To mark the release of ‘The Shape of Water,’ we’ve compiled a list of Guillermo del Toro projects we probably won’t ever get to see.
The arrival of a new Guillermo del Toro movie is always an exciting time to be alive. Whether it’s a low key genre project or a big monster blockbuster, the Mexican director knows how to hit the sweet spot of many a film fan — especially those of us who appreciate all things fantastical, spooky, and strange.
GDT is also a filmmaker with a devout cult fan base, which means some of us cling to his every word more than we should sometimes. When he announces a new project or even suggests one as a throwaway notion, our collective hopes rise to the heavens. Shortly after, though, they fall back down to earth as we’ve learned by now to accept that most of the projects the great man mentions rarely materialize.
Even though his movies have brought so much magic and joy to our lives, the projects that never came to be have brought us heartache and a case of wondering what could have been. It’s not his fault by any means — and we should appreciate what we have — but when a filmmaker captures hearts and imaginations as majestically as del Toro does, it’s impossible not to yearn for the movies and TV shows that never came to be.
With that being said, let’s reflect on the projects he’s been associated with throughout the years in some capacity and determine whether or not they’ll ever escape development hell. After all, as the great Canadian poet Justin Bieber once said, “never say never.”
What was it? In late 2007, del Toro revealed that he was working on a spiritual sequel to The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, which would have marked the final installment in a fantasy trilogy set during the Spanish Civil War.
Will it ever happen? At the time, the project was shelved so he could focus on Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. However, given how personal del Toro’s Civil War fairytales are to him and his fascination with stories set during conflicts, it’s certainly not worth ruling out quite yet.
What was it? Back in October 2010, it was announced that DreamWorks Animation was developing an animated feature-length based on Rodrigo Blaas’s short, Alma. Blaas was reportedly on board to direct the movie, with del Toro serving as an executive producer.
Will it ever happen? The last we heard, the project was still being developed. That was in 2012, though, so while it’s not been completely ruled out, it doesn’t appear to be moving forward.
3. Anthology TV Series
What was it? Before horror-based anthology shows were hip again, del Toro announced that he was producing a series of self-contained scary stories for television in the same old-school vein as Night Gallery and Kolchak.
Will it ever happen? This is another case of a project being announced that subsequently vanished into the ether of internet pop culture news.
4. At the Mountains of Madness
What was it? Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story of the same about a terrifying Antarctic expedition, the project has been stuck in development hell since 2010 due to its demanding cost and del Toro’s insistence on an R rating. The release of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in 2012 didn’t help either, which boasts similarities to Lovecraft’s tale.
Will it ever happen? Earlier this year, he more or less confirmed that the project was dead. But at least there are more Ridley Scott Alien movies on the horizon, right? RIGHT?
5. Beauty and the Beast
What was it? In 2011, del Toro signed on to direct a live-action version of the classic fairy tale for Disney, but he dropped out three years later due to scheduling conflicts.
Will it ever happen? While it wasn’t directed by our guy, Bill Condon took on directorial duties and the film was released earlier this year to massive box office success. But if you want to see del Toro’s take on the story, The Shape of Water is close enough.
6. Blade 3
What was it? Following the success of one of the 51 best superhero movies ever made, Blade 2, New Line Cinema offered the Mexican maverick the opportunity to return for the third installment. However, he turned down the offer so he could focus on Hellboy.
Will it ever happen? Unfortunately for the franchise, David S. Goyer took over and the end result was 2004’s poorly-received Blade: Trinity.
What was it? In 2007, United Artists recruited del Toro to write, direct, and produce the sci-fi action film Champions, which would have been based on 1960’s British television series of the same name about crime fighting agents with superpowers.
Will it ever happen? Your guess is as good as mine. The last piece of news came in 2008 when it was announced that Christopher McQuarrie had taken over writing and directing duties. He’s focused on Mission: Impossible 6 for the time being, though.
8. Dark Universe
What was it? In a recent interview with TimesTalk, del Toro revealed that he was offered the chance to reboot Universal’s iconic monsters in the mid-2000’s. He regrettably turned it down. I’m also assuming this monster universe would have been ushered in with the Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reboots, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Van Helsing he was attached to as well.
