters bitched about so vehemently), and there are plenty more where they came from. On the deeper level, it’s a reminder of the fragility of the seventh art, but as pure trivia, it’s an excellent exercise in What If.
Great ideas unrealized and bad bullets dodged, here are 8 more non-movies to add to the collection:
8. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Next month marks the five year anniversary of the rumor that Natalie Portman would star in an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s additional words in Jane Austen’s novel. Its development hell has been the usual winding path through the flames, complete with personnel changes, cancellations and hope springing depressingly eternal. As of 2011, Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl) was set to direct for Lionsgate and Emma Stone — then Blake Lively — was set to star following Portman’s departure from the cast list.
It lives on as a script from David O. Russell — who was also rumored to direct (as was Mike White) — and as late as a year ago, there was still movement on the project in the form of another production company coming on board to help finance.
The zombified classic had its own problems, but I can’t help wondering if Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter helped nail shut its coffin.
7. Captain Canuck
This maple leaf-scented superhero project was always a long shot. When confirmation comes from the author of adapted material, it’s served with more than a grain of salt (see: Mark Millar), but it was more than just a big budget pipe dream on creator Richard Comely’s part. A year after his proclamation, reports surfaced that Mind’s Eye Entertainment (yeah, I don’t know either) had hired Arne Olsen (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie) to write the screenplay.
When Comely said he wanted to add a part for Justin Bieber, it turned into silly season, but it would still be fantastic to see a Canadian production company finance this project with a Candian star in the lead role. Ryan Reynolds hasn’t played a superhero yet, has he?
6. The Troll Hunter Remake
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a foreign movie becomes a success while providing something original, and Hollywood wants to copy…oh, you’ve heard it? Fine.
Andre Ovredal’s found footage exploration of giants was rooted in Norwegian myths, but that didn’t curtail Christopher Columbus’ interest in making it American-style shortly after its US debut in 2011. Since then it’s pretty much been radio silence, but last Fall saw a double shot of related news. One, that Ovredal would be making his first English-language film and, two, that Game of Thrones director Neil Marshall would be helming a remake of the movie that first put Ovredal on this side of the map. For all intents and purposes, the trolls are still coming. They’re just taking their time.
5. Roland Emmerich’s Asteroids
You might notice that a lot of these projects really got started in earnest in 2011, and there’s a reason for that. It’s the same year that a Dumb and Dumber sequel was floated and Paul Greengrass was rumored to make a Somali pirate movie with Tom Hanks. One is currently on track for Oscar glory, and the other looks to be on track for Oscar glory after its release this November. The bottom line being that three years is a nice amount of time to go from announcement to theater marquee. Give or take.
But it wasn’t enough time for Asteroids. Five years wasn’t enough time either.
Universal pushed the name-recognition button on this one back in 2009 (although it’s still unclear how you could make a movie about a spaceship blowing up rocks and say it’s an adaptation), but it wasn’t until 2011 that Emmerich’s name got added to the punch bowl and genuinely raised an eyebrow. Laugh all you want, but wouldn’t you rather see Emmerich blowing up space than Emmerich blowing up the White House again without Will Smith?
4. The Fighter 2
Here’s another project that never seemed legitimate even though Mark Wahlberg talked it up. Wahlberg! We trusted you. At least the Entourage movie seems to be heading our way, eh? Eh.
Admittedly, it would have been a bit odd to see a continuation of the Mickey Ward story, but with this real-life tale there’s a natural next chapter: his legendary fights with Arturo Gatti. The crowning glory after the hellish family drama of the first outing.
Months after mentioning it in passing, Wahlberg reiterated that he was serious about making it happen, but that’s as serious as it got.
3. Henry Selick’s The Shadow King
Cross your long fingers that K5 International (or someone) is getting this done. The stop-motion project from, who else, Henry Selick focuses on a young boy with an unusual talent for making shadows that battle a group of monsters coming after New York City.
It’s another thrilling adventure in concept, and Selick has earned a ton of trust, but it’s had trouble launching. Laika passed on it and, even though Selick has a contract with them, Disney didn’t move forward with it. K5 International took the movie to the European Film Market in 2013, but everything is silent a year later. Hopefully that means Selick is busy moving dolls a fraction of an inch at a time, but he’s just signed on for A Tale Dark and Grimm, so this one’s status is uncertain.
2. Will Smith as a Modern Day Job
With the slew of Biblical epics about to land, Joe might be resurrected like Lazarus. Another 2011 announcement (and appropriately one from the screenwriters of the sequel-less The Fighter), Smith was set to play the character with a modernized name (so it wouldn’t be confused with jObs?) who undergoes a great deal of torment from God and the Devil. This — like a million other projects Smith has been attached to — never got made. Such is the contractual reality of the continent-sized star.
1. Ghostbusters 3
The heavyweight title holder when it comes to recent, unfulfilled promises. This one has been so overwrought, so overblown in the media, and so over-talked by one of its potential stars that we placed a ban on related news items back in — you guessed it — 2011. We’ve avoided rumors and rehashed overtures from Dan Aykroyd for three years, and it still feels sweet.
It also feels sweet that Ashton Kutcher never got cast. He would have made a terrible Slimer.