May 17, 2012 on May 17, 2012
A list of the best films you'll never see, L through Z
By Film Comment
A list of the best films you'll never see, A through K
The criteria for this survey is that the projects were all at one time planned or attempted by one or many directors. This is not a list of unproduced screenplays, but of unrealized productions. Any films that were ultimately made by another director have been discounted, hence the absence of Orson Welles’s The Big Brass Ring.
Readers should also note that this is a work in progress. We will continue to add more entries whenever we learn of them, and expand details about those already included. We invite you to contact us directly if you have further information or know about any additional unproduced films among the many we have overlooked. Send your suggestions and additions (with the subject heading “Unproduced Films”) to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
À la recherche du temps perdu (Luchino Visconti, 1969)
In 1969 Visconti commissioned a script by Suso Cecchi d’Amico. Visconti conducted rigorous research around Paris and the Normandy coast. The usual collaborators were retained: Nicole Stéphane (who owned the rights), photographer Claude Schwartz, costume designer Piero Tosi, and set designer Mario Garbuglia. Silvana Mangano was to play the Duchesse de Guermantes, Alain Delon or Dustin Hoffman the narrator-protagonist Marcel, and Helmut Berger the homosexual protégé of Baron Charlus, Charlie Morel. The proposed four-hour film boasted a huge cast and an accordingly huge budget. Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando were considered for role of Charlus.
À la recherche du temps perdu (Joseph Losey, 1970s)
Harold Pinter teamed up with Losey and Proust scholar Barbara Bray to develop a screenplay. After failing to find American support, Losey took the script to the French president to discuss a Franco-British production, backed by Gaumont, but both were skeptical of Losey’s ability to tackle a French subject (in French). Both Laurence Olivier and Dirk Bogarde declined to participate.
The Adventures of Harry Dickson (Alain Resnais)
Based on a 1930s crime series by Jean Ray, it was to star Dirk Bogarde or Laurence Olivier as the eponymous Harry Dickson, in a mostly British and American cast including Vanessa Redgrave. Surrealist André Delvaux signed on to design the sets and Karlheinz Stockhausen agreed to compose the music.
Against the Grain (Luis Buñuel)
The director and Jean-Claude Carrière completed an adaptation of Huysman’s novel but Buñuel concluded that the project would be "too difficult."
L’Ailleurs immédiat (Jean-Pierre Gorin)
In the director’s first solo film, Gorin played the lead, reciting passages from Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals while getting tattooed, and masturbating on a Paris window ledge. The film was reportedly destroyed by the producers before completion, after the drug arrest of the lead actress.
Alexander (Baz Luhrmann, 2004)
Based on the historical-fiction trilogy by Valerio Manfredi, it was to shoot in Morocco, featuring King Mohammed VI’s personal army of 6,000 in the battle scenes. Leonardo DiCaprio was Alexander, and Nicole Kidman was Olympia, with Dino De Laurentiis and Martin Scorsese producing.
All Is Quiet (Akira Kurosawa)
Kurosawa’s early screenwriting effort won the 1942 Nihon Eiga contest for best scenario, but never proceeded to filming due to wartime production constraints.
An American Tragedy (Sergei Eisenstein, 1930)
Eisenstein’s adaptation of Dreiser’s novel was to be produced by Paramount. Selznick thought the script was moving, but too depressing for commercial success: “A subject that will appeal to our vanity through the critical acclaim . . . but that cannot possibly offer anything but a most miserable two hours to millions of happy-minded young Americans.”
April Morning (John Ford, 1967-8)
The screenplay by Michael Wilson, slated for production by Sam Goldwyn Jr., was in Ford’s words “the story of a blacksmith and his family just before the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Lexington and Concord will be in the film . . . but basically it’s the story of a father and his son.”
The Aryan Papers (Stanley Kubrick, 1993)
The source was Louis Begley’s novel Wartime Lies, about the young son of a wealthy Jewish family forced to flee when the Germans invade Poland. Dutch actress Johanna Ter Steege waited in the wings to star; locations were scouted in Denmark.
