The worst thing that can ever happen to a movie at any stage in its production is for it to sink into the deepest pits of development hell. “Development hell” is an old Hollywood term that refers to a film that remains in the developmental stage of production for an elongated period of time, sometimes without ever reaching completion. This can happen for a number of reasons. A lead actor may exit the film halfway through production, a studio may acquire film rights to a project but may struggle to find a proper cast/crew to work on it, or major changes to a film’s script may end up prolonging development longer than expected. If a film and its production remain in development hell for too long, it usually ends up getting canceled and abandoned. That film could sit on a studio’s shelf for as long as a decade before getting picked up again, or it could remain there forever gathering dust. Whether the film gets canceled or not, halting production so drastically is always a detrimental inconvenience to the film.
This isn’t the case with all films that reached development hell. In fact, some films that reached those low depths went on to become huge successes. Shrek took years to finish due to the passing of original star Chris Farley and constant voice re-recordings and rewrites to the script, but it still went on to become a smash hit once it was finished. The same can be said for the Lord of the Rings films, which were in development since the mid-70s before Fellowship of the Ring was released. Similarly, there was once a time when Deadpool was so deep in development hell that people thought it would never reach the big screen before it went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. The list of films that have survived development hell can go on and on, but the list of films that never have and possibly never will make it past development hell runs even longer. Here are some examples.
As bizarre as it was to see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito play siblings in Twins, it would have been an even stranger sight to see Eddie Murphy in the mix as the pair’s brother for the proposed Triplets sequel. Sequel plans called for Murphy to be introduced as their long-lost brother once their mother died. Upon first hearing it, Murphy actually loved the idea and had a good laugh about it with DeVito. Though it started as merely an idea, the three have campaigned to make it happen in more recent years with Ivan Reitman as the director. Unfortunately, any hopes of a Triplets movie involving this odd trio were dashed as soon as Murphy revealed in a September 2016 interview that the film was no longer happening. Oddly enough, Schwarzenegger contradicted Murphy’s statements in an April 2017 interview by adding that not only were there still plans for a sequel, but there were hopes to start filming this year. However, these are just Arnie’s hopes. That doesn’t mean anything is likely to happen, especially for as long as the project has been in limbo. Plus, though Murphy himself hasn’t been in demand in Hollywood for years now, Arnie and DeVito both seem busy with their respective television commitments, The Apprentice and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The latter two may not have time to commit to a Twins sequel.
14. Hellboy 3
While not huge box-office smashes, both Hellboy films received enough acclaim and fanfare to earn a cult-like following. Accompanied by that following was a yearning for a second sequel, which hasn’t been easy to achieve. Perhaps, no one was more eager to get Hellboy 3 going than director Guillermo del Toro, who pulled out of directing The Hobbit to focus on getting Hellboy 3 made. Del Toro practically went through a five-year-long journey just to convince Legendary Pictures to fund the project. Even when del Toro did just that, it came with an ultimatum as in 2015, Legendary Pictures told del Toro they were willing to fund Hellboy 3 only if the sequel to Pacific Rim (which has been set for a 2018 release date) made at least $120 million at the box office. The original film’s cast, crew, and fans all hung on for dear hope that Hellboy 3 would happen, but it seems all that hope was in vain. As of February 2017, del Toro announced that he was 100% sure that the project was finally and officially dead.
13. Austin Powers 4
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a surprise hit that nobody expected to succeed as well as it did. The film’s two follow-ups, The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember, were even bigger hits at the box office. In the mid-2000s, Mike Myers announced that there were plans and an idea in place for a fourth Austin Powers film, this time focusing more on Dr. Evil. Shortly afterwards, he starred in The Love Guru, which was an absolute flop at the box office and effectively ended Myers’ movie career. Despite not having starred in a live action film since then, Myers remains adamant about producing another Austin Powers movie as he continues to write new drafts for the sequel and claims to have been negotiating with studios to get it made. As of now, though, it doesn’t seem like any progress has been made, and as long as Myers has the financial failure of The Love Guru as a stain to his name, studios are going to remain reluctant about giving the go-ahead on any Mike Myers film again. In short, don’t hold your breath on this one.
Halo is, without a doubt, one of the most profitable video game franchises in history. One would think that such an accolade in the gaming world would make it a prime candidate to be brought to the movie world. While that’s true, it hasn’t been easy getting Halo to the big screen. There have been several attempts to adapt Halo to film with little to no avail. The first Halo film was prepped in 2005 for Neill Blomkamp (director of District 9) to direct, but the project was dead by 2007. Another attempt was made in 2013 with plans for a Showtime series produced by Steven Spielberg, but talk of production has gone quiet in recent years. Halo continues to be increasingly difficult to bring to cinemas as each year progresses.
