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The Lost Projects: 15 Movies Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, and More Auteurs Never Made

We went back to the past to discover 15 high-profile projects that some of our favorite working auteurs never got the chance to make.

Sofia Coppola’s “The Little Mermaid”

Back in 2014, Sofia Coppola was attached to a Universal Pictures and Working Title production of “The Little Mermaid,” a live-action version of the classic fairy tale that didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons. The main one is that the film’s budget got bigger once Coppola began realizing what her vision for the project would require. Coppola wasn’t interested in making the family-friendly Disney version, but instead wanted to keep the dark elements of the Hans Christian Andersen original. The studio wasn’t going to spend big money on such a risky pitch, which included filming much of the feature underwater. The filmmaker eventually left after a year of development. The project floated around Hollywood without Coppola, with Chloe Grace Moretz cast as Ariel in 2005, but the film has yet to come to be.

Martin Scorsese’s Dean Martin Biopic “Dino”

One of the most high profile unrealized projects of the last several decades is Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating Dean Martin biopic “Dino.” The director bought the rights to Nick Toches’ book way back in 1992 and his “Goodfellas” and “Casino” screenwriter Nicolas Pileggi finished a version of the adapted screenplay sometime around 1997. Rumor had it Scorsese was assembling one of his most star-studded casts, including Tom Hanks as Martin and John Travolta as Frank Sinatra, plus Hugh Grant, Adam Sandler, and Jim Carrey in supporting roles. Scheduling conflicts and budget negotiations between Scorsese and Warner Bros.delayed the project, but what ended killing the project indefinitely was the studio allowing Scorsese to go off and make “Gangs of New York” with the Weinstein brothers at Miramax. “Gangs” had a notoriously long and tough production, and Warner Bros. had dropped “Dino” by the time Scorsese was finished.

Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky


Darren Aronofksy’s “Flicker” Adaptation

The 1991 novel “Flicker” follows a movie-obsessed UCLA student who gets drawn into a dark world of conspiracy theories, which more or less makes it the perfect source material for Darren Aronofsky. The director signed on to the film adaptation in 2003 after the back-to-back successes of “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream.” The movie was in development as early as 1998 when producers of “The Thin Red Line” optioned the rights to the book. Aronofsky was set to direct the movie as part of his three-picture deal with Regency Enterprises, and “Fight Club” screenwriter Jim Uhls was brought on to adapt the novel. Delays pushed the movie back, and by 2006 Fincher jumped ship to Universal, giving up the film in the process.

Spike Jonze’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon” Adaptation

Long before starting work on “Where the Wild Things Are,” Spike Jonze intended to bring another iconic children’s book to the big screen: Crockett Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” Jonze had been meeting with “Wild Things” author Maurice Sendak, who considered Johnson a mentor, and he spent a year developing the movie and the ways in which he could blend live-action photography and animation in a believable way. Producer John B. Carls teased Jonze’s plans for the movie in an interview with The New York Times. The project was dropped two months before production because new executives at TriStar felt Jonze’s vision for the movie would be too risky to turn a profit. All that remains is a short test film.

Lynne RamsayAward Winners Photocall - 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 28 May 2017Scottish director Lynne Ramsay poses during the Award Winners photocall after she won the Best Screenplay award for 'You Were Never Really Here' at the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, 28 May 2017.

Lynne Ramsay


Lynne Ramsay’s Original Vision For “Jane Got A Gun”

The behind-the-scenes drama on “Jane Got A Gun” made headlines in 2013 when director Lynne Ramsay refused to show up on the first day of production and subsequently left the production after spending a year in development and working with the actors, including Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, and Jude Law. The latter ended up dropping since he signed up specifically to work with Ramsay. What drove Ramsay to abandon her project right at the time of production? Rumor has it she feuded with producer Scott Steindorff over the shooting schedule and, most importantly, control of final cut. Ramsay also butted heads with Natalie Portman over who to cast in the role that originally went to Michael Fassbender. Steindorff quickly brought Gavin O’Connor on to direct, but the final product was delayed numerous times by The Weinstein Company and passed over by critics upon release. The thought of a Lynne Ramsay Western remains incredibly enticing.

Guillermo del Toro’s “At the Mountains of Madness” Passion Project

Fans are still mourning the loss of Guillermo del Toro’s unrealized adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s “unfilmable” novella. The director had long wanted to make this movie and even wrote the script with Matthew Robbins in 2006. The two had previously worked together on “Mimic.” Things fell apart when Warner Bros. refused to fund the movie because of the large budget required and because it did not have a happy ending or a love story involved. By 2010, del Toro had taken the project to Universal, with James Cameron joining as producer and Tom Cruise set to star. The director insisted the film be rated R, causing Universal to back off over fear an adult rating would risk box office returns. Del Toro then took “Mountains” to 20th Century Fox, but he ultimately killed the project after the release of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” in 2012, claiming the premise was too similar.

Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier


Lars von Trier’s 33-Year Experiment “Dimensions”

If you thought Richard Linklater got ambitious by shooting “Boyhood” piece by piece over the course of 12 years, that’s nothing compared to what Lars von Trier had planned for “Dimensions.” The director started production in 1991 for a movie that was supposed to be filmed in three minute intervals every year for 33 years. The production would take place until 2024. Von Trier actually shot segments for six years, but by 1997 his interest in continuing had waned. He turned the 27 minutes of existing footage he did shoot into a short film of the same name, but we’ll always hold on to what would have probably been a wild 33-year experiment from cinema’s biggest troublemaker.

David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” Follow-Up “Ronnie Rocket”

Following the breakout success of his 1977 feature debut “Eraserhead,” David Lynch got to work on a script he still has never been able to turn into a feature film. “Ronnie Rocket” involved a one-legged detective who enters another dimension and gets stalked by a three-foot tall dwarf who can control electricity. Lynch was planning to mix black-and-white photography with color film, but no studio wanted to fund such a bizarre and risky premise. Lynch moved on to “The Elephant Man,” but he would attempt to get the project started after each new film of his, even casting Michael J. Anderson (“The Man From Another Place” in “Twin Peaks”) in the title role. Every time the director found a home for the movie, including De Laurentiis Entertainment Group and American Zoetrope, the studio would go bankrupt right before filming could begin. Lynch has maintained that he could still make the movie should he feel like it, but with his recent thoughts about the state of cinema, it appears “Ronnie Rocket” is as good as dead.

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