At the Mountains of Madness (Guillermo del Toro, 2006-12)
Del Toro’s passion project was to be an expensive adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable H.P. Lovecraft novel, co-written by Matthew Robbins. Warner Bros. put the project into turnaround in 2006 on cost grounds, but in 2010 James Cameron committed to producing a 3-D version starring Tom Cruise. In March 2011, Universal refused to greenlight the project due to del Toro’s insistence that it be released with an R rating. In May 2012, del Toro announced that Ridley Scott’s soon-to-be-released Lovecraftian science fiction film Prometheus, covering similar territory to his envisaged production, had convinced him that his project would be redundant.
The Autumn of the Patriarch (Emir Kusturica)
Kusturica discussed an adaptation of this novel with author Gabriel García Márquez. Marlon Brando was to star, with Sean Penn producing.
Balzac (Sam Fuller)
Fuller had long dreamed of making a biopic about Balzac, a beloved author of his. From Fuller’s autobiography: “My ball-grabbing opening had young Balzac and his mother in a runaway stagecoach, hurtling along a treacherous road next to a cliff, the future novelist struggling with the reins of the startled horses and finally saving the day. Hell, Balzac was going to be a sexy adventure picture with plenty of action!”
Balzac in Russia (Friedrich Ermler)
Experimental color picture about the arrival of Balzac in St. Petersburg in 1842.
The Beast in the Jungle (Leos Carax, 2007)
Based on the 1903 novella by Henry James, it was the story of a fateful, not-quite-confessed love spanning 20 years. Abbie Cornish was attached at one point.
La Belle vie (Robert Bresson)
Bresson received “advance-on-box-office” French funding in 1986 for the project.
Blood on the Wheels (Otto Preminger)
The story of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune, inventor of a tuberculosis treatment and friend to Chairman Mao, was to be adapted by Ring Lardner, Jr. Preminger had reportedly been cleared to shoot inside China after a trip in 1978.
Blue Yonder (David Maysles)
Begun in the 1960s, Maysles’s autobiographical family portrait centered on his father and older cousin, a World War II fighter pilot. After his death, daughter Celia Maysles made her own film titled Wild Blue Yonder.
The Boxer and the Blonde (Ron Shelton)
Based on an Eighties Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford about Billy Conn, an iconic 1930s boxer and his girlfriend - who was a minor and who ultimately became his wife.
Les Braconniers (Jean Renoir)
The story (“The Poachers,” in English) was written with Dudley Nichols, and set to star Danielle Delorme as a girl who shares her house with the denizens of a Boulogne forest 100 years ago.
La Brava (Hal Ashby, 1986)
Ashby’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel was to film in Miami in 1986. Dustin Hoffman, Murray Schisgal, and Ashby contributed to script. Among those considered for Hoffman’s fifty-something love interest were Debbie Reynolds, June Allyson, and Kathryn Grayson.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Allan Dwan, 1960)
This adaptation of the Thornton Wilder novel was abandoned when it turned out that Dwan’s producer Benedict Bogeaus no longer owned the rights.
The Brotherhood of the Grape (Francis Ford Coppola, 1973)
Robert Towne wrote the screenplay from a novel by John Fante about a successful writer who returns home to help his aged parents, and finds himself and his siblings sucked in by their latest drama.
The Brotherhood of the Grape (Curtis Hanson)
Drawing on the Fante novel, Hanson penned an adaptation, to star Burt Lancaster.
Bunny Lake Is Missing (Joe Carnahan)
A remake of the Preminger classic with Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, or Charlize Theron.
A Burnt Out Case (Otto Preminger)
The Graham Greene source novel (adapted by Eleanor Perry) concerns a depressed architect who heads to Africa to escape his past and ends up getting more than he bargained for.
