As the preferred range of Hollywood’s output now falls into the bracket of either “tentpole movie” or “low budget sleeper hit”, the gap between script and screen seems to be getting shorter. The budget for development has similarly shrunk.
People can complain about sequels and remakes, but we keep going to see them, so safe bets and nostalgic overhauls tend to prevail over original features. Proof of these trends, if proof were needed, can be found in this very site’s annually updated lists of sequels and reboots currently in development, which changes vastly year on year.
At the same time, the demand for development scuttlebutt has increased exponentially. This means that some projects are prematurely announced and then summarily cancelled somewhere down the line, either because they lose an attached director or star, or because they can’t get the script to work in a way where everybody’s happy.
We’ve previously written about how Watchmen and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy went through development hell on their way to the big screen and entire books have been written about projects like the 1990s Superman movie which were eventually never made.
Perhaps the days of developing a project for over a decade before finally bringing it around aren’t entirely over, but in the current climate, a project can have a spike of interest and news coverage for a while after being announced and then go away for a long time. There seems to be less interest in willing these developments into fruition.
And though that’s not to say that any of these projects will never happen, the hustle and flow of the industry makes us feel safe calling time of death on six of these long-mooted reboots and remakes.
Originally: Katsuhiro Ohtomo’s acclaimed 1988 anime adaptation of the manga, in which a young member of a motorcycle gang is transformed into a telekinetic maniac against the backdrop of a post-World War III Tokyo.
The reboot: The notion of a live-action Hollywood adaptation of Akira dates at least as far back as 2002, when the rights were acquired by Warner Bros. Jon Peters (infamously of that aforementioned Superman movie that failed to materialise through the 90s) was slated to produce.
At first, writer-director Stephen Norrington (Blade, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen) was attached. Then in 2008, it was to be shorts director Ruairí Robinson’s first feature, with Leonardo DiCaprio producing. Robinson has since gone on to make last year’s The Last Days On Mars and his departure marked the temporary cancellation of the project.
In 2010, Warner Bros announced they were in talks with Allen and Albert Hughes (From Hell, The Book Of Eli) to direct and this is where the rumour mill really got going. It got at least as far as whispers about casting, automatically converted into indignant yells once the internet commenters got wind of them.
There was yet another change of crew after the Hughes brothers departed because of creative differences and Jaume Collett-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) became the latest director to be attached to the project.
The project was shut down again in January 2012. It could be a coincidence, that’s the same time as Chronicle came out and comprehensively scratched the itch that anyone might have had to see something like Akira in a live-action Hollywood movie. Incidentally, Dane DeHaan, who played Andrew in Josh Trank’s film, was one of the frontrunners to play Tetsuo, even if news sites focused on fan-infuriating rumours like Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron.
The last we heard of it: The subject came up with Collett-Serra while he was doing the press rounds for Non-Stop, when he claimed that the project was still underway. He also managed to piss off fans everywhere by claiming that nobody in the source material was interesting.
“Tetsuo’s interesting because weird shit happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional,” he said, before pouring salt on the wound with a couple of ethnocentric comments. “It’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They’re used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.”
Some have rightly questioned whether an open disdain for the characters and story of the source material makes Collett-Serra the ideal director for the project, even following a couple of directors who fouled up Alan Moore adaptations nicely, but it seems like he’s still attached and invested in the project.
Why won’t it happen? Any number of reasons- they’ve yet to crack it after years of development and we can’t imagine there’s much they could do with it that Chronicle didn’t cover, aside from looking all spiffy and stylised.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Originally: Joss Whedon’s genre-redefining horror series about the high-school girl (Sarah Michelle Gellar, nee. Kristy Swanson) destined to protect the world from vampires and demons, while also trying to hold down a social life. The movie came out in 1992, before the better-known TV spin-off’s run from 1997 to 2003.
The reboot: Whedon has generally kept everything within a single continuity thus far – the series was arguably a reboot of the movie, regenerating Buffy Summers from Swanson to Gellar and transplanting the setting to Sunnydale, but there’s little in the seven seasons of the second, more warmly received incarnation that outright contradicts the events of the film.
It’s unclear whether the proposed animated series, which would have taken place in during the Scoobies’ time at high school, would have been separate to the continuity of the live-action series, but all of the voice cast would have matched their on-screen counterparts except for Gellar, who was eager to move onto other projects.
The show didn’t get picked up, and according to Whedon, one executive said that it would need an equally competent male character in the main cast, so as not to put off young boys (yeah, cos that had been the thing they’d missed for seven seasons) and the animated series fell by the wayside. You can still see the sizzle reel on YouTube if you’re interested.
The Whedon-less reboot, on the other hand, has been looming over our heads since 2009. Producers Fran Rubei Kuzui and Kaz Kuzui announced their intention to make an “event-sized movie” with “franchise potential”. Coming at the height of the popularity of The Twilight Saga, a franchise that is exactly what Buffy is not, you couldn’t blame fans for getting the wiggins from this development.
Warner Bros (again) picked up the rights in November 2010. It was announced that the character wouldn’t be in high school as in the beginning of the series, and Glee star Heather Morris was in the frame to play the lead role.