Will it ever happen? Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t rule this out. At the time of writing, the future of the Dark Universe is up in the air and we have no idea what’s happening following the departures of Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. With Universal forced to return drawing board, it would be wise on their part to take advantage of del Toro’s regrets and offer him another chance at unleashing their monsters.
9. Domu: A Child’s Dream
What was it? In the late 90’s, del Toro expressed his desire to adapt a live-action film version of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga “Domu: A Child’s Dream.” He tried to resurrect the project again in the early 2000’s but wasn’t able to acquire the rights.
Will it ever happen? If he ever manages to successfully negotiate with frustrating Japanese lawyers, it’s entirely possible. As he told Anime News Network back in 2002, “The moment we have the rights I would go ahead and write it.” But that was 15 years ago, so at this point, it’s probably a dream.
What was it? In 2006, del Toro and Game of Thrones showrunner D.B. Weiss were actively working on a live-action adaptation of the popular sci-fi action video game series, with Peter Jackson on board as the executive producer. When that didn’t materialize, Neill Blomkamp signed on to direct — that didn’t work out either. To this day, we await a Halo movie.
Will it ever happen? A franchise that’s as popular as Halo is prime for milking, so I’m sure Hollywood still has plans for a film. It’ll probably happen at some point, even if del Toro isn’t involved. Fortunately, his experience working on the project was a positive one, so maybe he’d be open to resurrecting the project if the stars align. As he told IGN in 2012, “[We] were having a lot of fun with it.”
11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
What was it? You know this one, but let’s break it down anyway. Following Christopher Columbus’ departure from the Harry Potter franchise after directing the first two movies, del Toro was approached to helm the third installment. He turned it down, however, as the film marked a much darker tonal shift for the series and he didn’t feel confident about it.
Will it ever happen? It was already made into a pretty wonderful film by Alfonso Cuarón in 2004. Still, while unlikely for the foreseeable future, it would be nice to see del Toro grace the halls of Hogwarts someday.
What was it? Based on David Moody’s apocalyptic novel of the same title about a world gone violently mad, del Toro was on board to produce a film adaptation alongside Mark Johnson. The script was penned by The Shield’s Glen Mazzara and there were rumors circulating that The Orphanage’s J. A. Bayona was being lined up to direct.
Will we ever see it? There have been no announcements since, so presumably, the project has been canceled.
13. Hellboy 3
What was it? After Hellboy 2, del Toro was supposed to direct The Hobbit movies, which is perhaps one of the reasons as to why progress on Big Red’s swansong stalled. At the same time, while the first two films were moderately successful, rumor has it that Universal was reluctant to fund the planned third entry when del Toro tried to make it happen.
Will it ever happen? Nope. As we speak, a Neil Marshall reboot is currently in the works, which basically confirms a new direction for the franchise going forward.
14. Heavy Metal
What was it? In 2008, it was reported that David Fincher was spearheading a new Heavy Metal animated movie. The R rated sequel to the 1981 anthology would have seen del Toro direct a segment adapted from a story from the cult sci-fi magazine of the same name. Better yet (or worse), he would have been joined by Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski, Jack Black, and Tim Miller.
Will it ever happen? In 2011, Robert Rodriguez acquired the rights to the project with the intention of adapting it himself. The last we heard, though, he was planning on turning it into a television series for his El Rey network. Given Rodriguez’s friendship with del Toro and admiration for his work, it’s possible that he’d approach our Mexican magician to direct an episode.
15. I Am Legend
What was it? In 2005, Warner Bros. and Will Smith approached del Toro to direct the third film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic novel I Am Legend, which takes place in a world populated by vampires.
Will it ever happen? It already happened under the vision of Francis Lawrence in 2007, but del Toro’s influence on the film is evident. “Some of the notes about their biology actually came from me going to Warner Bros. to show them my ideas,” he revealed to ShortList. “I found it quite nice that visually the vampires in that movie had some passing similarity to those from my movie Blade II.”
What is it? The creative influence of del Toro extends across a variety of mediums beyond film and television — including video games. Insane was first announced at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards by del Toro in the form of a teaser trailer. The game, which would have been the first in a trilogy, promised to make players question their own morality and could have been gloriously disturbing. Unfortunately, the project was canceled due to publisher THQ’s financial burdens at the time.
