50 Amazing Unmade Movies

The Defective Detective

The Unmade Movie: Terry Gilliam developed his story, about a P.I. who must track a missing girl into a fantasy world inside her storybooks, in the 1990s with The Fisher King writer Richard LaGravenese. He’s been trying to make it on and off ever since.

If They Made It Now: Gilliam never gives up but with each flop (and, if early word on The Zero Theorem is correct, he’s about to have another) it looks increasingly unlikely he’ll direct it. Still, we’d love to see it, possibly with Joseph Gordon-Levitt taking on the lead role once earmarked for his Looper co-star, Bruce Willis.

Smoke And Mirrors

The Unmade Movie: This original screenplay about real-life Victorian magician’s Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin battle with an Algerian sorcerer was the hottest screenplay of the mid-90s. Frank Marshall was set to direct Sean Connery, until the notoriously finickity star demanded rewrites and Marshall left to fulfil his contractual obligation to make Congo .

If They Made It Now: Catherine Zeta Jones later picked up the rights with a view to hubby Michael Douglas starring as Robert-Houdin. Arguably, though, the moment has passed to make a period magic movie, what with The Prestige and The Illusionist .


The Unmade Movie: Hotshot German director Roland Emmerich arrived in Hollywood in the early 1990s hoping to cast Sylvester Stallone as the star of this sci-fi thriller about a threat to a subterranean train journey. Emmerich’s mooted budget of $90 million scared off possible financiers, so he and producing partner Dean Devlin went to make Universal Soldier instead.

If They Made It Now: Emmerich and Devlin are back together working on the long-gestating sequel to Independence Day . Should it prove successful, there’s a chance they might get another crack at Isobar , although these days it’d be more likely to star Dwayne Johnson than Stallone.


The Unmade Movie: Francis Ford Coppola’s long-rumoured sci-fi epic would have dealt with the fall-out after a disaster hit New York City, but he abandoned the project after 9/11, feeling that the real-life tragedy had eclipsed his artistic vision.

If They Made It Now: Coppola announced last year he’d secured funding for a huge epic set in New York, so maybe this one is going to get made, after all.

The Other Side Of The Wind

The Unmade Movie: Orson Welles’ most famous unfinished project was his Hollywood satire, starring fellow directors John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich and Dennis Hopper. He actually completed principal filming, only for monetary and legal woes to prevent him executing his ambitious editing strategy.

If They Made It Now: Bogdanovich continues efforts to complete the film to Welles’ specifications, although with today’s digital technology it might be interesting to make a modern version – Bogdanovich is now of the age where he might assume the central character originally played by Huston.

The Moviegoer

The Unmade Movie: What was Terrence Malick doing during his 20 year break from filmmaking between 1978 and 1998? One thing we do know is he wrote a screenplay adapted from Walker Percy’s novel about an existentially troubled cinemagoer. Tim Robbins was attached to play the lead, circa 1994, but Malick moved on to The Thin Red Line .

If They Made It Now: Malick is reported to have vetoed any further attempts to make the New Orleans-set film on the grounds that Hurricane Katrina has changed the look of the city too much to recreate the ambience of the novel.

Yellow Submarine

The Unmade Movie: Robert Zemeckis hoped to direct a computer-animated remake of the Beatles classic using the mo-cap technology he deployed in The Polar Express and Beowulf . However, when Disney closed down Zemeckis’ studio, ImageMovers Digital, the project was shelved.

If They Made It Now: There’s no reason Zemeckis can’t get the gig off the ground elsewhere, given that his chosen cast – including Peter Serafinowicz as Paul McCartney – is still around.


The Unmade Movie: It doesn’t sound particularly likely, but mega-producer Dino Di Laurentiis once agreed to finance art-house master Robert Bresson’s planned adaptation of the Book of Genesis. According to the famously perfectionist director, it floundered due to the difficulty of getting the animals to perform on cue.

If They Made It Now: Given that Darren Aronofsky’s forthcoming Russell Crowe movie, Noah , covers much of Genesis, that’s probably the nearest we’ll get. The chances of it being even remotely similar to the austere Bresson’s conception are slim, mind.


The Unmade Movie: Martin Scorsese was planning an adaptation of Nick Tosches’ biography of Dean Martin with Goodfellas screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, when HBO movie The Rat Pack beat them to the screen.

If They Made It Now: Scorsese has a biopic of Dino’s best mate Frank Sinatra on the cards, so presumably the research from his earlier project will simply carry over to the new one, albeit with less emphasis on Martin.

Alien 3

The Unmade Movie: Eh? Wasn’t Alien 3 made? Well, yes, but its development is littered with ideas that never came to fruition. Most tantalising of all is Vincent Ward’s bonkers notion of setting events aboard a wooden monastery.

If They Made It Now: Ward’s idea of a religious order was combined with David Twohy’s script set on a prison planet to form the final David Fincher-directed version. But one day, maybe, Ward’s unique world-building might make for a fascinating, Ripley-less sci-fi film.

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