How films come about is one of the most interesting aspects in the movie industry, but it’s also one of the most unknown. There’s a number of reasons why these stories are kept away from fans, but one of them is surely that this part of the process can be a bit messy. Films very rarely come out as a finished product the same way that they were conceptualized. Some films are the result of multiple films being blended together seamlessly, others are just mashed together. Some have a major skeleton and borrowed ideas are added later to flesh them out. One of the most interesting occurrences, and the one that we’re most interested in here, is when a script or a concept is repurposed and made into another film altogether. As you’ll see by this list, sometimes the original film script or concept is intended to be a sequel to another film. For whatever reason, the studios decided against the sequel, but, instead of trashing the concept altogether, they reused the script and changed the names and places, turning into a completely unique, albeit similar, movie.
The best part of this exercise is in imagining how the films would be different if they stayed a sequel. Are they so similar to original film that we could just change the names of the characters and it would fit in perfectly as a sequel? By comparing these films, can we see how lazy Hollywood is or how creative? Well, the answers to these questions run the entire gamut. You’ll hate Hollywood then gain a new respect for them and then go back to hating them again. Prepare for a roller coaster ride better than anything you’ve ever experienced. Unless you’ve been on a real roller coaster because this probably isn’t as good as that.
15. Minority Report
When Total Recall was in the scripting process, the planned director was David Cronenberg not Paul Verhoeven, as it came to be. Cronenberg and a writing team that included Ronald Shusett sat down and got to work crafting a film that would have been much closer to the Philip K. Dick source material. After facing resistance to making the film he wanted, Cronenberg left the film and Verhoeven took over, keeping some elements from Cronenberg’s concept, such as Martian mutants. After Total Recall’s success, the team got to work on a sequel that would adapt another Philip K. Dick story, Minority Report. The connection would be that after the events of Total Recall, it was realized that Martian mutants had the gift of precognition. Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) would start up the pre-crime division with mutants as the precogs and solve crimes before they happen.
While the script for the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Cyborg, was technically original, most of the costumes and sets were built for other films. The plan was to make a sequel to Masters of the Universe and a live-action Spider-Man movie. Canon Films had the rights to both of these franchises, so they started building everything, spending $2 million on the production. But, when they found themselves in money problems, they were forced to cancel the deals with Mattel and Marvel. The director for both films, Albert Pyun, had already dug his heels in, so he was in a pickle. To fix it, he sat down one weekend and wrote a new script that incorporated all of the elements he had already designed and built. Literally, it only took him one weekend to write Cyborg. They then went out and shot the film in 23 days, Van Damme stabbed one of the actors in the eye and was sued for damages, and the film was horrible.
13. The Hateful Eight
Like some of the other entries on this list, there’s been a lot of misleading stories about how Hateful Eight came about. Though he’s gone back and forth on the topic a bit, after Quentin Tarantino finished with Django Unchained, he set out to write a novel that would work alongside the film, like a sequel in book form, called Django in White Hell. As he put pen to paper, however, Tarantino realized that the Django character didn’t fit into the story, so he cut him and The Hateful Eight was born. “All of a sudden it hit me,” Tarantino said. “The only thing wrong [with the story] was Django. There should be no moral center. I thought it should be a room of bad guys, and you can’t trust a word anybody says.”
The story of how the somewhat recently released film, Solace, was born from a planned sequel for Se7en is a bit muddied, but we’ll trek through it for you. So Se7en is released. It’s a huge hit. David Fincher becomes a hero. The studios then ask him if he wants to do sequel. He says hell no. Then, seven years later, in 2002, a spec script shows up called Solace. The studio sees this script as a possible converted sequel. It’s a story about a retired psychic doctor working with a cop to solve a series of murders. They could turn this into a sequel for Se7en, potentially titled Ei8ht, with some small changes. Now this has evolved into people believing that Morgan Freeman’s character from Se7en would be a psychic in the pitched sequel, like in the Solace script, but that’s not true. They were planning on turning the retired psychic doctor into the now-retired intelligent cop that Freeman was to play. It never worked out, so they simply left the script closer to what it was in the first place and cast Anthony Hopkins as the psychic doctor. Predictably, this movie sucked.
