For every big money flop that hits the big screen every year, there are probably hundreds that never get made for one reason or another. Most of them we'll never even hear about, but here are 5 never-made potential classics that are revered in an alternate reality.
1. Gladiator 2: Christ Killer
Actor-musician-novelist-screenwriter Nick Cave wrote an insane draft screenplay for the potential sequel to Ridley Scott's adored revenge period drama Gladiator. Right now you're probably asking: "how do you make a sequel to a film where the main character dies?". It's a good question, and one that Cave asked his friend and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe when the actor asked him to turn in a script. Crowe's response was simple: "yeah, you sort that out."
And sort it out he did! You might be forgiven for thinking a script penned by goth-rocker Cave - whose other scripts include brutal prison drama Ghosts...of the Civil Dead and dark Aussie western The Proposition - would be grounded, gritty and violent. Cave's Gladiator 2 certainly hit the mark on the last of those, but grounded and gritty? Not a bit of it! Cave has since claimed that he "enjoyed writing it very much because I knew on every level it wasn't going to get made". And no wonder.
Cave's script opened with the now-dead Maximus in Purgatory, where he meets the Gods, decrepit and dying, because of a "new" God gaining popularity on Earth - one Jesus Christ. So they agree to send Maximus back on one condition... that he kill Christ and his followers (no kidding, Cave's title for this script was "Christ Killer").
Oh, and if that wasn't enough, the film ends with Maximus becoming an eternal warrior, and the final sequence shows him involved in every war throughout history, including The Crusades, WWII and Vietnam until the film's final shot of a be-suited modern day Maximus about to take his seat in the Pentagon's war room.
There are any number of reasons why this one didn't get made. The "Christ Killer" title is one possible reason, Cave himself has claimed Russell Crowe didn't like the script. Still, it's hard to believe that anyone could say no to an immortal, time-travelling Gladiator. If you wish this film had been made, just try this: assume Crowe is playing Maximus in every film of his that you see. Robin Hood, Master & Commander, 3:10 To Yuma, Les Miserables...those are all just Gladiator sequels, really, and Crowe is always a time-travelling Maximus.
2. Blood Meridian
I've mentioned Blood Meridian before as a novel I think would make a brilliant film, but the truth is it has got quite close to being made. Ridley Scott was the director hoping to film the "unfilmable" great American novel. The novel by Cormac McCarthy (whose work you may have already seen adapted for the screen in All The Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men and The Road) is a bleak-as-bleak-can-be Western, following a group of outlaws in the lawless Old West. McCarthy's version of a Western isn't all saloons and showdowns at high noon, it's a relentlessly, pitilessly violent world in which a young boy falls in with a group of psychopathic scalp hunters.
The fairly obvious reason for this one never getting off the ground is that studios like bankable certainties, and Blood Meridian with its grim storyline, uncommercial violence and lack of a "good" protagonist to relate to means a film version would be about as far from a commercial certainty as can be.
That said, with the recent(ish) success of the likes of The Road and No Country for Old Men (neither of which is anything other than bleak) we can hold out hope that someone will bring this widescreen Western to the big screen.
3. The Tourist
No, not the middling Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie vehicle that only about 7 people saw in 2010. The Tourist I'm talking about is a sci-fi script written by Clair Noto that has acquired semi-mythical status after being stuck in development hell since the 80s. The film would deal with an underground alien society beneath Manhattan, populated by aliens who had come to Earth and got stuck on the planet. If that seems vaguely familiar, it's probably because parts of the script were cannibalised for use in sci-fi comedy Men In Black.
The Tourist's script has passed through the hands of many Hollywood creatives; early on there was a mooted link-up with H.R. Giger (of Alien fame), while Ridley Scott and Franc Roddam also considered the project at various point, but passed.
Will it ever see the light of day? The Tourist's writer, Clair Noto, is purportedly still working on new drafts of the script, but with much the scripts central core having been used elsewhere, it seems unlikely this great lost sci-fi gem will ever be seen outside of the writer's head.
4. Superman Lives
Before 2006's poorly received Superman Returns and 2012's Man of Steel reboot, there was an attempt to revive Superman in the 1990s, after the original quadrilogy petered out with 1987's low budget Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Tim Burton, who had previously resurrected Batman for the big screen, was signed on to direct, while Kevin Smith penned a script that was, as you would expect, faithful to the comic book source material. Noted Superman fan Nicolas Cage signed on in the lead role while the likes of Chris Rock, Christopher Walken, Kevin Spacey and Michael Keaton were also involved. In the end, multiple script re-writes (including requests from studio heads that Superman didn't fly, and had to fight a giant mechanical spider - an idea re-used, you may note, in Wild Wild West), delays and studio hesitancy meant Burton, Smith and Cage all left the project.
It took another decade or so to see Superman in film, and sadly we all missed out on the opportunity to see a Cage vs. Spacey scenery-chewing contest.
5. Heart of Darkness
I know what you're thinking, and a Heart of Darkness film was made, albeit one that reimagined Joseph Conrad's novel in the midst of the Vietnam War instead of the Congo. Apocalypse Now is a classic film whose troubled production deserves an article all to itself (not to mention a film: the "making of" documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse is well worth checking out), but if Orson Welles would have had his way, he would have made a truly faithful Heart of Darkness adaptation in the late 1930s.
Welles' self-penned script was his choice for his first film as director with movie studio RKO. Welles wanted the film to star himself as both main character and narrator Charles Marlow, and the ivory dealer Mr. Kurtz, for whom he is searching.
Welles' vision for the film including hundreds of long panning shots filmed in the "first person", where the camera provides the audience with Marlow's eye view, and in order to get the shots he wanted he would need loads of paintings, miniatures and intricate jungle sets (no on-location filming back then!). The studio, realising the film would cost well in excess of $1m (a huge sum for a film at the time) asked Welles if there was another film he would consider making as a fall-back option. The script he turned in for his "plan B" film was called Citizen Kane...
I'd love to see any one of these in a cinema! Which of these theoretical films would you most like to see, and are there any other films that never made it that you wish you could have seen?