H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness is potentially his best known work. In the 1930’s a team of Antarctic explorers uncover the remains of creatures that are neither animal of plant. As they investigate the remote mountain range further they discover an abandoned city and venture underground. There they awaken something that they will come to regret disturbing.
Several attempts have been made to bring this story to the big screen but like all of Lovecraft’s work, something seems perennially stopping them being made, or being successful if they ever do come to the screen as they seem to defy simple adaption to the different medium.
For one filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, an adaption of At The Mountains Of Madness is his passion project, his obsession, his white whale.
Ten years ago the movie came close to fruition as Tom Cruise was locked to star and James Cameron was producing while Del Toro was in the chair. When the $150 million price tag became clear, while an R rating was deemed necessary to tell the story properly, Universal bailed. They couldn’t see a way to profit with a big budget in line with the very biggest superhero and sci-fi movies at the time while a restrictive rating remained non-negotiable.
That would normally defeat many filmakers. Not Del Toro, he remains committed and says we will see his movie one day:
“This is why I wear this ring, since the project got cancelled. This is the fake ring about a fake university, the one that appears in the book, Miskatonic University, and I’m gonna wear it until I make the movie. They may bury me with it.”
Will we ever see the Cthulhu mythos on the big screen? He doesn’t know as he gave an honest appraisal as to where a director really exists in the Hollywood pecking order:
“It’s difficult to tackle. We had James Cameron as a co-producer with me… we had Tom Cruise [to star] and we thought we were gonna get it made and we didn’t, it didn’t happen. These are not decisions you make.
Most of us filmmakers, we exist in a world that moves above our paygrade. People think that our career is a series of decisions. Our career is a series of accidents happening with your decisions on top. You don’t decide to do one movie instead of another.”
Del Toro has Nightmare Alley restarting production post-COVID19 and has a stop-motion Pinocchio project in the pipeline at Netflix before he could even consider trying to restart his efforts to bring Lovecraft to the screen.
Credit To Anna Butova, concept artist and illustrator for her online Lovecraft artwork.