The last we heard of it? The film was put on indefinite hiatus at the end of 2011 after the studio was unsatisfied with the script, but just like many of the characters in the series, death didn’t really stop it. The idea was floated once again last summer, with Dark Knight producer Charles Roven on board and a script by actress Whit Anderson. They’ve since announced that they’re looking for a new writer, but it doesn’t seem to be moving.
Whedon’s tongue-in-cheek response to the news was typically pithy. “This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths – just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.”
Why won’t it happen? Isn’t the Twilight fad kind of over now? The Kuzuis might force it through in the end, having apparently not learned their lesson from the 1992 movie, but it’s certainly taking some time. As for the fans, we’re pretty well served by the canon comic continuation, which is now up to Season Ten. Let it rest in peace, Warners!
DROP DEAD FRED
Originally: A fondly-remembered 1991 comedy about a young girl (Phoebe Cates) who has to deal with the resurgence of her lunatic imaginary friend, played by the late, great Rik Mayall.
The reboot: The original film made its money back at the box office, and did well enough for it to be categorised as UK production company Working Title’s first international hit, but was it was lambasted by US critics as immature and misjudged. It still holds a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 9% fresh.
So, a reboot feels like the kind of decision that can only be explained by someone at the studio having raked over the coals of online nostalgia and found a groundswell of childhood affection for the film amongst millenials, particularly with people of a certain age in the UK.
Nevertheless, Universal tabled the notion of a new Drop Dead Fred in 2009, with Russell Brand attached to star and Dennis McNicholas (Saturday Night Live, Land Of The Lost) writing the script.
As they saw it, the reboot would be in the tone of Beetlejuice and would “build a universe around the concept of imaginary friends.” It sounds a little bit like they really wanted to adapt the gag in which Fred meets a bunch of other imaginary friends in a therapist’s office into a whole movie.
Here’s a sentence you didn’t think you’d read today – everything hinges on the 2011 remake of Arthur. Whatever you think of Russell Brand, Hollywood’s infatuation with the comedian as a movie star ended when that film bombed, but there would actually be an inverse problem with casting him in the lead here.
Brand is a bigger character than Dudley Moore was when he originally played Arthur, and so the film played more broadly, with less pathos and memorability than its predecessor. For all of his campaigns for peaceful revolution, Brand on his most anarchistic day isn’t a patch on the genius of Rik Mayall. He was too big for Arthur, but not big enough for Drop Dead Fred.
The last we heard of it? Seeing as how Twitter never seems to have an outpouring of affection for a reason that turns out to be happy, Drop Dead Fred was amongst the works that fans celebrated on social media following Mayall’s untimely passing recently.
There was some press coverage that mentioned the potential remake and the surge of conversation about the original on Twitter, but we doubt that anybody anywhere was suggesting that now the time was ripe.
Why won’t it happen? Mayall’s brand of wacky comedy was tough to pin down when he was around and we can’t imagine it’s gotten any easier now that he’s sadly left us. However, it’s probably safe for us all to blow a big fat raspberry in the direction of this long dormant revamp.
Originally: A 1986 sci-fi movie in which an ancient battle between immortal warriors culminates in 1980s New York. Also, it had a whole bunch of nonsensical sequels with massive continuity issues and a TV spin-off that further confused things.
The reboot: Summit Entertainment bought the rights to the franchise in 2008, before they got into the business of being a mini-major studio with The Twilight Saga. They announced plans to remake the first film for release in 2011, with their biggest series’ scribe Melissa Rosenberg writing the script.
There’s not really been a lot of positive fan noise about this one at any point in its development, but then, aside from Rosenberg, they haven’t really held onto anyone long enough to keep moving.
Justin Lin, the director behind the most recent Fast & Furious flicks, signed up to direct in 2009, but after Fast Five hit in a big bad way in summer 2011, he was much more in demand. He dropped out the following August due to commitments to other projects, including the Terminator reboot, from which he’s also detached himself.
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) was the next director to take the chair. He left the remake of The Crow for this, and that’s another film that would have made it on this list were it not being prepped to shoot this year with Spanish fantasy filmmaker F. Javier Gutiérrez and Luke Evans in the lead.
Fresnadillo made another very popular choice by casting Ryan Reynolds, he of so many failed franchise films, to play Connor MacLeod in June 2012. The director dropped out due to creative differences six months later and Reynolds quit within a year of being cast – he’s probably due something of a McConaughssance after running his box office appeal into the ground and we doubt that MacLeod is where he’d want to start.
The last we heard of it? The director who’s currently attached is Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, graduating to the big chair from his work as a second unit director and visual effects supervisor on Snow White & The Huntsman. Reassuringly, he’s a fan of the original.
“The first movie came out when I was a teenager in France and it was one of my favorite films of those years,” he told Deadline in November. “I loved the series also, they shot a lot of it in France, on the Seine River. My first reaction, like everybody else, was, really, do we need a remake?
“Then I read the script, and I thought about how Russell Mulcahy was this super visual video director who brought the pulse of the 80s to the film so well. I started thinking about taking those great characters and matching them with a modern, visceral take, and then I was in love with the idea and I just went for it.”