Will it ever happen? The rights reverted back to del Toro afterward, so the ball is in his court.
17. Jabba the Hutt
What was it? When del Toro was approached by LucasFilm to pitch an idea for a Star Wars anthology movie, he proposed an intergalactic crime saga in the vein of Scarface and The Godfather chronicling Jabba’s ascension to don status.
Will it ever happen? Some ideas are just too good to be true, and this is one of them. But please God, make this happen.
18. Journey to the West
What was it? Back in 2011, Neil Gaiman wrote an adaptation of the Ming dynasty-era Chinese fantasy novel of the same name, and del Toro was courted to direct. The book follows a character named Wu Cheng’en as he journeys with a monk, a pig spirit, and a fish spirit to retrieve Buddha’s ancient scrolls.
Will it ever happen? The Monkey King, a series based on the novel, will premiere on Amazon next year, but del Toro isn’t involved.
19. Justice League Dark
What was it? In 2013, del Toro confirmed he was working on a live-action film adaptation of DC Comics’ “Justice League Dark”, featuring supernatural and horror-centric characters like Swamp Thing, Constantine, and Deadman (whom he also tried to adapt for a solo outing in 2009). On paper, it was the perfect project for del Toro’s sensibilities, but like most of the titles on this list, it wasn’t meant to be and he left the project in 2015.
Will it ever happen? Following Doug Liman’s departure earlier this year, Justice League Dark is currently in development without a director attached. That means it’s up for grabs again, and who knows if del Toro will reach out and catch it?
20. Marvel Cinematic Universe
What was it? In 2008, del Toro was being considered to direct a Thor film for Marvel Studios, which he wanted to root heavily in Norse mythology. However, he eventually walked away to focus his attention on The Hobbit. Then, in 2012, del Toro was in talks with Marvel Studios to make an Incredible Hulk TV series as part of their cinematic universe, which has been stuck in development hell since.
Will it ever happen? There’s some money to be made with a Hulk TV show. Maybe it’s being saved for Disney’s upcoming streaming service?
21. Mephisto’s Bridge
What was it? At one point, del Toro tried to adapt Christopher Fowler’s novel “Spanky” under the title Mephisto’s Bridge, which would have been a darkly comedic Faustian tale about a man who sells his soul in exchange for a devilish one.
Will it ever happen? This is another project that seems destined to go down in history as one that almost came to be. However, some of del Toro’s ideas from this one were repurposed for Hellboy 2. Still, if Satan is reading this list, he should know that I’m willing to sell my soul for a movie like this to be made.
What was it? In 2013, news broke that del Toro was developing a television series for HBO based on Naoki Urasawa’s manga “Monster”, which tells the story of a doctor and an evil 12-year-old sociopath.
Will it ever happen? I pray to the powers that this happens someday, but it’s another evaporated project that seems too good for this cruel world. In 2015, del Toro said his team were in the process of pitching it to other studios, but information has been kept close to his chest since. In the meantime, I highly recommend the incredible anime series to hold you over.
23. Nutshell Studies
What was it? In 2012, del Toro was working on a 50’s crime drama based on Corinne May Botz’s “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” at HBO with Southland writer Sara Gran.
Will it ever happen? In a nutshell: probably not. Given that it’s been five years since we last heard any news, it’s safe to presume that HBO didn’t greenlight the project.
What was it? In 2008, the Mexican director said he was developing a 3D, stop-motion animated Pinocchio film. The movie, based on Gris Grimly’s art of Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” would have been a much darker version of the children’s story set during the ascension of fascism in Italy.
Will it ever happen? When the project was brought up in a recent interview with IGN, del Toro gave an update on the project, confirming its current status as “not happening.” Let’s not get our hopes up too much about this one.
What was it? In 2007, del Toro was in talks to direct an adaptation of Tom Manning’s graphic novel “Runoff”, a tale set in a creepy old town that people can never leave once they enter.
Will it ever happen? Like the townsfolk in “Runoff”, this project is stuck in some kind of limbo. There hasn’t been a peep of news about this project since that announcement a decade ago.
