The strange or ill-advised movie sequels that never were
A psychic Morgan Freeman. Jessica Rabbit kidnapped by Nazis. We look back at a few strange movie sequels that were never made…
The multi-million dollar success of any movie will inevitably leave Hollywood executives clamouring for a sequel. And while there are plenty of movies whose stories are open-ended enough to warrant a return to the creative well, there are many times when coming up with a sequel idea requires all sorts of imaginative leaps.
Which brings us to this list, which is devoted to a few of the weirder sequel ideas that never made it to the big screen…
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Spielberg’s wish-fulfilment fantasy of UFOs, mashed potato mountains and alien abduction was an unexpectedly huge hit for Columbia Pictures in 1977, and naturally enough, it wanted a sequel. Unenthusiastic about making one, but anxious that a sequel might be made without him (as had happened with Jaws), Spielberg began putting a project together called Night Skies.
Spielberg’s concept for the sequel played up the subtle horror elements of the original Close Encounters, with a story based on a real-life case known as the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, in which a family of farmers claimed to have been attacked by a group of little green aliens.
Although the project got far enough through the pre-production stage for Rick Baker to have come up with various alien and ship designs, Spielberg abandoned it. The ideas he came up with would later be reused in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist and Gremlins.
The film that knocked Star Wars off its perch as the biggest grossing film of all time (a title it held for more than a decade), E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial’s a perfect, self-contained family film, and displayed the kind of energy that would have been extremely difficult to capture a second time. But as E.T. sailed past the $300 million mark at the box-office, Spielberg and co-writer Melissa Matheson began putting together a treatment for a sequel called E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears.
The proposed movie would have flipped the story of E.T. on its head, with the first film’s story of alien friendship inverted as a story of alien abduction. Nocturnal Fears would have brought back Elliott and his siblings, who would be captured by an evil race of aliens who are distant cousins of E.T.’s breed of friendly scientists.
Elliott and his brother and sister would have been experimented on and tortured, before E.T. swoops in and rescues them. The whole premise sounded rather nightmarish for a family film, and sensing this, Spielberg later ditched the idea, saying it would “do nothing but rob the original of its virginity.”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
One of the biggest and most fondly remembered of John Hughes’ 80s comedy hits, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a big critical and financial success. Like E.T., Ferris Bueller had a style and atmosphere that would have been tricky to replicate in a sequel, and although Matthew Broderick and Hughes had thrown ideas around for what might happen in one – Ferris’ antics at college or his first job were proposed – they both concluded that it probably wasn’t a good idea.
“Ferris Bueller is about the week before you leave school, it's about the end of school—in some way, it doesn't have a sequel,” Broderick told Variety. “It's a little moment and it's a lightning flash in your life.”
Nevertheless, news stories about a Ferris Bueller sequel have continued to persist. Last year, there were reports that a script put together by writer Rick Rapier in 2007 might finally be made into a movie. Called Ferris Bueller 2: Another Day Off, it would catch up with Ferris, now wealthy, 40 and hankering for a day off work.
With the sad death of John Hughes in 2009, and Broderick now nearer 50 than 40, it’s hard to imagine Another Day Off ever coming to pass – though Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is proof that even the most self-contained 80s movies can end up with sequels.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Anarchic, funny and groundbreaking, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a deserved success for director Robert Zemeckis. Given the sheer number of great characters and ideas this noir comedy fantasy introduced, it’s a little surprising, perhaps, that a sequel never appeared.
Screenwriter Nat Maudlin actually wrote a prequel called Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon, in which Jessica is kidnapped by Nazis and Roger discovers that his father is Bugs Bunny. The script was rewritten in the late 90s, and involved Roger’s rise to Broadway stardom rather than his brush with the Third Reich. Alan Menken was commissioned to write five songs for the project, now called Who Discovered Roger Rabbit.
Getting the thing animated, however, proved problematic. Test footage, comprising hand-drawn animation, CGI and live-action, failed to impress Disney, and with the budget predicted to be somewhere north of $100 million, the plug was pulled.
For years, it seemed as though a Roger Rabbit sequel would never happen, and it’s possible that it never will. But in 2010, producer Don Hahn told Empire, “If you're a fan, pretty soon you're going to be very, very, very happy,” and around the same time, Robert Zemeckis insisted that a script was still being written.
The film that marked the acting debut of singer Whitney Houston, and whose success ensured that her song I Will Always Love You was played constantly on the radio, The Bodyguard was a big hit, in spite of mixed reviews. The film also saw co-star Kevin Costner at the height of his Hollywood powers, before he embarked on less lucrative films such as Wyatt Earp, Waterworld and The Postman later in the decade.
It’s inevitable, then, that it’s The Bodyguard that regularly comes up when Costner discusses sequels to his earlier movies. What was surprising was Costner’s choice of co-star for the film – in the late 90s, he’d reportedly approached Princess Diana to play alongside him.
Like Houston in the original, Di would have essentially played a fictionalised version of herself – in this instance, a vulnerable princess shielded from the press by Costner’s gallant Frank Farmer. Quite how serious these plans were isn’t clear, but at any rate, Diana’s untimely death in 1997 put paid to them.
Nevertheless, Costner was still talking about the possibility of a Bodyguard 2 as recently as 2008, but Warner Bros now appears to be looking at remaking the original instead.
If a sure-fire comedy hit’s what you’re after, simply dress your leading man as a woman. It worked for Some Like It Hot, Tootsie and, in the case of Robin Williams, Mrs Doubtfire. But unlike Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma's House, which spawned two further films, Mrs Doubtfire never received a sequel, in spite of the $441million it made at the box office.
Fox did get as far as commissioning a script for a sequel, though, with actress Bonnie Hunt on writing duties. The story would have involved Williams dressing up as Mrs Doubtfire once again, this time so he could spy on his daughter at college. Williams, perhaps sensing that the premise was a bit creepy, turned it down.
Coincidentally, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son’s comedy antics were centred around a girls’ school for the performing arts.
David Fincher’s macabre suspense thriller was sharp, well written and meticulously directed. Needless to say, the possibility of a sequel was discussed. Fincher quickly nixed the idea, though, and recently said he’d “Have less interest in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes,” and that appeared to be that.
For a while, New Line still appeared to be intent on making a belated sequel. A spec script was optioned, originally called Solace, which would have been rewritten to accommodate Morgan Freeman’s character from Seven, William Somerset. This time, the detective would somehow have acquired psychic powers.
In 2011, though, it was reported that Anthony Hopkins would be replacing Morgan Freeman as the psychic, with the project reverting back to its initial title, Solace. Whether the film will still be marketed as a Seven sequel isn’t clear – given its unbelievably tenuous links (serial killers seems to be the only common factor between the two) we’re hoping that it won’t be.
Sure, Gladiator was a big hit for director Ridley Scott in 2000, but how do you come up with an idea for a sequel when your macho hero keeled over and died at the conclusion of the first? Musician and writer Nick Cave had a bright idea: reincarnate Maximus as an immortal demi-god.
Gladiator 2 would therefore have turned away from the comparatively straight Hollywood sandal epic of the original, and towards a kind of Highlander remake with Roman gods in it – it’s said that Maximus would have fought his way out of the afterlife back to Earth, then through World War II and Vietnam, before going off to work behind a desk at the Pentagon.
It sounds absolutely insane, which is probably why, of all the proposed ideas on this list, we’re actually rather sorry that Cave’s batty script was never filmed.