Cinema throughout time has brought us many great films, but what of the ones that fell afoul of budget problems, studio interference or were unfinished due to the untimely death of a director or star? Below is a list of some of these movies, many of which, if completed could of stood head to toe with some of the greats.
David Lynch’s ‘Return Of The Jedi’
Shortly after completing The Elephant Man’ cinemas most progressive and perverse director David Lynch was offered the position of spearheading the third film in the Star Wars Trilogy, even ahead of George ‘Mr Star Wars’ Lucas. The notoriety Lynch had gained from Eraserhead had caught the eye of many studios, hoping to nurture the talent he had so far shown. Lynch’s dark brooding style could well off added a much needed, darker edge, continuing from where The Empire Strikes Back had finished. If anything you can be assured it wouldn’t of featured so many damn Ewoks. However when offered the job in 1982 he declined claiming it to be, “a Lucas’ thing” instead deciding to work on an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The source material however proved to be too much to condense into a 120 minute runtime leaving many of Dune’s fans unsatisfied.
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’
Jodorowsky was the first choice to direct Dune before Lynch. Production was already well under way, with many personnel already attached. Firstly Salvador Dali was signed on to star, a big name for a project that relied on source material that although greatly revered by its fans, had never broken into the mainstream. Another interesting potential addition to Jodorowsky’s crew was the rumour that Pink Floyd had agreed to do the soundtrack. However neither of these big names where what many believed could have turned Dune into a classic, this lays solely with H.R Geiger who had been handled the task of art duties. His vision of the Harkonen world could easily of turned Dune from a cheesy Sci-fi joke to something in the same league as Alien, after all, his unused work was later snapped up to be used in that very film. The project though was too huge and it never happend due to budget problems and script issues. Imagine if it had though, a mix of the original with all the sets that made Alien the classic it is today, combined with one of the most psychedelic soundtracks possible at that time.
Orson Welles & Terry Gilliams ‘Don Quixote’
Orson Welles left a myriad of unfinished works during his 50 years in cinema, however Don Quixote was his most enduring passion. The same could be said Of Gilliam, and anyone who’s watched the documentary Lost In La Mancha would agree with this. Both directors at some point had begun filming their epic. Welles was first though and filmed throughout the 1950s in Mexico, Spain and Italy bringing together cast and crew whenever he could raise finances. So was his obsession that he still spoke of completing the film months before his death in 1985.
Both Directors seemed interested in this great literary pieces idea of the dated virtue of chivalry and the central characters hopeless quest to maintain it. An idea they both seemed to be relevant to their own times.
Gilliam and Welles both completed countless storyboards and shot numerous scenes of their Don Quixotes. Gilliam even enlisted the acting skills of Johnny Depp to add some much needed ‘box office appeal’ to his project, yet it seemed that the curse of Don Quixote was to affect him in much the same way it had Welles. Welles work though did eventually see the light of day in the hastily restored version put together by Jess Franco in 1992, however it didn’t appease any of Welles audience who were resigned to never seeing the film. It was received in revulsion, only revealing occasional glimpses of Welles’s brilliance, and left audiences even more hurt that the project was never completed.
Some though see the worse thing about Don Quixote being the effect it had on Welles’s other work. He indiscriminately accepted other films in order to finance his epic, this was no truer than when at the end of editing Touch of Evil he rushed off to Mexico to film more shots for Don Quixote, with Universal studies taking advantage of this and radically re-editing his dark noir.
However disappointing it seems that neither of these film every saw the light of day, it seems best that no one ever attempt to follow on where both Welles and Gilliam failed, the curse of Don Quixote seems to strong. I’d like to blame it for the poor showing of Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm however I might be over reaching a little bit here.
Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon
One of cinemas, all time greats has also found himself on this list. Kubrick great passion was to make an epic film about the French general. He had even decided on Jack Nicholson off all people to play the historic figure after seeing him in Easy Rider.
He began work on this ambitious biography of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1968, a lifelong obsession of Kubrick, he planned to cover the entire life of Napoleon with full scale reconstructions of his battles, which would of required, he believed, some 50,000 extras, Kubrick had even manged to get the Romanian army to agree to provide 10,000 troupes for the battle scenes.
Kubrick worked on the film for two years, like his previous works he immersed himself completely researching every area of the Napoleonic era, compiling a catalogue of no more than 15,000 images of the period.