What was it? In the mid-90’s, before he made Mimic, our boy approached the Game of Thrones mastermind George R. R. Martin about adapting his novelette “Sandkings.” However, the story was adapted as an episode of The Outer Limits in 1995 and the idea was scrapped.
Will it ever happen? I wouldn’t bet my house on this one as del Toro hasn’t shown interest in adapting it since, but never say never.
27. Saturn and the End of Days
What was it? At the 2008 New York Comic-Con, del Toro revealed that he would be making another horror movie featuring children, completing his unofficial trilogy following The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. Entitled Saturn and the End of Days, the film would have followed a young boy as he tried to survive the apocalypse.
Will it ever happen? This is another case of a project being announced and not moving forward at all. While we can’t rule it out if it’s something he wants to do still, I wouldn’t bet my children on it either.
28. Silent Hills
What was it? Silent Hills is a canceled survival horror video game that would have marked the ninth installment in the popular franchise, which del Toro was set to co-direct along with Hideo Kojima.
Will it ever happen? Given that this was the second game he was involved with not to materialize, the director has stated that he doesn’t intend to pursue any more gaming projects in future. But maybe he will if something concrete comes along.
What was it? Following Crimson Peak, del Toro unveiled plans to make a black and white vampire movie involving Mexican wrestlers and vampire politicians.
Will it ever happen? There’s a silver lining here and reason to rejoice… almost. Back in October, he revealed that the script was still in the development stages.
30. Slaughterhouse Five
What was it? In 2013, del Toro said that he wanted to adapt Kurt Vonnegut’s story Slaughterhouse Five, a time travel tale about a soldier living two lives simultaneously in different eras.
Will it ever happen? This is another project we can’t completely rule out, but the silence since that initial announcement suggests it’s not an immediate priority.
31. Sleepless Nights
What was it? Based on an original story by Grant Morrison which del Toro intended to direct, the film would have been set in a world where Halloween night was permanent, meaning all manner of creatures could roam the earth freely causing havoc. Basically, it would have been Groundhog Day with monsters.
Will it ever happen? Despite the pedigree of Morrison and del Toro, they struggled to bring the film to life back in 2008 after years of trying. With no news in over nine years, it doesn’t seem likely. I wouldn’t lose sleep over this one.
What was it? In 2006, he declared an interest in directing Warner Bros’ Tarzan movie. As reported by ComingSoon in 2006, del Toro said, “I’d love to create a new version that is still a family movie, but as edgy as I can make it… There are strong themes of survival of a defenseless child left behind in the most hostile environment.”
Will it ever happen? The movie became The Legend of Tarzan and it was released in 2016 without del Toro’s involvement.
33. The Bloody Benders
What was it? In 2012, del Toro and his company Necropia Entertainment teamed with Angryfilms to option a spec script penned by The Taking of Deborah Logan director, Andrew Lobitel. The story, which was set in 1873, was based on the real-life story of the Benders, a family of serial killers who ran a hotel in Kansas.
Will it ever happen? The similarities to Bates Motel probably put this one on the backburner at the time. Additionally, Bender, a film based on the family’s gruesome antics, was released last year.
34. The Exorcist: Verse 4, Chapter 1
What was it? Between Mimic and The Devil’s Backbone, del Toro pitched the idea of an Exorcist sequel set in the Vatican about a possessed child who murders a priest.
Will it ever happen? After his idea was rejected because the studio didn’t want any exorcisms in the movie, they parted ways and that was the last time they discussed the project. Nowadays, The Exorcist is enjoying a new lease of life on television, so part four is probably an afterthought at the moment.
35. The Haunted Mansion
What was it? In 2010, news emerged from the San Diego Comic-Con that del Toro was writing and producing a live-action movie inspired by the spooky Disney ride. He also said that it would be filmed in 3D and promised something fun and scary. In 2015, it was reported that Ryan Gosling was in talks to star, but developments have stalled since then.
Will it ever happen? Fear not — there is still life in this house of the dead. Last year, del Toro confirmed that he was still writing the script.
