The sad progress of Hellboy 3 from a twinkle in Guillermo Del Toro‘s eye through rumours of a revival and straight into the garbage pail of Hollywood history was a sad sight for many fans to behold. For a minute there it really looked like Mike Mignola’s masterpiece was going to have one last shot at the big time. And while we were left bitterly disappointed, it certainly got us all thinking. Del Toro’s career is littered with dead projects that he keeps alive through sheer force of will, waiting for the right moment to resurrect them. So what other old Del Toro projects might we end up seeing? Here are the five we’d most like the Mexican maestro to work his magic on.
AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS
The hell is that?
It’s no secret that Del Toro is a bit of a Lovecraft geek. On a scale of one to ten, he’s got a life-size waxwork of him in his personal library.
An adaptation of At The Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s most iconic tales, has been high on Del Toro’s wishlist ever since people started letting him near cameras.
Del Toro first wrote the script after his runaway success with Cronos in 1993, setting it during the time of the conquistadors, who would unearth something otherworldly beneath the ruins of a Mayan temple. It was his unique reinterpretation of the classic tale (originally set on an Antarctic expedition in the 1930’s) combined with the striking artwork that Del Toro created that convinced Tom Cruise to sign up for the project.
So, What Happened?
Studios are rubbish. Despite Del Toro’s immense passion and dedication to the project, nothing could match the cyclopean scale of Hollywood’s boner for blandness. Warner Bros. wouldn’t get on board to finance the project. This was in part, Del Toro claims, because they were: “very nervous about the cost and it not having a love story or a happy ending, but it’s impossible to do either in the Lovecraft universe.”
After a 2006 script rewrite, signing Tom Cruise as the lead and with James Cameron set to produce, 2011 was as close as the project ever got to filming. However, the studio’s refusal to give Del Toro the free reign that an R rating affords held things up. Del Toro tried to take the project to another studio in 2012 but the whole thing got shot down over fears that the finished film would resemble Ridley Scott’s Prometheus too closely in themes and style.
Will We See it?
Never say never, because Del Toro certainly isn’t. As late as 2014 he teased fans, asking if they’d prefer this or Hellboy 3. Although the fans favoured the latter, it was clear that Del Toro was still keen to dive into Lovecraft’s world. He’s no stranger to long slogs at the production coalface. His gothic romance Crimson Peak took 8 years from pitch to production. If he continues to apply his same dedication to atMOM, maybe it’ll still see the light of day.
The hell is that?
Mephisto’s bridge was to be an adaptation of the novel Spanky by master of the macabre, Christopher Fowler. The story is of a Faustian pact between a thwarted yuppie and the ancient demon Spanky, who wants in exchange for wealth and status not his soul, but his body. It’s a brutal satire of soulless 80’s consumer culture with plenty of scares, pitch-black humour and a cover that makes it look like BDSM erotica, because Fowler likes to make you feel uncomfortable reading his books on the bus.
According to Christopher Fowler: “The film version was to be set in Pittsburg, the first half in winter, the second half in summer – Heaven (snow) and Hell (furnace heat) would balance the story. It was a wonderful idea, and would have worked beautifully.”
These days all that exists of Mephisto’s Bridge are some intriguing hand-drawn concept sketches by Del Toro. He describes the work as “One of my favourite things I’ve ever written and some of my favourite designs too.”
So, What Happened?
Well, Hellboy 2, basically. Just as the project was nearing the point of entering production, Del Toro was offered a truly obscene amount of money to bring us Hellboy 2. Much as we aren’t complaining about the big red one’s second outing, it is a shame that Mephisto’s Bridge never saw the light of day.
Chrisopher Fowler has also hinted that the studio might have been uncomfortable with some of the more adult content in the story, which certainly goes to some dark places. He appears to hold no grudges against Del Toro however, and was happy to give permission for character designs from Mephisto’s Bridge to be used in other projects.
Will we ever see it?
It seems unlikely that Del Toro will return to his original script, but Mephisto’s bridge lives on in his other works. The designs Del Toro worked out for the demon Spanky ended up being hugely influential to a host of other projects. Del toro said of his Spanky concept art: “Spanky, the demon, was this slender, almost beautiful creature that was kind of made of moving pieces when he was out of his host. It’s one of my favourite designs I’ve ever made…..Right here, pre-anything, are the roots of the faun, and the Hellboy creatures, and Hellboy himself. This is where it all comes from, this basic form.”
The most obvious refugee from the Mephisto’s bridge project is the Angel of Death from Hellboy 2, whose many-eyed wings originally adorned Spanky in his archangel form.
THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS
The Hell is that?
An adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ opus The Count of Monte Cristo, set in Mexico and described by Del Toro as “a kind of Steampunk, Gothic Western.” Consumed by thoughts of vengeance, this version of the count has a mechanical hand, an embodiment of his desire for retribution, that allows him to become the fastest gunslinger in the west.
Like At the Mountains of Madness, The Left Hand of Darkness is a deeply personal project for Del Toro, but for different reasons. He originally wrote a script in 1994, but rewrote it after his father was kidnapped in 1997, an event which haunts him to this day, and caused him and his family to flee his native Mexico. The scars, says Del Toro, run deep: “Every day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am an involuntary exile [from my country].”
His father was eventually returned after his ordeal (The family was forced to pay double the original ransom to secure his release), but Del Toro was left with a burning fury at his kidnappers, a fury that he channelled into his new script for The Left Hand of Darkness.
“All the anger I had about the kidnapping went into the went into the Monte Cristo Character” said Del Toro. “There’s a great deal of personal grief in it, and I think it’s the best screenplay I’ve ever written.”
