As mentioned in part one, the film industry is a good place for ideas but not all those ideas will ultimately reach the big screen. Many projects are announced each year and most of them will reach the pre-production stage but many will go no further than that. Only about half of the films announced will ever be completed. For various reasons, many intended movies will just fade away. Some may die during the script writing stage, while other will actually begin production or even filming before the whims of fortune cause the demise of the project. Here is the second part of a list of 25 tantalizing unmade films that could have been classics.
Kaleidoscope: Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock liked to be innovative. After watching Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Hitchcock felt America was far behind the Italians in film technique. He asked the novelist Howard Fast to create a treatment about a deformed, gay serial killer. Hitchcock story-boarded a series of shots with over 450 camera positions and shot an hour’s worth of experimental test shots. However, MCA/Universal was disturbed and put-off by the script and the story board images and immediately cancelled the project.
The Marx Brothers at the United Nations: In the 1950's, the aging Marx Brothers were set to reunite for another film. Groucho, Chico and Harpo were set to play a gang of thieves who, while fleeing the police, end up in the UN, where they are mistaken for important dignitaries. The joke was that the thieves fit so well in the world of politics that no one realizes they are phonies. The death of elder brother Chico ended the project.
Megalopolis: Francis Ford Coppola dreamed up one of the most ambitious and unusual movies ever planned. It was an epic vision of New York City in the near future, where a brilliant city planner has turned New York into a massive metropolis which is the center of global economics and culture. The planner even displays the power to stop time itself at will. However, he is also threatened by numerous adversaries, including government agencies, organized crime and corrupt businessmen. The movie never happened because the amount of money required to properly create its epic scope would be prohibitive, since Hollywood doesn’t like to take chances on films this unusual.
Napoleon: Stanley Kubrick has made many classic films, and his planned Napoleon film was a project that he had wanted to do for years. The movie, which he started production on in 1968, was to be an epic three-and-a half hour extravaganza about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. United Artist was unwilling to fund the entire project because they didn't think people would sit through a 3-plus hour bio-pic. Kubrick almost got money from some Europeans investors (it was going to be filmed in France and Italy) but he was ruined by competition from the film Waterloo, with Rod Steiger, which was being filmed nearby at the same time and was courting the same investors. The investors decided to put their money into the cheaper film and so Kubrick couldn't fund his own version.
The Navarone Trilogy-Part 3: The classic war film, the Guns of Navarone--starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn--was a huge hit in 1961. Director J. Lee Thompson had planned for a trilogy of stories—all based on the Navarone book series—featuring the Peck, Niven and Quinn characters of Malory, Miller and Andrea. He had hoped to start work on the second film by 1964 but it was difficult for huge stars like Peck, Niven and Quinn to coordinate their work schedules with Thompson's own busy schedule. Several years passed and the sequel was delayed. By 1970, both Niven and Peck agreed that they were now too old to portray their characters (the sequel was supposed to take place only a year after the first film) and so the trilogy was abandoned. In 1978, director Guy Hamilton picked up the thread of the franchise and finally filmed the sequel Force 10 from Navarone, with Robert Shaw and Edward Fox as Malory and Miller. (Quinn’s character was omitted from the script.) Harrison Ford co-starred. The film ended on a cliff-hanger, which was to set up the finale of the Navarone trilogy. However, Force 10 from Navarone was a box-office flop and plans for the third Navarone film were dropped.
The Road to the Fountain of Youth: Comedian Bob Hope and singer/actor Bing Crosby had made their successful "Road" series, consisting of seven films between 1940 and 1962. The Road comedies were very popular. The two remained close friends afterward, and in the late 1970s, the duo decided to make a reunion "Road" film. This one was to be called “The Road to the Fountain of Youth.” The story would begin with the aged Hope and Crosby as the main characters, until they find the fountain of youth and become young again (after which, younger actors would play the same characters as young men.) The death of Bing Crosby in 1977 ended the project.
Roger Rabbit 2: The Toon Platoon: The success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit led to a series of short animated films and, of course, talk of a sequel. Or rather, a prequel. The story was to take place several years before the original film, focusing on Roger's early years, how he met his voluptuous wife Jessica and how he became a Toon star. The movie was to be a tribute to the Service comedies of the 1940s (Most of the popular comedians of the time made comedies where they joined the armed forced.) In the film, Roger would be a USO performer who foils a Nazi plot. Unfortunately, there was a problem regarding the rights to the characters. Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, Disney Studios, and Roger Rabbit's creator Gary K. Wolfe all fought over their piece of the profit pie and the franchise fell apart.
Strawberry Fields Forever: 25 years after the surreal animated film Yellow Submarine debuted, plans were made to film an animated follow-up to the Beatles’ cult favorite. The film was supposed to be done in the new medium of CGI animation. (Impressionists were going to voice the Beatles, but the songs would be done by Beatle recording.) The surviving Beatles didn't approve of the screenplay and it never went past the script stage.
Superman Meets Batman: In 2002, Director Wolfgang Peterson wanted to resurrect the ailing franchises of the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader (after Superman 4: the Quest for Peace and Batman & Robin both flopped) and planned to unite the two characters in one film. A script was written where Superman and Batman would join forces, but the idea was dropped in favor of the Justice League film, which itself was delayed for years but is now in the works again and scheduled for 2015.
Warhead: In the late 1970s, several years after Sean Connery had quit the popular James Bond Franchise, he was contacted by Kevin McClory, who had produced the James Bond film Thunderball. McClory, who had also left the franchise, didn't like the turn the Bond series had taken and wanted to make a new Bond film starring the original and best Bond, Sean Connery. The film was to be a semi-sequel to Thunderball, but produced by a different production company. Orson Welles had agreed to play the villain. However, the financial power of United Artists (who produced the "proper" Bond series) managed to squash the project. Connery and McClory finally got to do another Bond film in 1983, when they made Never Say Never Again, which was basically a remake of Thunderball.
Wonder Woman: Warner Brothers owns DC comics. The three most popular comic heroes of the DC Comics universe are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Superman and Batman have both had successful film franchises made about them, so therefore it was natural that Wonder Woman was next. There had been a successful Wonder Woman TV series in the 1970s, starring Linda Carter. A script was written in the 1990s for a WW film and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) was approached to play the lead role. However, Lawless refused the project because the script was too Xena-like for her and she feared type-casting. Other big names were tossed about for the role and the script was re-worked. After long delays, the studio ultimately got cold feet because superhero films featuring women had traditionally not gone over well (Supergirl, Catwoman, Electra.) They decided to make a new Wonder Woman TV series instead, since the character had already been successful on TV. It starred Adrianne Palicki as the eponymous heroine. The pilot was filmed but this version of the character was deemed too un-heroic. The pilot never sold and any future plans for Wonder Woman have faded into limbo, except for her expected appearance in the Justice League film.
Won't Fade Out: In the 1980s, director Andrew Lederer decided to make a film that would be a homage to the aging stars of Hollywood's golden years. The plot concerned a group of elderly actors who are reunited for a reunion tour and suddenly find fame late in life, which they have trouble dealing with. The legendary cast would have included Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Ralph Bellamy, Roy Rogers, Ginger Rogers, Lillian Gish and some of the Little Rascals. Paramount executives were reportedly disappointed in the script because they expected a lite-hearted comedy, but the script was actually an emotionally powerful drama, so they passed on the film.
The truly sad thing about this list, is that it's no where near comprehensive. There are so many films in Hollywood that never see the light of day. While we'd all like to assume there are good reasons they weren't made, the truth is, we'll never know if they could have been instant classics or not.