36. The Hobbit
What was it? In 2008, del Toro signed on to direct a two-part film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel. Del Toro envisioned the first film as a direct adaptation of the source material, with the second bridging the gap between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. But after spending two years in New Zealand working on pre-production, he left the project in 2010 due to shooting delays.
Will it ever happen? It’s unlikely considering Peter Jackson already directed three Hobbit movies. Let’s hope del Toro gets to visit Middle-Earth someday, though. Peter Jackson didn’t exactly blow everyone’s mind second time around.
37. The Killing on Carnival Row
What was it? A collaboration with his Pacific Rim cohort Travis Beacham, The Killing on Carnival Row was to be a feature film about a neo-Victorian city where mythical creatures have relocated to in order to escape their war-ravaged homeland.
Will it ever happen? Although del Toro is no longer involved in a direct capacity, the concept was re-envisioned as a television series by Beacham and Star Trek’s Rene Echevarria. Amazon ordered eight episodes earlier this year.
38. The Left Hand of Darkness
What is it? Back in 2002, del Toro announced that he was working on an adaptation of “The Count of Monte Cristo” to be called The Left Hand of Darkness, which he described as a “gothic western” on the scale of Sergio Leone.
Will it ever happen? Even though it’s been 15 years since the project was announced and no significant progress has been made since, it could also be a case of waiting for the right time. In 2008, he told Den of Geek that he was “very proud of the screenplay” but also found the project “daunting.” Hopefully, he’s still proud of it and feels more confident about tackling it now that he’s older and wiser.
39. The List of Seven
What is it? Based on Mark Frost’s 1993 occult detective mystery novel featuring famous literary figures like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. In del Toro’s 2013 book “Cabinet of Curiosities,” he included his own sketches of characters from the novel.
Will it ever happen? It’s surely only a matter of time before this is adapted for film or television by someone. It has all the right ingredients for a Holmesian-style supernatural mystery, but the last Sherlock Hplmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. might have stopped del Toro’s idea from happening.
40. The Orphanage
What was it? In 2007, it was announced that del Toro would serve as an executive producer on an American remake of the Spanish chiller The Orphanage, which he also produced. Larry Fessenden was being lined up to direct the feature, and, in 2011, Amy Adams was being touted to star.
Will it ever happen? The last shred of news came in 2013, stating that the remake was still happening at some point. The camp has been quiet since, but you can never ever rule out an English-language remake of a successful foreign horror film.
41. The Secret Garden
What was it? Back in 2013, it was announced that our boy was working alongside Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lucy Alibar to create an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel.
Will it ever happen? Rights to “The Secret Garden” were the subject of a bidding war between four studios at the time and the novel is extremely popular, it’s bound to happen eventually in one iteration or another.
42. The Wind in the Willows
What was it? Around 2003, del Toro was attached to helm a Disney animated adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1905 classic children’s novel. He left the project, however, due to creative differences with the powers that be after they asked him to change the personality of Toad, one of the story’s most iconic characters.
Will it ever happen? His experience with executives wasn’t the most positive, so if it were to happen they’d need to work hard to find common ground. If this interview with Rotten Tomatoes is any indication to go by, though, Disney’s vision for the movie far from aligns with his own.
43. The Witches
What was it? In 2008, del Toro expressed interest in making a stop-motion film remake of Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 fantasy The Witches, based Roald Dahl’s creepy children’s novel of the same name.
Will it ever happen? It’s been nearly 10 years since the last update, so presumably, the project has been canceled. But if The Witches taught us anything, it’s that sometimes magic happens.
44. The Wolverine
What was it? In 2012, del Toro entered negotiations with 20th Century Fox to direct The Wolverine. He wanted to set the story in Japan, but he chose to direct to Pacific Rim instead.
Will we ever see it? The film went to James Mangold and was released in 2013. That said, even if another opportunity presented itself to work in the X-Men universe, he probably wouldn’t be interested. As he told Collider in 2012, “I’m not a superhero guy. […] It’s one thing to like something and another to marry it for two, three years.”
What was it? There wasn’t a lot to this story, even at the time. In 2008, del Toro revealed that he was offered the chance to direct the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” and turned it down because he couldn’t imagine it as a movie.
Will it ever happen? The film was eventually directed by Zack Snyder and there is a TV series in the works over at HBO.