CATEGORIES Movie NewsEver wonder how terrible movies make it to the big screen, while other projects that sound amazing never see the light of day? British author David Hughes provides some great insider-y insights in his recently updated book 'Tales from Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made.'
The book was originally published in 2003, and Hughes felt that now was an ideal time for an update, given that two projects still relegated to development hell in 2003 had since made their way into theaters: the fourth "Indiana Jones" ("The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull") and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
Hughes conducted extensive interviews with a range of Hollywood insiders, from "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky to filmmaking vet Paul Verhoeven ("Total Recall," "Basic Instinct," "RoboCop"), as well as a host of producers, screenwriters and other directors. He undoubtedly did his homework, resulting in plenty of juicy tidbits, insights and anecdotes.
Article Continues Below Slideshow When Movies Get Complicated: Five Film Lawsuits
Hughes explores the multitude of factors that leave seemingly great projects stranded in development hell. It's fascinating to read about all of the things that can contribute to a movie going very, very wrong. From actors bringing in their "pet writers" for rewrites that piss off costars to meddling producers to notes from mysterious script readers, it's remarkable any movies make it out of the Hollywood process unscathed. "Everybody likes to make their mark," says Hughes.
Moviefone chatted extensively with Hughes to find out more about some of the more high-profile projects, including the fourth "Indy," "Batman vs Superman," "Rise of Planet of the Apes," and rumors of a "Tomb Raider" reboot. The book has even more tales from projects in limbo like Verhoeven's "Crusade" and James Cameron's "Fantastic Voyage."
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" "Indy 4" performed well enough at the box office, but it wasn't exactly the same caliber as the original trilogy, quality-wise. Hughes thinks Steven Spielberg would have been wise to pull out one of his "Back to the Future" tactics to help save the flick.
"When Spielberg said, 'I don't want to do aliens,' then George Lucas said, 'Well then, let's do inter-dimensional beings,' Spielberg should have thrown some food at him," says Hughes. "Or Spielberg should have reacted the same way he did when [executive producer] Sidney Sheinberg said "Back to the Future" is a terrible title, how can you go back to the future, why don't you call it "Spaceman from Pluto"? And instead of going back and saying that's a terrible idea, Spielberg sent a memo saying we all had such a laugh, you're a really funny guy, as though he'd meant it as a joke. And Sheinberg never mentioned it again. This time, Spielberg should have said to Lucas, 'Yeah right! Inter-dimensional beings! But seriously, what's it going to be about?' And obviously he didn't, and that's why we were stuck with that stupid extraterrestrial nonsense, which was pretty hokey."
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Projects that toil in development hell for years don't always turn out badly. Hughes says "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" worked well because the writers distilled the movie down to a simple, core idea and stuck to it. "These guys had an idea -- what if you wanted to start at a singularity, The Big Bang if you like, of the 1968 movie, how could that actually come to pass?" says Hughes. "Well, you'd have to start by figuring out how you're going to make apes talk, and how you're going to make them smart, and then how are you going to make the humans die out? And that's what they did. They went back to that idea."
Frank Miller and Darren Aronofsky's "Batman: Year Zero" Before Christopher Nolan gave us Christian Bale as the brooding Dark Knight, Darren Aronofsky and graphic novelist Frank Miller ("Sin City") were figuring out a way to bring Miller's graphic novel "Batman: Year One" to life on the big screen. "Darren said, 'I'm going to write a script with Frank Miller that explores what it would actually take for a man to put on a bat suit and fight crime.' It was as vigilante as Batman had ever been outside of the comic books. A proper vigilante, no moral grey areas," says Hughes. Now that Nolan's "Dark Knight" series has become so massively successful, Hughes fears that Aronofsky and Miller's version will never see the light of day.
"Batman vs Superman" There's been talk of pitting Batman against Superman on the big screen for years. Of all the projects in limbo, Hughes says this one actually has a decent shot at getting made. "If I had to bet on one, this wouldn't be a bad one to put money on. I think the script still has some currency," says Hughes. "The problem is, "Batman" has been so massively successful compared to the "Superman" reboot. I don't know if the new "Superman" will be the new "Dark Knight." There isn't much in it for Warner Bros. to dilute the "Batman" franchise."
"Tomb Raider" -- Without Angelina? It's hard to believe now, since Lara Croft is so synonymous with Angelina Jolie, but during the development of "Tomb Raider," there was actually talk of finding a more mainstream-friendly actress. There were concerns that pre-Brangelina Jolie, who was best known for her wild red carpet shenanigans with Billy Bob Thornton, was too risque for a flick targeting adolescent boys. However, it was hard to think of anyone else who could embody Lara Croft so well. "There really wasn't anybody like her," says Hughes, adding that the pool of other prominent actresses who were the right age at the time would have included Hilary Swank and Claire Danes.
"Now they're talking about rebooting "Tomb Raider,"" says Hughes. Angelina certainly leaves big shoes to fill. Hughes says if the reboot does come to fruition, the studio may be wise to cast an unknown in the starring role. "Let Lara Croft make the actress a star. These characters are big enough to be draws on their own."
Gallery | 5 Movie Lawsuits
"Coming to America"Writer Art Buchwald sued Paramount Pictures, claiming that they stole his idea for 'Coming to America.' Buchwald won the lawsuit.
"The Passion of the Christ"The movie's screenwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald, sued Mel Gibson over not paying him enough money for the film. They settled out of court.
"Borat"Another movie that spawned a ton of legal trouble: writer/star Sacha Baron Cohen was sued for defamation as well as using footage of people without their permission.
"The Hangover, Part II"What hasn't 'The Hangover, Part II' been sued for at this point? First the filmmakers were hit with a lawsuit alleging that they copied Mike Tyson's face tattoo without permission. That was dropped, but then they were sued again by a stunt man who suffered injuries on set. (That lawsuit is still pending.) A man also sued the filmmakers, claiming that they stole his life story and used it for 'Hangover, Part II.' Yeesh.
"Natural Born Killers"The family of a Louisiana store clerk, who was shot by a young couple on a crime spree, sued Oliver Stone, claiming this movie inspired the crimes. The lawsuit was eventually dropped.