When 10 Cloverfield Lane started out, it was an independent film called The Cellar, about a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who wakes up injured and locked in the bunker-like cellar of a man (John Goodman) she’s never met before. The strange man tells her that he found after an accident and brought her there to minister to her wounds but then a cataclysmic disaster ravaged the surface world and she has to stay there. She doesn’t believe him and spends the rest of the film trying to escape, while her memories of the night of her accident slowly return. The film doesn’t make it clear until the end whether or not Goodman is a crazy kidnapper or if he really saved her from an apocalyptic incident.
The film remained unreleased for a time but was later bought by Paramount, who decided that the film would do better as a sequel to Cloverfield than in its original form. It was edited, some new scenes were added (under the working title Valencia) and soon, a sequel was born. However, it was never meant to be a sequel. This isn’t a unique case and it’s happened before. Here are 9 films that were rewritten to be added to a prior franchise.
A SHOT IN THE DARK
The second and funniest of the Inspector Clouseau/Pink Panther movies originally did not include Peter Sellers as Clouseau. This film was originally shot as an adaptation of a play by Harry Kurnitz, with Walter Matthau and Peter Sellers starring as a pair of detectives, but Sellers didn’t like how things were shaping up and wanted out of the project. United Artists brought in Blake Edwards, hoping to keep Sellers from walking, but even Edwards didn’t have a good idea how to make the project entertaining.
Edwards left temporarily to film the Pink Panther and brought Sellers with him to play the role of bungling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. After completing filming of Pink Panther, Edwards had an epiphany and realized A Shot in the Dark might be better if they added the character of Inspector Clouseau, and so rewrote the entire script, along with a young Willian Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) making it a Pink Panther sequel. Matthau was dropped and all of Seller’s scenes were re-filmed as Clouseau. It was released only three months after the original Pink Panther (1963).
Yes, one of the most popular action films ever made began as something quite different than the movie we know today. Originally it was conceived as a sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Commando. The original script would have had John Matrix (Arnold) in LA rescuing his daughter (Alyssa Milano) again. Arnold decided that he didn’t want to do another sequel after Conan the Destroyer flopped (although he did later hop on board for a Terminator sequel) so exit Arnold and enter Bruce Willis. After a rewrite, Die Hard was born. (Parenthetically, Die Hard and Commando exist in the same universe because the fictitious country of Val Verde was later referenced in an Easter Egg in Die Hard 2.)
DIE HARD 3
Like the first film, the third installment was a revamp of another project. The original script was written as a film called “Simon Sez”. After that project was dropped, the script was revamped for Mel Gibson as a Lethal Weapon sequel. However, when that didn’t pan out, the script floated around until it was rewritten again for Willis in his third outing as John McLane.
UNDER SIEGE 2
The sequel to the best of the Die Hard rip-offs began as an unrelated project. This movie originally had nothing at all to do with the first Under Siege. It started as a script called Dark Territory about bad guys planning to hijack a train to use for nasty reasons. It has nothing to do with the Navy or with the previous Under Siege movie, but since Steven Seagal auditioned for the part and got it, the producers figured they might as well take advantage of the popularity of Under Siege and make it a sequel.
HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING
This notorious bomb would have been better off in its original form. The early script was an unnamed sci-fi project with an environmental theme about ozone depletion and aliens from the planet Zeist. When the Highlander sequel was in pre-production, the studio Lamb Bear Entertainment and the film’s investors were in such a hurry to cash in on the popularity of the first movie that they tossed out the complicated shooting-script and replaced it with the hastily rewritten Zeist screenplay (which could be done in less time, for less money). None of the actors involved liked the new script but they were contractually obligated to go through with it.
GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER
This bit of Kaiju campiness originally began as a vehicle for a different monster. The early version was written for that simian icon King Kong. This was supposed to be the third of three films Toho Studios made about Kong, as part of their deal with Universal. The first two were the Kaiju classic King Kong vs. Godzilla and the wonderfully silly King Kong Escapes. When the second film didn’t do as well as Toho hoped, the script was rewritten for their most financially surefire monster, Godzilla. The fact that this was first designed for Kong explains the scene where Godzilla carries off a human woman, which was Kong’s usual trademark.
Minority Report was originally written as a sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall. Producer/director Paul Verhoeven, who had been wanting to make a follow-up to his Total Recall, optioned Phillip K. Dick’s story “The Minority Report” because the tone and themes matched what had been done on Total Recall. However, the production company Carolco went bankrupt and Arnold quit the project, so Minority Report languished in limbo and floated around Hollywood for some time, before finally making its way into Spielberg’s hands. He had his own vision of what Phillip Dick’s story should be like and so dispensed with the characters and references connecting it to Total Recall.
Ocean’s 12 was developed as a project called Honor Among Thieves, written by George Nolfi and would have been directed by John Woo. When those plans fell apart, Nolfi teamed up with Steven Soderberg to make it into a sequel to Ocean’s 11.
The first sequel to Saw started as a low budget horror flick called “The Desperate”, which was hastily written as a rip-off of the original Saw. No one wanted to bankroll the project which was rightfully criticized for being just a Saw clone. Ultimately, it was the Saw producers who saved the project by purchasing the script, doing some rewrites and releasing it as Saw 2.
It’s a common practice in Hollywood, where they take scripts and make them usable in other franchises. Whether it’s to make a unique script more marketable, or simply to rush a sequel out the door, it’s led to some of our favorite, and notorious, movies.