Films can stay on the table for a long time before getting made, or could end up on the cutting room floor before they’ve even been cast. These five never made it, but God I wish they did...
David Lynch’s Star Wars
It’s fair to say that David Lynch is one of the most captivating and interesting directors working today, and maybe of all time. After producing a few shorts, his first feature was the bizarre, near wordless, experimental masterpiece Eraserhead. He then followed it up with The Elephant Man, a pretty conventional melodrama with standout performances from Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt, and if George Lucas had had his way, Lynch’s third movie would have been Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi.
Imagine that, if you will, David Lynch making Star Wars, maybe turning it into a solipsistic narrative in which Luke Skywalker realises that this universe exists only in his mind, he’s been talking to a brick wall for the past two films, the lightsabre he’s holding is a dead fish and when Darth Vader says that he is his father, it actually means he’s his own father. When Luke finds this out, he throws up his guts, brain and arse. Something like that, anyway. Unfortunately for us, and the rest of the film world, David Lynch said that after meeting with George Lucas and being shown around his ranch and the early concept art for the film, that there would be “absolutely no way” he would make it. He made Dune instead, the extended television version of which irked Lynch so much that he made use of the infamous Alan Smithee credit, a Hollywood standby for directors who want to cover up their crap.
Guillermo Del Toro’s The Hobbit
Now firmly in production and scheduled for a release in December this year, The Hobbit has been somewhat cursed. First there were issues with distribution and production rights, then legal battles with Tolkien’s estate, then an industrial dispute in New Zealand which led to talk of production being moved to Eastern Europe. Even now that it has been finished, early test screenings were not good, with critics saying that Jackson’s decision to film 48 frames per second has led to some shoddy visuals, more akin to TV or a HD home movie. Oh, how it could have been so different...
Guillermo Del Toro was first approached to work on The Hobbit, but left after the scheduling conflicts became too much to bare. In terms of casting, names like Ron Perlman, Brian Blessed and Ian McShane were considered, while in terms of story Del Toro said that the film would begin as innocent and pastoral before slowly descending into darkness. In researching the film Del Toro rifled through old World War I documentaries, believing that Tolkien’s time at war strongly influenced the original novel. Del Toro’s vision would surely have been in the same mould as Pan’s Labyrinth, a nightmarish fairytale with an equal focus on dark realism and political turmoil. It remains to be seen whether Peter Jackson’s will stand up to the legacy he has created with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Kevin Smith’s Superman
Podcaster, weed advocate, raconteur, comic book geek and all round nice guy was approach to write a script for Superman in the mid 90s, when the script for Chasing Amy was doing the rounds. On paper it’s a choice that made perfect sense, picking a strong dialogue writer with a huge interest in comic books to write a story for the most iconic comic book character of all time. However, the producer attached to the project, John Peters, had different ideas about the direction he wanted Superman to go in...
So, firstly, John Peters wanted to cast Sean Penn as Superman, saying that he had the eyes of a “violent caged animal”... this is for the Superman movie now, not the biopic of Charles Manson. Secondly, Peters didn’t want Superman to wear a suit. Thirdly, he didn’t want him to fly, and fourthly, and perhaps the oddest directive Smith had to adhere to, Superman had to fight a giant spider in the third act of the film. Now, Smith was dropped from the project when Tim Burton (this gets fucking worse), who brought his own writers, was attached to direct, but unsurprisingly the film never saw the light of the day. However, there is an interesting post script to this story involving the next film John Peters was at the helm of, a little Will Smith vehicle called Wild Wild West, and what happens in the third act of Wild Wild West? Giant spider. Jesus.
John Peters wanted to cast Sean Penn as Superman, saying that he had the eyes of a “violent caged animal”
M. Night Shymalan’s Harry Potter
Here’s some interesting facts about M. Night Shymalan: He gave himself the middle name “Night” (bellend), he co-wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little, and for a time it was thought that he would be the one charged with opening up the biggest franchise in movie history, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It never came about because it clashed with the making of Unbreakable, which itself was supposed to spawn two sequels that never got made, principally due to the fact that the first one was shit. Even after though Shymalan expressed an interest in directing another of the Harry Potter films, where presumably he’d make everyone whisper to create tension, cast himself somewhere in Hufflepuff’s Quidditch team and end the film with some fucking ridiculous twist that you only didn’t see coming because nobody with half a brain would think of it.
Peter Jackson’s Fight Club
And so we’ve come full circle, back to the beardy Kiwi that is Peter Jackson, who it turns out was first choice to direct Fight Club. That’s right. Somebody thought that a dark, visceral satire of consumerism and commercialisation should be directed by the guy that did Heavenly Creatures. Staying with that film for a moment, Russell Crowe was initially approached to play Tyler Durden, whilst Matt Damon and Sean Penn were both considered for Edward Norton’s character. It really is a wonder how anything good ever gets made, ever.