The multi-million dollar success of any movie will inevitably leave Hollywood executives clamoring 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 follow-up idea requires all sorts of imaginative leaps. Just look at something like Alien: Resurrection, which had to come up an elaborate reason why Ripley had (spoiler alert) managed to survive a swan-dive into a lead foundry in Alien 3.
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. An E.T. sequel in which little Elliott gets tortured by aliens? Forrest Gump dancing with Princess Diana? Trained dinosaurs rescuing kidnapped children? Yep, they were all considered…
Close Encounters II: Night Skies
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.
E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears
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 is a perfect, self-contained family movie, 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 in 1982, 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. Here’s a sample quote from the treatment, which is available all over the place online:
“It is now time for Elliott to be questioned. The aliens show no mercy when he replies with the truth […] The pain is tremendous for Elliott and he breaks down and begins screaming for E.T.’s help.”
Yes, Elliott and his brother and sister would have been experimented on and tortured before E.T. finally swooped in to rescue 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.”
Oh, and another reason to be thankful that Nocturnal Fears didn’t happen: it divulged E.T.’s real name, which, we’re told, is Zrek. Nice.
Ferris Bueller 2: Another 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 a follow-up – 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 surface from time to time. A few years ago, 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 have caught up with Ferris, now wealthy, 40 and hankering for a day off work. As of last year, however, it seems that a sequel to the much-loved 80s movie is officially on the back-burner – and that comes from Ferris actor Matthew Broderick himself.
“It was discussed but it kind of never went very far,” Broderick said, according to this article over on Fox News. “But it wasn’t me, it was just nobody really agreed on what to do and when to do it.”
Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon
Anarchic, funny and featuring a ground breaking mix of live-action and 2D animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a deserved success for director Robert Zemeckis. Given the sheer number of great characters and ideas his noir comedy fantasy introduced, it’s a little surprising, perhaps, that a sequel never appeared.
Yet 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 likely now that it never will. In 2013, producer Don Hahn said at San Diego Comic Con that, of the various Roger Rabbit sequel scripts that had been floating around Hollywood over the years, “There’s none actively in discussion right now.”
“In this day of multiple sequels,” Hahn went on, “it’s nice to have a movie that may possibly be just a one-off.”
We’d also say that, without the late great Bob Hoskins to provide the film’s human grounding, a Roger Rabbit sequel just wouldn’t be the same.
The Bodyguard II
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.
Maybe it’s inevitable, then, that it’s The Bodyguard that regularly comes up when Costner discusses sequels to his earlier movies. In fact, Costner had attempted to get a Bodyguard sequel off the ground towards the end of the ’90s, and he’d made a surprising choice of co-star for the film – he wanted Princess Diana to play alongside him.
Like Houston in the original, Di would have essentially played a fictionalized version of herself – in this instance, a vulnerable princess shielded from the press by Costner’s gallant Frank Farmer.
“Diana and I had been talking about doing Bodyguard 2,” Costner revealed in 2012. “I told her I would take care of her just the same way that I took care of Whitney. She wanted me to write it for her. I said: ‘I’ll tailor it for you if you’re interested.’ She goes: ‘I am interested.'”
Princess Diana’s untimely death in 1997 meant that she never got to fulfil her actorly ambitions; Costner even recalls that a new draft of the script written especially for the royal – in which she played a fictionalized version of herself living in Hong Kong – landed on his desk the very day that Diana passed away in a car accident.
Nearly 20 years later, Costner still hasn’t given up on the idea of The Bodyguard 2. Earlier this year, the actor told Digital Spy that he’d been handed a new draft for the sequel. When asked who could possibly star in it, Costner simply said, “It would have to be someone really special.”
Ed Sheeran, perhaps?
Mrs. Doubtfire 2
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 the late, sorely missed 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 $441 million 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. Williams tragically died a few years ago, which means that a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel is mercifully out of the question now; I think most would agree that a follow-up wouldn’t be remotely the same without him.
Coincidentally, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son’s comedy antics involved Martin Lawrence and his screen son Brandon T. Jackson hanging around a girls’ school for the performing arts. Yes, it was a bit creepy.
Forrest Gump 2
On the face of it, making a sequel to Forrest Gump might not have sounded like such a bad idea at one time. Robert Zemeckis’s 1994 film was a huge hit, won a raft of Oscars, and became one of the most quoted movies of the mid-90s. Your humble writer even remembers when Blockbusters gave out little promotional booklets in its video rental outlets called “The Wit And Wisdom Of Forrest Gump.”