Cain and Abel (Sam Fuller)
Capital (Sergei Eisenstein)
For his adaptation of Marx’s Capital, Eisenstein claimed to have a scientific formula that would calculatedly affect each audience member so that everyone from the intelligentsia to the peasants could understand it. However, due to the rise of Stalin’s bureaucracy, the film was never made.
C’est la revolution! (Jean Renoir)
Sketches inspired by the proverb la goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase (“the drop that makes the vase overflow,” similar to the straw that broke the camel's back). Stars included Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse, Pierre Olaf, Robert Dhéry, Colette Brosset, and Oskar Werner. One sketch featured two corporals from opposing armies who trade uniforms so each can surrender to his own side and sit out the war in POW camps.
The Charge at San Juan Hill (Sam Fuller)
Fuller was inspired by an encounter with a veteran of the Spanish-American War: the trumpeter who blew the charge in Cuba, in July 1898, as a member of Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders.”
Chicago Loop (Nicolas Roeg)
The film was based on Paul Theroux’s novel (written with Roeg’s input) about one’s man struggle with dementia, violence, and sex. After he murders a woman, he must find someone to kill him. Theresa Russell (big surprise) was to star as an undercover cop who falls for a psychotic killer played by James Spader.
Christophe Colomb (Abel Gance)
City Blues (Nicholas Ray, 1976)
Ray wanted to shoot a story entirely in shades of blue about a New York City hooker and storefront lawyer. Rip Torn and porn star Marilyn Chambers were set to star in the film, from a screenplay by Norman Mailer.
Cleopatra (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)
Soderbergh envisioned a 3-D rock musical with songs by Robert Pollard, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Cocaine (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)
Fassbinder said of his flashback-centered film based on Pitigrilli’s 1921 novel: “Cocaine freezes the brain, freeing one’s thoughts of anything inessential, and thereby liberating the essential, the imagination, concentration, and so on. This freezing of the brain . . . will be expressed in the film as follows: everything visible will appear covered with a sort of hoarfrost, glittering ice, whether in winter or summer; glasses and windows will covered with ice flowers, and with all the interior shots in the studio, even in summertime, the actors’ breath will be visible, as is usually the case only when it’s bitter cold outside.”
Comanche (Michael Mann)
Written by Eric Roth, it was inspired by the real-life circumstances that also inspired The Searchers.
Company of Angels (Kathryn Bigelow, 1999)
The Joan of Arc story was written by Jay Cocks, with executive producer Luc Besson. Besson wanted Milla Jovovich in the lead but Bigelow wanted Claire Danes; Besson went on to make The Messenger – Joan of Arc (1999).
A Confederacy of Dunces (John Waters, 1980s)
Adaptation of the novel by John Kennedy Toole about a corpulent, flatulent medievalist. The role was considered for John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley, all of whom died before anything could be realized. Waters wanted the part for Divine before his death.
Confusion (Jacques Tati)
In a media-obsessed future Paris, society is glued to communication technology and little distinction is made between fiction and reality. Tati was planning to collaborate on the film with the band Sparks, who were to play two American TV execs. Action centers around the mishaps within the studio facilities of fictive media conglomerate COMM. During the live broadcast of a scripted drama filled with stagy theatrics, a mistakenly loaded gun kills an off-screen Monsieur Hulot. The cameras keep rolling, with cast members discreetly stepping over the fresh cadaver during their scenes, while the crew scrambles to remove it from sight. Listen to Sparks' "Confusion" from their album, Big Beat. (Suggested by Joris van Laarhoven)
The Conquest of Mexico (Werner Herzog)
Planning to take the perspective of the conquered Aztecs, Herzog said the film would be so expensive that it could only be made with the backing of a Hollywood studio.
Continental Drift (Jonathan Demme)
Based on Russell Banks’s novel about anomie and Haitian refugees in Florida.