11. Die Hard
The stories about how Die Hard came about have been butchered to the point of lunacy. The truth of the entire thing is actually more crazy than most of the mistruths combined. Back in 1966, Roderick Thorp wrote the novel, The Detective. Two years later, the book was adapted into a film of the same name and it starred Frank Sinatra. Then, in 1979, Thorpe wrote a sequel to The Detective, called Nothing Lasts Forever. Fox had the rights to the original and any sequels, so they planned to adapt this book to film as well. The catch here was that Sinatra still had contractual film rights to play the character, so Fox had to offer the part to him. Luckily for all of us, Sinatra said, “I’m too old and too rich to act anymore.” Rumors sprang up about how then the studio tried to turn this into Commando 2, but that has been rejected as nothing more than a rumor. Instead of making it a sequel to The Detective, Fox changed the name to Die Hard, changed the hero’s name to John McClane, and started one of the most influential action franchises in film history.
When Oliver Megaton, director of Colombiana, the action film starring Zoe Saldana, was asked about how this film got started, he revealed something that made perfect sense (even if we don’t want to accept it). The script for Colombiana was meant to be a sequel to Leon: The Professional. For many years, fans were hoping to get a sequel of the much beloved Leon, hoping to see a grown-up Mathilda (Natalie Portman) make a comeback. It never did happen. At least, not the way we hoped. “Ten years ago we decided to make Mathilda,” said Megaton. “Which was the Professional sequel, but we couldn’t do it because of the evolution of a lot of things – about Natalie, about [original film’s distributor] Gaumont. Luc [Besson, the original’s director] tried to do this movie again and again—he proposed it to me 12 years ago. But when we decided to change the script and to make another movie with a revenge story like Mathilda, he had to give up everything about Mathilda.” Sadly, this meant giving up everything they knew about making a good movie too.
The movie Predator started as a joke more than a planned sequel, but it’s such a great story that everyone deserves to know about it. After Rocky IV, writers Jim and John Thomas heard a joke that Rocky would have to fight aliens if they ever planned to make fifth movie. Using this as their platform, they set about writing a script in which a bad ass went out and fought aliens in the jungle. This evolved into a script about a team of special forces being taken down one by one by an alien, titled Hunter. Instead of Sly Stallone, they got Arnold Schwarzenegger and the world got “Get to the Choppa!”
This is another one of those, sequel but not really a sequel entries. We included the Ivan Retiman directed film, Evolution, in this list because it is very clearly a spiritual sequel to Ghostbusters 1 and 2, but not many people talk about it. Now, we’re not saying that this film ever was intended to be Ghostbusters 3, but it might as well have been. We’ve heard about all the possible Ghostbusters 3 scripts and this isn’t ever discussed as one of them, but, if you’ve seen this film, you’ve noticed the resemblances. Evolution is based on a Don Jakoby story, but it was given a major Ghostbuster treatment before it was filmed. Since Reitman’s chances of ever getting a third Ghostbusters film off the ground were all but gone in 2001, it appears like he tried to reboot the series with Evolution. He copies characters, reuses the same tropes and essentially just replaces ghosts with aliens. It’s not a great film, so we tend to forget about it, but we’re including it as a would-be sequel anyways.
7. The Collector
In the beginning, the script that would become The Collector, was called The Midnight Man. The team behind the Saw movies got their hands on the script and thought it might make for a good prequel to the Jigsaw story. The elements are definitely similar, but it was eventually passed. “Well, the story is that Leigh [Whanell] didn’t want to do any more [Saw movies] after 3,” said co-writer Patrick Melton. “So, they were looking for writers. They didn’t have much of a story for 4, and an executive over at Twisted read The Midnight Man and thought it could be a good prequel, explaining a traumatic incident that happened to John Kramer when young. Mark [Burg] and Oren [Koules] didn’t want to do a prequel like that, so the idea got squashed, but the script as a sample is what got us the deal to write Saw 4, 5 and 6.” Instead, the script was kept largely intact and turned into The Collector, which has become a solid series on its own.
6. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Although E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, was originally planned to be a spiritual successor to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and not a true sequel, it’s here because it’s a good story. At first, Steven Spielberg and John Sayles started working on a follow-up sci-fi/horror film called Night Skies. This story involved a bunch of aliens terrorizing a family, with one friendly alien befriending one of the children. In the final scene for this proposed concept, the friendly alien is abandoned by the other mean aliens on Earth. This, in turn, led to another film concept, a much more family-friendly film that had nothing to do with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, called E.T. and Me in the beginning. After a few revisions and Columbia Pictures passing on the film, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was born.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
We thought it would be interesting to look at one example in which a sequel (of sorts) was made from a completely unrelated story. This is the case for 10 Cloverfield Lane, the kind-of-sequel to Cloverfield, which was developed from the script The Cellar. Here’s why this one is so neat. In the original script, there’s no aliens. It’s basically a question of was there or wasn’t there a nuclear attack? If that film is made, the viewer is left guessing if the world is broken outside or not, asking the same question the protagonist is. Good but not great. By bringing The Cellar into the world of Cloverfield. The viewer knows outside is bad. We’ve witnessed monsters attacking and we can believe it. We also know inside is bad. This means the audience is forced to choose between two known evils, paralleling the decision for those who suffer from domestic abuse. There’s safety and comfort at home, despite the potential for violence. It turns the film from a basic mystery to a brilliant metaphor between choosing the devil you know and the devil you don’t.
4. Speed 2: Cruise Control
After Speed was finished, pretty much everyone involved saw it as a one and done film. There was no need for a sequel and, truthfully, no potential for one. But Speed was super successful, so the studios started moving forward with a follow-up, meaning director Jan de Bont was contractually obligated to return. Going on at the same time, the Die Hard team was working hard at finding a story for the third entry in their franchise, Die Hard With a Vengeance. They picked up a James Haggin spec script called Troubleshooter about a cruise ship filled with terrorists. Though the people involved liked it, many, including Bruce Willis, felt it was too close to Steven Seagal’s Under Siege. This led them to dump the script, which was then picked up by the Speed 2 people and reworked to fit within their “runaway vehicle” theme.
3. Ghosts of Mars
It takes a special type of horrible to make a legend quit the game, and that’s exactly what Ghosts of Mars was, the movie that made John Carpenter leave Hollywood for a decade. If you ever felt like Ghosts of Mars seemed like it was made without any plan or direction, you’re pretty much right. Initially, Carpenter planned on making a third Snake Plissken (Kurt Russel) movie, but since Escape from L.A. bombed, he was forced to abandon the idea. Instead of making an entirely new movie, though, Carpenter just reworked the Escape from Mars script into Ghosts of Mars. The result is pretty laughable.
2. The Frighteners
Back when the Tales from the Crypt TV series was huge, the studios planned to have a trilogy of films. The first film, Demon Knight was released in 1995, followed by Bordello of Blood in 1996. The producer, Robert Zemeckis had plans to release the third film Ritual, later on, but they had their eyes open for any other ideas. In this search, Zemeckis saw Peter Jackson’s pitch for a Tales From the Crypt film, called The Frighteners. It’s unclear whether he ever wanted to see it as a Crypt film because Bordello of Blood had just bombed, so they canned all future Crypt films. Still, The Frighteners script was loved by Zemeckis, so they decided to make it into a standalone film.
Though it’s completely unofficial and only really a spiritual successor, John Carpenter’s Halloween can, and in some circles is, considered to be a sequel to Black Christmas. So, the year is 1974, Bob Clark does Black Christmas and it almost single-handedly creates the slasher genre. Four years later, Carpenter, who was hugely influenced by that film, makes Halloween. Apparently, in between those two films, there was some discussion between the two directors. “I never intended to do a sequel [to Black Christmas],” Clark said, “I did a film about three years later… started a film with John Carpenter. It was his first film for Warner Bros. He asked me if I was ever going to do a sequel and I said no. I was through with horror; I didn’t come into the business to do just horror. He said, ‘Well what would you do if you did do a sequel?’ I said it would be the next year and the guy would have actually been caught, escape from a mental institution, go back to the house, and they would start all over again. And I would call it Halloween.”