If all had gone to plan, we would have heard a lot more of Forrest Gump’s gentle aphorisms in a sequel, written by the same scribe as the original, Eric Roth. Like the first film, it would have seen Forrest again turn up at unexpected moments in history, though some of the ideas Roth had for a sequel sounded far more eyebrow raising than the scenarios we saw in the original. For one thing, Forrest would have danced with Princess Diana a few years before her car accident, and one scene would have seen Gump hiding in the back of OJ Simpson’s car as he’s pursued by the police.
The plot point that really did for the Forrest Gump 2 script in the end involved its simple hero experiencing the infamous Oklahoma Bombing first-hand. Shortly after Roth finished the script and sent it off, 9/11 happened – an event that left the world reeling and Forrest Gump 2 on hold. “Quite honestly,” Roth told Film School Rejects, “I think that’s the end of it.”
Seven 2: Solace
David Fincher’s macabre suspense thriller Seven was sharp, well written and meticulously directed. Needless to say, the possibility of a sequel was discussed when the movie made lots of money in 1995. 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, 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 the end, New Line saw sense and cut any tenuous links between Seven and Solace. The movie finally came out in 2015 with Anthony Hopkins in the lead, by now playing a psychic doctor named John Clancy. With a box office take of about $22 million, Solace made less than a 10th of Seven’s haul 20 years before it.
Jurassic Park IV
Long-term Jurassic Park fans will know that, after Joe Johnston’s second sequel emerged in 2001, a fourth entry was planned but remained trapped in development hell for well over a decade. It took director Colin Trevorrow to finally bring us Jurassic World last year, which became a huge hit for Universal.
Long before Jurassic World rebooted the franchise, a procession of writers and directors were attached to an earlier sequel project, including The Departed screenwriter William Monahan and The Crazies director Breck Eisner. Around the year 2004, John Sayles – who’d previously brought us such monster movies as Piranha, The Howling, and Alligator – turn in his draft of a script for Jurassic Park IV, and it’s one of the few that have managed to slip out into public view.
That script’s premise is something Jurassic World would later hint at: the use of behaviourally-controlled dinosaurs by a private military company. The story is told from the perspective of an unemployed mercenary named Nick, who winds up at a Swiss castle run by an evil company called the Grendel Corporation. Nick is pressed into becoming a trainer for the militarised dinosaurs; in one scene, the toothsome critters are used in an Expendables-type mission which involves rescuing a kidnapped 10-year-old from a warehouse full of bad guys.
Another mission involves assassinating a drug boss at his luxurious (and heavily guarded) mansion. As we pointed out last year, Sayles’ Jurassic Park IV script doesn’t really feel like a Jurassic Park sequel at all – more a straight-to-video action movie which happens to have dinosaurs in it. While Jurassic World has its detractors, at least Trevorrow’s film remembered one important thing: the franchise isn’t the same without the theme park.
Independence Day 2: Peace And Love Edition
Sequels are supposed to be bigger, louder and faster than the original, and so it proved with Roland Emmerich’s belated alien invasion follow-up, Independence Day: Resurgence. But Emmerich reveals that, originally, a much earlier concept for the sequel involved far less warfare, death and destruction – in fact, nothing very much happened in the early story idea at all.
“It was after 9/11 and [producer] Dean [Devlin] and I wanted to make the movie about peace, and it just didn’t work,” Emmerich told Empire. “There’s still an element of that in the new one, but that version was only about [peace]. We shoot aliens down accidentally and then at the end of the movie they land on the White House lawn and say ‘we come in peace’ and that was it. It was just too weak an idea and we didn’t really want to do it. It didn’t have an Independence Day feel. Only the alien ship was destroyed!”
The upside is that it would’ve saved the filmmakers a fortune in special effects, we guess. Plus we quite like the idea of watching Jeff Golblum, Brent Spiner, and Bill Pullman sitting around, drinking tea and talking about being nice to aliens.
Gladiator 2: Christ Killer
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.
Cave, who at that point had just written the superb outback thriller The Proposition, even had a name for his Gladiator sequel: Christ Killer.
“He [Maximus] goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there’s this one god, there’s this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity,” Cave explained to the appropriately-named WTF Podcast in 2013, “and so the many gods are dying so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and his followers. “I wanted to call it ‘Christ Killer’ and in the end you find out that the main guy was his son so he has to kill his son and he was tricked by the gods. He becomes this eternal warrior and it ends with this 20 minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild.”
Cave modestly described his script as “a stone cold masterpiece,” but also concedes that it was perhaps a bit too crazy to become a big Hollywood film.
“I enjoyed writing it very much because I new on every level it was never going to get made,” Cave said. “Let’s call it a popcorn dropper.”
Yes Nick, let’s.