The Corrections (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
Scott Rudin was to produce this HBO miniseries adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s novel. Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Dianne Wiest, Maggie Gyllnehaal, Greta Gerwig, and Rhys Ifans were cast and shooting began before HBO cancelled the project. According to Baumbach, "We shot a pilot, but we didn't shoot a whole pilot, even. It was never finished.”
The Cradle Will Rock (Orson Welles)
Based on the story of Welles’s 1937 production. Welles rewrote a screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr., with Rupert Everett to star as Welles. John Landis and George Folsey were to executive produce.
The Crew (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Antonioni and Mark Peploe co-wrote the screenplay about a wealthy man out on his yacht, which is taken over by gangsters mid-voyage. He’s forced to rely on his native intelligence to get himself to safety.
Crime and Punishment (Emir Kusturica)
Dostoevsky’s novel would have been transposed to Brighton Beach. Johnny Depp was slated to play Raskolnikov, here a bass player in a rock band. Kusturica abandoned the project to make Arizona Dream instead.
Crisis in the Hot Zone (Ridley Scott, mid-1990s)
Adaptation of the 1992 work of nonfiction by Richard Preston about the Ebola Virus. Jodie Foster was slated for the main role of a respectful female government scientist, but when the cost of the film escalated, producers wanted a strong male lead to accompany Foster and signed on Robert Redford. Foster responded by stating that her role had been diminished, which caused a rewrite that made Redford feel his character had been diminished. In the end, both actors abandoned the project. Development continued later, with Robin Wright Penn and Emma Thompson considered, but the project was abandoned after the 1995 release of Outbreak.
Cross of Iron (Robert Aldrich)
Lukas Heller based his screenplay on a BBC teleplay about the conflict between militant Nazis and moderate Germans in a British POW camp.
The Crowded Room (James Cameron, 1992)
Adaptation of the Daniel Keyes novel The Minds of Billy Milligan, the story of a man with multiple personality disorder. John Cusack was attached to the role in a script by Todd Graff, but because of lawsuits surrounding property royalties to the book, the production fell apart.
The Crusades (Paul Verhoeven)
With Arnold Schwarzenegger signed for the lead role, the $150 million film was to be produced by Carolco, who in the same year produced Renny Harlin’s Cutthroat Island. The company didn’t want to take a risk by doing two big-budget films at once, so Verhoeven made Showgirls instead while Cutthroat Island filmed. When Cutthroat Island flopped, Carolco went bankrupt and The Crusades never materialized.
La Dame blanche (Erich von Stroheim)
Jean Renoir wrote the dialogue, and Louis Jouvet and Jean-Louis Barrault were to be the featured actors in this film about the waning of the Hapsburgs in Vienna. Working in France at the time, Stroheim, himself a native Austrian, was to appear in the film. Production was undercut by the outbreak of World War II and Stroheim’s return to the U.S.
Dark Blood (George Sluizer)
In a story written by Jim Barton, River Phoenix plays a hermit living in the desert on a nuclear test site who believes he has magical powers. He rescues and then holds captive a Hollywood jet-set couple (Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce) when their car breaks down. Also featuring Karen Black. The death of River Phoenix scuttled the film.
Update: In 2011 George Sluizer completed the film and will premiere it at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht in September. The 80-year-old director secured post-production and editing financing to complete the film from the Netherlands Film Fund as well as some cash via Dutch crowdfinancing site Cinecrowd. Dutch production house Eyeworks helped Sluizer navigate the legal issues surrounding the film. After Phoenix's death, Sluizer confiscated the Dark Blood footage and took it back to the Netherlands. He kept it hidden, fearing, he said, that it otherwisemight have been destroyed.
Dark Spring (Fritz Lang)
Lang abandoned the Michael Latté–penned project due to problems casting the principal role: a young girl of 11 or 12 who is in line to inherit her father’s fortune. Her mother re-marries an ostensibly successful lawyer who is indebted to gangsters; he attempts to kill the child on multiple occasions to gain access to the money.
