Many filmmakers have their nemesis of a movie, their white whale. Some, such as Gilliam (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) or Villeneuve (Dune) get to make them, eventually. Others get tantalizingly close but never quite get there. One project that looked like it may be forever that way was Guillermo del Toro with his adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.
This project has been in development hell, of one form or another, for twenty years. Tom Cruise was set to star and James Cameron was on board as a producer. All systems were go until the budget came in. $150 million in turn of the millennium dollars for a hard R-rated movie made the studio see risk. They pulled out, and the project was parked. We shared some visual art from the production here.
Since then del Toro has won Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars (The Shape of Water) and the streamers cometh!
They can take more risks, be closer to the vision of the creatives, and allow stories time to breathe in serial format. These days they own their own studios and production facilities, are certainly not short of cash, and also deploy new technology to make the unaffordable be within grasp even of television (e.g. The Mandalorian and The Volume soundstage technology).
Now on a podcast, del Toro has revealed he may be moving forward. He told The Kingcast he has pitched Netflix but the script needs work first as a different medium in a different time will bring a different approach:
“The thing with Mountains is the screenplay I co-wrote fifteen years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite. Not only to scale it down somehow but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that would make it go through the studio machinery.
I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it. You know, where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out. Some of the big set pieces I designed, for example, I have no appetite for. Like, I’ve already done this or that giant set piece. I feel like going into a weirder direction.
I know the ending we have is one the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings, for me. There’s about four horror set pieces that I love in the original script. So, you know, it would be my hope. I certainly get a phone call every six months from Don Murphy going ‘Are we doing this or what? Are you doing this next or what?’ and I say ‘I have to take the time to rewrite it.’”
He went on to say he would also take a different casting approach for At The Mountains Of Madness today as he doesn’t need star power so much in the world of streaming. Sorry, Tom Cruise!
“If I can, I would go for mostly unknowns and make the journey the star.”