Abrams Books, an imprint associated with strongly illustrated books about the history of movies, has released Underexposed!: The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, by writer Joshua Hull.
The book, published in conjunction with the poster art site PosterSpy, takes a look at a long list of movies that were proposed or very nearly came to fruition, but for whatever reason disappeared down the tubes of development hell.
If you were a fan of those fun movie rumor websites in the ’90s like Corona Coming Attractions and Dark Horizons, you will likely remember some of these proposed movies. Like, when Ridley Scott was going to direct Arnold Schwarzenegger in I Am Legend, or A Topiary, a movie we’re now unlikely to ever see from the since-canceled director Shane Carruth.
Some of it goes back a bit further, to the time when the Beatles were going to appear in an adaptation of Lord of the Rings, or when the Rolling Stones were eyed to play the Droogs in an early itineration of A Clockwork Orange. There are also intriguing stories about different superhero movies that became a reality, from Joel Schumacher making a third Batman movie after the Clooney one to George Miller’s Justice League movie going forward, with Armie Hammer as Batman.
The prose is engaging and funny and invites viewers to imagine a possible world in which Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton movie had come to fruition, or Spike Jonze had adapted Harold and the Purple Crayon instead of Where the Wild Things Are.
Each page has a rendering of what the movie’s poster might have looked like if it had been made
Each page has a rendering of what the movie’s poster might have looked like if it had been made. My personal favorite was the one that shows what Cleopatra would have looked like if directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Of the movies listed, the ones I most wish we could have seen are the never-made John Hughes teen movie Oil and Vinegar, that Tony Clifton movie — which sounds like Andy Kaufman’s Freddy Got Fingered — and Ness, which David Fincher was going to make prior to Zodiac, with Matt Damon and Rachel McAdams.
If the book has a weakness, it’s that it concentrates way too much on movies from the last 25 or 30 years, and less so on films from before that. One of the older movies included is Jerry Lewis’s notorious The Day the Clown Cried, which is more of a lost film than an unmade one. There are other ones, like the Nick Cave-written sequel to Gladiator, that it’s hard to believe ever had much of a chance of existing.
There’s also a strong pull towards genre films and certain directors. Unrealized projects by John Carpenter and Rob Zombie, in particular, seem to be mentioned more often than those of anything else. There are several chapters about movies that were part of long-running series, like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street or Alien, that may have had one more installment that never happened.
A couple of examples of movies that weren’t made, including Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune and Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, aren’t included, for the simple reasons that they’ve both already been the subjects of whole documentaries. Another, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, was also the subject of such a documentary — 2002’s Lost in La Mancha — but Gilliam later revisited and completed the film.
Of course, knowing how Hollywood works, I wouldn’t be shocked if, within five years, at least a few of these films ended up getting made after all.