The Day That I Die (Robert Aldrich)
Inspired by Lee Marvin’s experience in Micronesia during WWII, Abraham Polonsky’s adaptation of the P.F. Kluge suspense novel might have starred Robert Redford.
Death of a Career Girl (Fritz Lang)
Jeanne Moreau was to star as a beautiful but mature businesswoman, feeling empty, who considers suicide. Her past is then revealed through flashbacks: as a young girl she worked for the French resistance against the Nazis, but went on to have lurid affairs with Nazi officers. A “critique of that type of woman,” Lang explained, “who is looking for a career but forgets life, and finally dies, or worse, when the heart is already dead before the body.”
Debit and Credit (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977)
Fassbinder’s adaptation of Gustav Freytag’s best-selling 1855 Zeitroman or “social novel,” portraying interactions among broad segments of German society during the 19th century. The classes represented are the mercantile or bourgeois class, the nobility, and the Jews. The project was canceled after the scandal surrounding the alleged anti-Semitic content of both the novel and Fassbinder’s 1974 play The Garbage, the City and Death. Fassbinder later said that his adaptation “wouldn’t have ended in the Bismarck era. What scared people off was that I wanted to continue the story into the present day, and logically I would have gotten to the Third Reich and today’s republic.”
The Demon (Sergei Parajanov)
Based on the long 17th-century poem “Demon” by Mikhail Lermontov. The once-banned poem praises the eternal spirit of atheism.
The Demon (Jean-Jacques Beinix)
Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr.
Destinazione Verna (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1999)
A woman buys a ticket to live on a planet called Destinazione Verna, in Antonioni’s story written with Tonino Guerra, to be produced by Felice Laudadio. The cast included Anthony Hopkins, Sophia Loren, Naomi Campbell, Laura Morante, Stefania Rocca, Kim Rossi Stuart, Carlo Cecchi, and Chiara Caselli.
The Diary of Jack the Ripper (William Friedkin)
Anthony Hopkins was attached to the project to play the infamous serial killer. The film is an adaptation of the controversial book of the same name, which many believe to be a hoax.
Dimension (Lars von Trier)
The film was supposed to be made over the course of 30 years and released on von Trier’s 68th birthday, April 30, 2024. The director’s idea was to make “a European film collage—a sort of monument for the future.” However, von Trier lost interest in the project and abandoned it. Stellan Skarsgård, Eddie Constantine, Jean-Marc Barr, and Katrin Cartlidge were all involved in its production.
Divine Rapture (Thom Eberhardt, 1995)
Written by Glenda Ganis, this comedy about a priest who believes in miracles was to star Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Debra Winger, and John Hurt. The film was shut down after one of the major locations, a church in Ireland, denied access for filming. In addition, filming began without a completion bond.
Don Quixote (Federico Fellini)
Fellini wanted to work with Jacques Tati and to feature him in the title role, but Fellini could only acquire enough money to shoot the film in 16mm. Tati lost interest in making 16mm European films after completing Mon Oncle and abandoned the project.
Don Quixote (Orson Welles, 1957-69)
An unfinished work to which Welles devoted extensive time and labor, it was originally intended as a television adaptation, begun in 1955. Self-financed, aside from a donation of $25,000 from old friend Frank Sinatra, Welles began filming in Mexico in 1957. The story was transplanted into the present, with Cervantes’s characters as personified relics of virtue who find themselves in confrontations with unfamiliar technology—including the cinema itself. The film stars Francisco Reiguera as Don Quixote, Akim Tamiroff as Sancho Panza, and Patty McCormack as Dulcie, a young American girl who functions to frame the narrative. In 1958, Welles told André Bazin the film was being improvised in the style of a silent comedy. Over the subsequent decades, Welles continued editing and dubbing the material, which was shot in multiple formats, with no sound and no finished screenplay, even after Reiguera died. By the time of Welles’s death, there was no script to be found, and film cans were scattered across different countries. Welles left the rights to Oja Kodar, who in turn handed the raw material over to Spanish director Jesus Franco, better known as horror director Jess Franco, who had been a second unit director on Chimes at Midnight. Franco’s patchwork cut (which left out all of McCormack’s scenes) premiered at Cannes in 1992 to less-than-stellar reviews. A gem of a film awaits discovery somewhere within the massive mess of footage.