11. Beverly Hills Cop IV
In the mid-90s, it was announced that there were plans in place to release a fourth entry into Eddie Murphy’s highly successful Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Eventually, production quietly died out but then was resurrected in 2006 with new interest from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. In no time, a script was made and a director (Brett Ratner) was signed on by 2008. The film was set to come out in 2009, but production was stalled over reluctance from Judge Reinhold and John Ashton to return to the series. Murphy then would announce in 2011 that the sequel would not follow through in favor of creating a TV series sequel for CBS until CBS passed on it in 2013. Plans for a fourth film continued with hopes of filming to begin in January 2017, but this still didn’t take place. In addition to announcing that production on Triplets was dead in a September 2016 interview, Murphy also went on to add that plans for Beverly Hills Cop IV were dead as well. We might need to take Murphy’s word on this one.
10. Ghostbusters III
This entry is referring to the originally proposed sequel that planned to bring back the original Ghostbusters cast, not the recent all-female led reboot. Hollywood had been trying to produce a third Ghostbusters movie ever since Ghostbusters 2 wrapped up production in 1989. Everything that would’ve led to such a sequel ran into a number of roadblocks, the main one being Bill Murray‘s disinterest in doing any sequels. One draft of the proposed Ghostbusters 3 film sought to rectify this problem by killing off Murray in the first five minutes. According to Ivan Reitman, director of the first two Ghostbusters, this same draft would have also been used as a way for the older cast to pass the torch to a new, fresh-faced cast that would carry on an ongoing Ghostbusters franchise. This was likely how the sequel’s plot would have played out, but just as Sony agreed to the deal and gave the go-ahead to start production, Harold Ramis died. Without Ramis, the original cast was no longer interested in a Ghostbusters film of any kind. Still, Sony wanted to continue production on a new Ghostbusters movie anyway and decided to reboot the whole thing with Paul Feig in the director’s chair, a new female cast, and cameos from the three remaining main stars of the original cast. This was the remake we got in 2016.
Akira was a 1989 cult anime hit based on a successful manga series of the same name. Dating as far back as 2002, Hollywood has been prepping to release a live-action adaptation of the film. 2002 is when Warner Bros. bought the film rights to Akira. Since then, directors like George Miller, Justin Lin, and Christopher Nolan — as well as actors like Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Fassbender — have all been attached to the project, but some of these big names have had to drop out during pre-production because of other commitments. Now, it’s 2017, and there has been no progress on the live-action film whatsoever. The last anyone heard of the project was last year when manga series creator Katsuhiro Otomo claimed that there had been discussions to create an anime television series out of Akira, which seems to suggests any Hollywood aspirations for Akira is as good as dead. Judging from the project’s history, it might stay that way for good this time.
8. Galaxy Quest 2
Since it was released in 1999, the sci-fi parody Galaxy Quest has emerged beyond the veil of time as something of a cult classic, so much so that fans were once eager to see members of the NSEA Protector return for a sequel. That wish almost came to fruition as there were talks to create a sequel ever since the first film’s box office success. Nothing serious came out of these talks until 2014 when Tim Allen revealed that a script for the proposed sequel had been finished. Then, in 2015, Paramount decided to create a television series sequel through Amazon Studios. The move was quite close to production, and the original cast was ready to sign on for it until Alan Rickman‘s sudden death in 2016. The passing of Rickman — as well as Allen’s own hectic and busy television schedule — halted production on anything sequel-related to Galaxy Quest and the sequel’s status has remained as such ever since.
7. Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2
In 1989, Who Framed Roger Rabbit opened in theaters to massive critical and financial success. This amusing mixture of comedy, fantasy, animation, and neo-noir was a hit with critics and audiences alike, so much so that Disney and Steven Spielberg thought it was a no-brainer to go forward with a sequel, although writers struggled to stick to formulate a proper follow-up as numerous scripts were written between 1989 and 1999. This decade-long project persisted until Spielberg walked away from the project when he became more focused on establishing his new DreamWorks Studios. The sequel was more or less dead until 2009 when the original film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, expressed interest in the sequel and put the original film’s writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman to task on writing the sequel. Bob Hoskins once admitted to being interested in returning for the sequel, but had to retire from acting in 2012 after becoming afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, which would kill him in 2014. Though Zemeckis said that he was open to creating a digital version of Hoskins for the sequel, he also admitted that current Disney studio management had no interest in a Roger Rabbit sequel.
Mordecai Richler’s The Incomparable Atuk is a novel about an Inuit (or an Eskimo as it’s more commonly known) who moves to Toronto and quickly adopts the city’s bourgeoisie values. Hollywood has been trying to adapt the story to film, but along the way, pre-production has been a dire chore for anyone attached to get through. After director Norman Jewison purchased film rights to the novel, he planned to start production after he was finished filming Jesus Christ Superstar. John Belushi was signed on in 1982 and enthusiastic to star in the picture, but died mere months later. He was replaced by Sam Kinison in 1988 but left after creative disputes with the studio. Kinison would pass away shortly after. Then, John Candy was interested in taking the newly vacant lead part but died before production began. The same was the case for Chris Farley, and after that, the studio gave up on looking for a new lead. Atuk has long been linked to having a curse that befell all of these actors, and if a curse truly does exist, then it’s probably best that the project remains, for lack of a better word, dead.