The same Deadline article claimed that shooting would start in 2014, but we’ve heard nothing since. Lionsgate cemented its status as a new major studio by acquiring Summit and the rights to its library in 2012, so the onus lies with them if they want to do any more with this, but frankly, we don’t see it happening this year.
Why won’t it happen? There can be only one! Sorry, we had to. Also, we feel like the lack of any discernible movement in terms of casting or production for a supposed start this year is quite discouraging.
Originally: A 1967 science fiction novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, set in a futuristic society where population control measures wipe out everyone over the age of 30. It was memorably adapted for the big screen in 1976, starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter.
The reboot: Given how the source material is that much older than anything else we’ve mentioned so far, you won’t be surprised to learn that talks of a remake have been going on for a lot longer too. Warner Bros (AGAIN) started developing the remake in the 1990s, with director Skip Woods and producer Joel Silver boarding in 2000.
In March 2004, Bryan Singer signed up to direct a script by Usual Suspects screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, planning to make the movie right after Superman Returns. Some questioned whether he’d be available if the studio wanted a Superman sequel, but the “disappointing” box office take put paid to that clash.
However, Singer confirmed that he was going to take a break after Superman Returns anyway and Warners shut down production when they couldn’t find a suitable replacement. Development was started up once again in 2007, with directors Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) and Carl Erik Rinsch (47 Ronin) both coming and going over the next few years of development hell.
Then everyone got all excited in 2011 when Drive director Nicolas Winding-Refn jumped on board, bringing stars Ryan Gosling and Rose Byrne along with him. However, the story was kind of overtaken on everybody’s radar by speculation that the director might be in line to direct a Wonder Woman movie if Logan’s Run was a hit, partly because it didn’t get any further along.
Gosling departed the project in 2012 and that seems like the point where this one went back to the drawing board. We’re not sure why this one has been so difficult to crack for Warners – the original film is a sturdily made but kitschy, and the story seems ripe for an update, given the current popularity of “original” paranoid sci-fi movies like Oblivion, which Kosinski went onto make after leaving this one.
Still, you could also argue that Hollywood wants an excuse to cast a movie with a cast exclusively under the age of 30 so badly that they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they got it. Case in point – Andrew Niccol’s In Time, a film in which everyone is supposed to look 25 or younger, that still stars 35-year-old Cillian Murphy in a token antagonist role.
The last we heard of it? Winding-Refn called it himself back in November – this one is dead to him.
“It’s dead as dead can be,” he told TwitchFilm. “[If] I was going to make a $100 or $200 million movie, and trade off my creative freedom for that price, it needed to be something that was going to outweigh that loss. I’m very lucky to be able to make the films I make, and to exchange that for a larger canvas really needs to feel like the right swap. Logan’s Run just wasn’t it at the end.”
Why won’t it happen? This actually has more of a chance of getting to the screen in some form than any other project on the list, but it clearly won’t happen with Singer or Winding-Refn on board. Plus, it’s been more than 30 years since the original, so maybe the brand has been passed onto Carousel too.
Originally: Agatha Christie’s sleuthing pensioner appeared in 12 novels and 20 short stories and, in addition to various TV adaptations, has been played by Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury and Ita Ever on the big screen.
The reboot: This is a funny one. In 2011, Disney announced they were developing an origin story for Miss Marple, a 70-something English spinster who hides a keen and inquisitive mind behind that harmless exterior, as a vehicle for 38-year-old Texan-born Jennifer Garner. And you thought that Ryan Reynolds as an immortal Scotsman would have been interesting.
The story immediately raised a multitude of questions, aside from “Why, why, why, why, why?” Could this have been an Elementary-style update of the character? Would Garner have affected an English accent? What the hell were they thinking? (See also: “WHY?”)
But ultimately, it seems like quite a cynical attempt to do something that Disney have eventually felt their way to with Maleficent, in launching a female-led film based on an existing brand. It gave us all a good laugh though.
The last we heard of it: It’s unclear if this one ever went any further in development than the initial news and the backlash it provoked in certain quarters of the press. At the time, The Telegraph histrionically (and hilariously) likened it to casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as Poirot, and who amongst us wouldn’t watch the shit out of that movie?
Why won’t it happen? You have to ask? If Disney really wants to make a female-led detective movie set at the turn of the century, then we applaud them, and we hope they also have the balls to call it something other than Miss Marple.
We’re prepared to be wrong about some of these. Even if the punishing cycle of reboots and remakes has been slightly leavened by original properties that homage elements from other stories – Edge Of Tomorrow would be a great example, but less so with last year’s Oblivion– studios are still mining their libraries and even recent word of mouth on some of these projects to see what they can re-develop.
In some cases, the studio’s jumped the gun and tested the waters of internet discourse by throwing out ideas just to get a rise out of fandom. Remakes like RoboCop and Total Recall have served to demonstrate that even if a response is totally negative, they might just do it anyway. You can probably expect to see a new version of Highlander or Logan’s Run sometime in the future, however near or distant, but we still wouldn’t hold our breath for Jennifer Garner’s Miss Marple.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.