However Napoleon never got made. MGM balked at the cost of the epic and combined with the box office failure of Sergei Bondarchuk’s Waterloo pulled out. This resulted in Kubrick moving to Warner Brothers, where he never got to finish Napoleon either, but instead did make A Clockwork Orange. If he had been successful in making Napoleon perhaps we would never have seen his interpretation of Antony Burgess novel. Kubrick eventually used his research in 1975 to make Barry Lyndon regarded by many as his most personal film.
When word first broke off the Batman franchise resurfacing a whole list of directors where rumored to be attached before Christopher Nolan finally got the nod. No one can say he wasn’t the best choice, both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have breathed new life into what had quickly become a dying franchise, regaining some of the credibility the caped crusader had lost thanks to poor sequals to the Tim Burton films and nipples on the Bat suit.
Before Nolan had been chosen the studio turned to Frank Miller himself and a young director who was currently hot property after his breakthrough hit Requiem For A Dream, Darren Aronofsky. It’s unknown how far Miller and Aronofsky got with their interpretations but the latter was once quoted as describing his take on the film as having “an urban, guerilla flavor” along the lines of such films as The French Connection complete with an ‘R’ rating.
The most notable difference from the Batman films we now know was Aronofskys screwball direction regarding the plot. It focused on an orphaned Bruce Wayne, raised by Alfred in Wayne Manor. Wandering the streets the young Bruce is taken in by an auto mechanic, working in the seedier parts of Gotham by the name ‘Big Al’. Here he grows up watching the violence that plagues the streets of the city he was once hidden from, growing angry and determined to change things.
Aronofsky was also rumoured to want to shot the film in black and white, solely on handheld cameras to give the film a grittier look. Fans of the Batman franchise were undoubtedly excited by this new approach, however the studio were unsure, not convinced that there would be much add on sales from merchandise for an ‘R’ rated film that was both too violent and too ‘artistic’
Dan Aykroyd has been desperate for another Ghostbuster sequal for over a decade. Not surprising considering the actors distinct lack of work over the last ten years. He had written a script entitled Ghostbusters: Hellbentl before linking up with co-writer Harold Ramis and re naming the project Ghostbusters In Hell. The plot focused around the Ghostbusters crew winding up in a version of New York that only exists in Hell. As time went by though the script changed. As the actors grew older the plot became less plausible. Accommodating this they introduced new, younger comedy allstars, apparently including Ben Stiller, to play newly hired ghostbusters.
The main reason it didn’t get made? Well apparently it all leads to Bill Murray. The actor didn’t want to get involved. He had been very vocal about how unpleased he was with how the second movie had turned out. Ever since then he has dedicated himself to making more serious movies (not too sure how this involves Garfield!) He has been reported as saying that although special effects are fun to watch, they’re not so much fun to act with. It appears the aging star was not interested in filming scene after scene infront of green screens covered in slime.
Whilst on the subject, before the original Ghostbusters, Reitman, Murray and Aykroyd were in talks about making a version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the idea though was scrapped when Aykroyd came up with the idea for Ghostbusters.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Kaleidoscope
Hitchcock’s career wasn’t always the success many remember. In the mid sixties he was suffering from something of a low ebb following the failures of both Marnie and Torn Curtain. It was at this time that he began working on what could have been a remarkable experimental film that would have been a radical change in his, till then basic style.
Kaleidoscope was the story of a serial killer and rapist, initially some kind of prelude to Shadow of a Doubt. Using story details from infamous UK criminal cases including an acid bath murderer and necrophilia. This was certainly going to be his darkest movie to date. However the films ‘darkness’ was its undoing, with even Hitchcock believing it to be too frightening for most audiences, especially with most of the film being told form the murderers perspective, shot on handheld camera and using only natural light. (Hitchcock, later decided to also make the central character gay).
The studios believed the whole thing to be too ‘ugly’ and refused to release it, the only thing that remains of Kaleidoscope is an hour long tape of silent footage.
Finally a film that never really stood a chance, but one which many cinephiles would kill to see; A James Bond film directed by cult hero Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino admits to offering up his services to do a Bond film. The studio however turned him down, seeing his involvement as too drastic a new direction for the franchise to take, believing that life long Bond fans would be not happy, Shame.
Lost In La Mancha (Don Quixote):