5. The Crow Remake
No remake has gone through such a chaotic production as The Crow. Just about every actor in Hollywood was either in contention for the lead part or got the part but dropped out at the last minute. Bradley Cooper, Mark Wahlberg, Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, and Jack Huston, among others, all had signed on for The Crow only to drop out shortly afterward. The same can be said for the countless number of directors who had signed on and suddenly dropped out of helming the film. What also stalled production on the film was the bankruptcy of the film’s studio, Relativity Media. As of now, Jason Momoa is set to star, and Corin Hardy set to direct. However, Momoa is expected to drop out as he’s busy playing Aquaman for the DC Cinematic Universe while Hardy is expected to drop out due to creative and schedule conflicts. It seems like the production on this remake is cursed and might be better off closing shop for good now before things get worse.
4. Kurt Cobain Biopic
In the wake of his tragic death, the public image of Kurt Cobain became the sort of enigma that Hollywood was keen on bringing to the big screen. Given the kind of influence and attention Cobain himself, his music, and his death inspired, it makes sense why Hollywood was so interested in creating a biopic about his life. Not too long ago, they wanted to adapt the Cobain-centric book Heavier than Heaven in order to bring Cobain’s life to film. James McAvoy and Ryan Gosling were in contention for the lead role until production stalled because of the studio’s dissatisfaction with the script. Then, 2015 saw two major Kurt Cobain productions released into theaters, one being the less-than-favorable docudrama Soaked in Bleach and the other being critically-acclaimed documentary Montage of Heck. Getting two Cobain movies in one year helped decrease interest in a Cobain biopic for the near future. Unless the owner of the Cobain estate, daughter Frances Bean, decides it’s time to make another film about her dad, hopes for a Cobain biopic might just remain in development hell.
3. At the Mountains of Madness
Notable American author H.P. Lovecraft was known for producing shocking horror stories that were adapted into even more shocking movies, such as Re-Animator and From Beyond. One novella which Hollywood has been anxious on adapting for quite some time is At the Mountains of Madness, which follows a group of explorers that discover an ancient city in Antarctica, as well as its otherworldly inhabitants. It’s a surreal and spine-tingling tale that horror director Guillermo del Toro has been keen on making ever since the early 2000s. He struggled to get a studio to finance the project until Tom Cruise and James Cameron were intrigued enough to jump onboard. The project was greenlit by Universal Studios and set to commence filming during the summer of 2011, but Universal backed out when they learned that del Toro was not willing to sacrifice the R-rated nature of his script in favor of releasing a more PG-13-friendly version. Universal wanted to hold on to the project until interest piqued again, which it did in 2012, but paused the project again to avoid releasing a movie similar to the recently released Prometheus. Del Toro said he wanted to try once more to get this thing made, but he said that back in 2013. Considering it’s now four years later and there’s been no word on the adaptation, it’s safe to say that the project truly is unfilmable.
2. Rendezvous with Rama
Readers may recognize the name Arthur C. Clarke as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which went on to become one of Stanley Kubrick‘s several cinematic masterpieces. Clarke had another film-worthy literary masterpiece under his belt in 1973 when he finished writing Rendezvous with Rama. The novel follows a group of astronauts who make contact with alien lifeforms and tells of the disaster that comes from the encounter. The plot was interesting enough to catch the attention of Morgan Freeman, who tried to get the film made in 2003 with himself in the lead role and David Fincher in the director’s chair. However, failure to procure proper funding and Freeman’s own ailing health put the project in indefinite limbo. In 2012, Freeman confirmed that playing the lead captain of Rendezvous was still a personal dream of his and a goal that he was determined to achieve. However, it’s been five years since he set that, and an adaptation of Clarke’s work has yet to go into production.
1. A Confederacy of Dunces
A Confederacy of Dunces is a comic novel released in 1980, eleven years after the suicide of the novel’s writer, John Kennedy Toole. It became an overnight success, earning Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. Hollywood figured that this kind of success should translate well into cinematic gold, but that wasn’t the case. In 1982, Harold Ramis was set to write the adaptation while John Belushi was signed on to star, but Belushi died before production began. John Candy and Chris Farley were tapped to play the lead, but both died before negotiations were in place. Since then, a number of high-profile names — like directors Steven Soderbergh, David Gordon Green, and John Waters and actors John Goodman, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, and Stephen Fry — have been attached to trying to get this adaptation made, but to no avail. Soderbergh thinks the project might be cursed, which could explain why, as of now, there are no current plans to bring A Confederacy of Dunces to the big screen.
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