The Double (Roman Polanski)
Adaptation of Dostoevsky’s early novella about a government clerk who goes mad, convinced that his doppelgänger has stolen his identity. Written by Jeremy Levin, it was to star John Travolta and Isabelle Adjani.
Dracula (Ken Russell)
A “sex-propelled” comic script was written in 1978 as a star vehicle for Mick Fleetwood. The aesthetic was to draw on Aubrey Beardsley (an artist admired by this version of the Count, an arts philanthropist).
The Dream of the Bovine (David Lynch, early 90s)
In the mode of Dumb and Dumber, two really dumb guys, fired from a succession of dumb jobs, stumble into a pornography ring masterminded by a man named Woody. The twist ending can be glimpsed in the movie’s title. Harry Dean Stanton accompanied Lynch to the home of Marlon Brando to persuade the elusive actor to join the cast. Brando gave them homemade cookies, then declared the script (co-written by Lynch and Bob Engels) “completely hollow.”
The Dreamers (Orson Welles)
Written in 1978 in collaboration with Oja Kodar, it was based on two stories by Isak Dinesen, “The Dreamers” and “Echoes.” Kodar was to star as opera singer Pellegrina Leoni who loses her voice in a fire.
The Duchess of Langeais (Max Ophüls)
The adaptation of the Balzac novel was intended as a comeback vehicle for Greta Garbo. Screen tests were taken, but the film could not get financial backing and fell apart.
The Dybbuk (Antonin Artaud, 1929)
Artaud worked on a script and intended to include sound fragments because of the push for talkies at the time. The screenplay never survived.
The Dybbuk (Fred Zinnemann)
Adapted from the play by S. Ansky, the project never got off the ground due to the lack of financial backing and the failure to find a girl to play the leading lady.
The Eagle of Broadway (Ivan Passer)
James Cagney was to star as gunfighter turned New York City sports writer Bat Masterson, with William Hurt as Damon Runyon.
Elektra, Assassin (Jim McBride)
The adaptation of the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz had a screenplay co-written by the director and L.M. Kit Carson.
Endurance (John Frankenheimer)
Frankenheimer collaborated with screenwriter Brock Yates on a story about a man and woman from different backgrounds who team up for the Le Mans 24-hour sports-car race. Scheduled for a 1986 shoot, it was never produced, after the director’s death.
The Extra (Robert Altman)
Starring Lily Tomlin in a movie about Hollywood bit players.
Fahrenheit 451 (Mel Gibson)
Gibson’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel about a world where books are forbidden was to star Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt.
The Family (John Ford)
Adaptation of the 1940 novel by Nina Federova with John Wayne and Ethel Barrymore in the cast. The film centered on a family of White Russians exiled to China after the Revolution. Ford framed it as “the disintegration of a family after it has been unrooted.”
Fan-Tan (Donald Cammell, early 70s)
Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell worked on a novel and then a film of a China Seas pirate tale, to be shot on Brando’s island. However, Brando reportedly never bothered to read either the novel or the screenplay. The novel was published in 2005, edited by David Thomson.
Fantomas (David Lynch, 1995)
Gaumont approached Lynch to take on the classic French serial about a murderous criminal genius terrorizing Belle Époque France. Gérard Depardieu was suggested for Fantomas’s obsessed police nemesis, Juve. Lynch recruited Michael Almereyda to re-write his initial version; they relocated the characters to 1930s Paris. (Lynch then chose to direct a contemporary project, closer to home: Lost Highway.) James Cameron, Alex Proyas, and screenwriter Howard Rodman have also pursued Fantomas projects.
