I love hearing stories about The Films That Almost Were, although they make me sad because I then want to see the films and can't. Sometimes I hope that when I die, I'll get access to a celestial movie theater that will play all the movies that almost got made but fell through, along with alternate versions of released films but with the originally planned cast or script. I'm looking forward to finally seeing Peter Sellers in Kiss Me, Stupid and Paulette Goddard in Gone with the Wind, but as much as I like Steve McQueen, I'm not sure I'll enjoy him in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And I can't wait to see Orson Welles' cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. An entire book has been devoted to movies that we'll never see, Chris Gore's The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, although I've never had a chance to read it. Here's a list of seven notorious almost-made films that I know about. If I missed anything good, let me know.
- Don Quixote -- This is probably the most well-known example of a movie we'll never see. Orson Welles worked on and off to film a version of Don Quixote for 30 years. He took acting roles he didn't particularly like to finance the film, but kept running out of money and the film was nowhere near complete when he died.
- The Man Who Killed Don Quixote -- At least we know the story behind this unfinished Terry Gilliam film and can see tantalizing clips (as in the above photo), thanks to the documentary Lost in La Mancha. However, seeing Johnny Depp in some of those clips makes me even more frustrated that the film was never completed. Gilliam still has plans to buy back the footage from the insurance company and finish the film, so it's not entirely a lost cause.
- The Marx Brothers at the U.N. -- In the early 1960s, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond plotted a Marx Brothers movie set at the United Nations. The three brothers had not made a movie together in over a decade, and were getting up there in age, but liked the idea. Unfortunately, before the project could go anywhere, Harpo had a heart attack and no one would insure the film. I could see this being a glorious flop, but we'll never know for sure. [Source: Wilder Times by Kevin Lally]
- Roger Rabbit 2 -- Rich Drees has a good explanatory article on why we never saw a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, even though a script was written and preproduction tests were run. The short version: Too pricey. Considering some of the very expensive flops we've seen released in the past few years, this seems like a real shame.
- Up Against It -- In 1967, British playwright Joe Orton wrote a script for a Beatles movie that was considered too racy and subversive for the Fab Four. According to John Lahr's bio of Orton, Prick Up Your Ears, Orton boasted that the script included the Beatles "involved in dubious political activity, dressed as women, committed murder, been put in prison and committed adultery. And the script isn't finished yet." I'm very fond of Orton's plays (Loot, What the Butler Saw) and can only imagine what the combination of Orton and The Beatles would have spawned.
- A Confederacy of Dunces -- I grew up in New Orleans, the setting for A Confederacy of Dunces, and I feel like I've been hearing about potential movies adapted from John Kennedy Toole's novel for most of my life. John Belushi, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell -- who will they think of next to play Ignatius Reilly? Many articles have been written about the multiple attempts to make this movie -- there's a whole other novel or documentary in there somewhere. The older I get, the more I believe that the spirit of the novel is unfilmable to begin with, so I kind of hope we never see a movie version. (I would have liked hearing the staged reading in 2003, though.)
- Flamingos Forever -- John Waters wrote a script and was in negotiations to make a sequel to his cult film Pink Flamingos, but Divine and Edith Massey died before the movie could be shot. Waters understandably has no intention of making the movie with anyone else. This is probably the movie I'm least sorry to have missed of all the ones on this list; I'm not all that crazy about Pink Flamingos myself and the sequel's biggest attraction to many was its punchline: a reversal of the last scene in the original.