So, What Happened?
We have to put this one down to bad timing. 2002’s Count of Monte Cristo by Kevin Reynolds starring Jim caviezel probably took a lot of the wind out of the project’s sails. Reynolds’ take was a pretty straightforward adaptation compared to Del Toro’s promise of a gothic, almost vampiric or monstrous count that only surfaced at night to take his vengeance.
It may also be the case that the Del Toro of 2002 wasn’t quite ready to take on the project. He spoke in interviews of his apprehension at the scale of its scale: “I’m very, very proud of the screenplay, but it requires a set of tools that are a little daunting. It’s sort of like a David Lean, Sergio Leone epic western. Very much full of magic. And it’s the only movie without any creatures.”
Will we ever see it?
It’s hard to say. Del Toro never likes to close the book on his passion projects, and this one seems to be more passionate than most. Certainly he still seemed enthused about the idea as late as 2009, when he spoke to MTV about upcoming films. As with Mephisto’s Bridge, traces of The Left Hand of Darkness can be found in Del Toro’s other movies, with the titular robotic hand ending up on Kroenen in Hellboy.
The hell is that?
Come on, man. You remember this one, it was only one of the most controversial video game moments in recent years. The promised collaboration between Del Toro and video game legend Hideo Kojima, starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus was a mouth-watering prospect. Add to it P.T., the playable teaser that scared the pants off the world, and soon survival horror fans were desperate for a taste of more.
But then, disaster. Not only was the game cancelled, but, in what Del Toro described as a “scorched earth” move, Konami removed P.T. from the Playstation store and even from the game libraries of players. This meant that only those with P.T. installed on their systems could ever play it again. It was a move that left a decidedly bitter taste in the mouths of all those fans, soothed for some by the fact that anyone lucky enough to have the game installed could now sell their Playstation at a ridiculous markup.
So, what happened?
The curse of Del Toro, according to the man himself: “I have proven to be the albatross of video games,” he is quoted as saying: “I joined THQ, and THQ goes broke. I join Kojima, and Kojima leaves Konami. I have decided, in order not to destroy anyone else’s life, I will never again get involved in video games. Otherwise, I’ll join someone and his house will explode, or something.”
In reality, this had more to do with backroom politics than with supernatural curses. Kojima’s split with Konami occurred in a shower of bad blood and their decision to scrub Silent Hills from gaming history seems like a calculated and spiteful move. A shame, as, if P.T. was anything to go on, this meeting of minds could have been a Citizen Kane moment for horror gaming.
Will We ever see it?
Nope. Even a valiant petition from dedicated fans couldn’t bring this one back from the dead. What we’ll get instead is Death Stranding. From the surreal trailers released so far, we know that the game will feature Norman Reedus as protagonist, the always excellent Mads Mikkelson as villain, and Guillermo del Toro stars in one of the teaser trailers, in all his mo-cap glory. Unfortunately he isn’t going to be involved creatively in the project, but his inclusion feels like a nod to what could have been. Hopefully some of the ideas from Silent hills will resurface in this mysterious game.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
The hell was that?
It’s like the Justice League, but dark. JLD would have seen Del Toro in his element, his fourth comic book movie was to focus on those heroes who draw their powers from mystical forces and face supernatural threats, rather than just punching things while wearing spandex. It’s exactly the mix of heroism and horror that Del Toro excels at, and with a cast of misfits including Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing and Etrigan The Demon to play with, this is one that Del Toro could have really gotten stuck into.
Better yet, the film would not have been an origin story, because for god’s sake people there are other stories to be told.
Del Toro promised that his script would function as part of the DC extended universe, slotting in alongside the Constantine TV show (Matt Ryan was rumoured to be reprising his role as Constantine in the movie) and the planned Sandman movie.
So, what happened?
Pacific Rim 2. Much like what happened with Mephisto’s bridge, del Toro was forced to choose between an original script and the chance to make a sequel to one of his older properties, and chose the latter. As he put it: “Warners liked the script, they were very enthusiastic and wanted to green-light it but they wanted it to coincide with the shoot of Pacific Rim 2. I was put in a very difficult place facing a difficult choice, and I chose to do Pacific Rim 2.”
Hey, we certainly aren’t complaining about the opportunity to see more giant robots punching each other, but this could have been awesome. It also seems like the studio passed over the opportunity to move forward with Justice League Dark in favour of Suicide Squad, and we all know how that turned out…
Will we ever see it?
Possibly? All is quiet on the Justice League Dark front. Rumours abounded that it was intended for a 2017 release alongside Wonder Woman and Pacific Rim 2, with a different director attached, but no new details have surfaced, leading us to wonder if it’s a dead duck at this stage. Doug Liman, director of Edge of Tomorrow, was on board to direct when last the project was last heard of. We’re crossing our fingers for the project to resurface, but without too much hope.
For now you’ll just have to content yourself with the animated movie.
Guillermo Del Toro has more awesome-sounding projects in his brain at any one time than any sane person has rights to. Cutting this feature down to just five entries was a tricky and painful process. His Incredible Hulk TV series, the planned HALO film, his version of The Hobbit as well as planned re-imaginings of Frankenstein and The Fantastic Voyage all deserve their own entries. Most difficult to cut was The List of Seven, a Steampunk adventure that pits Sir Arthur Conan Doyle against deranged cultists with zombie and mummy minions. Yes please.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, Guillermo del Toro has a few projects that are definitely going ahead. Next on his slate are Pacific Rim 2, Pinocchio, further episodes of The Strain and Trollhunters and his Cold War romantic drama, The Shape of The Water.