Flicker (Darren Aronofsky)
Jim Uhls’s adaptation of Theodore Roszak’s 1991 cult novel about a film scholar obsessed with the career of a forgotten B-movie director who mysteriously vanished in 1941 and whose films use subliminal images to exert a disturbing influence on those who view them. Producers Bobby Geisler and John Roberdeau optioned the rights in 1998 and commissioned a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon. Kenneth Branagh was at one time interested in directing.
Flowers of Evil (Sam Fuller)
In Fuller’s science-fiction version of Lysistrata, a secret international society of gorgeous women use sex, science, and violence to maintain peace around the world. Shooting was to take place in Paris, but the senior financier refused to provide funds because he did not want his son meddling in the film industry.
Forgetting (Errol Morris)
Written by Nicholas Kazan, with Winona Ryder, this was “an existential detective story,” akin to Invasion of the Body Snatchers except the body snatchers are never seen and may not really exist.
The Fountainhead (Michael Cimino)
Cimino always wanted to adapt the Ayn Rand novel, but after Heaven’s Gate flopped United Artists refused to give him any more money to finance future projects.
Genesis (Robert Bresson, 1963)
A lavish adaptation of the Book of Genesis. Dino De Laurentiis had agreed to finance, but Bresson abandoned the project only to take it up again and then abandon it a second time. He once said that one of the frustrations with the production was that he couldn’t make his animal performers do as they were told.
A German at the Daruma Temple (Akira Kurosawa, 1941)
Kurosawa was set to make his directorial debut with this, his first screenplay, but the project was shut down during preproduction by government censors.
The German Lieutenant (Stanley Kubrick)
From a script co-written with Richard Adams, it was a feature about a group of German soldiers on a mission during the final days of World War II.
Ghost in the Midday Sun (Peter Medak)
Shelved pirate comedy shot in Cyprus with Peter Sellers, written by David Lodge.
Giraffes on Horseback Salad (Salvador Dalí)
The screenplay was written for the Marx Brothers. It was never produced because MGM thought it would be too surreal for them. Harpo also did not find it funny enough for the group.
The Glass House (Sergei Eisenstein, 1926-30)
One of Eisenstein’s unrealized Hollywood features, this one involved a giant glass tower. Eisenstein abandoned the project, unable to finish the script, even going so far as to seek psychiatric help.
The Glass Wall (Allan Dwan, 1960)
A drama about insanity.
Gone Beaver (Jim McBride)
McBride and Lorenzo Mans wrote the screenplay for this story set in the Rockies in the 1840s about mountain man Coups Cooper, real-life Austrian artist Louis Kurz, a stranded Englishwoman, and a young Native American man named "Walks with his Horses" who has embarked on a rite of passage Visionquest. The vision that he experiences involves seeing Coops Cooper behaving like a madman. At the same time, from Coops Cooper's p.o.v., Walks with his Horses seems equally crazy— and this becomes the beginning of his going native. Their fates remain forever linked. Much of the action is set in “a fort in the wilderness where trappers and Indians come for semi-annual bacchanals to trade goods, get drunk, gamble, and get laid.” McBride and Mans invented their own idiom, “trapper talk,” for the dialogue. Vanessa Redgrave and Bruce Dern were going to star and Nestor Almendros was going to shoot it, but he and Redgrave ran into visa problems. During preproduction, the budget was cut, rewrites were demanded, and a series of disasters ensued, forcing the production to relocate to Canada, against McBride's wishes. After a confrontation with producers, McBride, lacking the artistic freedom he needed, quit the project.
Goya (Luis Buñuel, 1926)
Buñuel was asked to write a screenplay based on the life of painter Francisco de Goya, but lacking funds, the film was never made. In 1928, another attempt at producing the film was made, this time with Carl Theodor Dreyer as director.
Gunga Din (Menahem Golan)
Based on the Rudyard Kipling short story, to star Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, and Ben Kingsley.
Halo (Guillermo del Toro/Neill Blomkamp, 2006)
Alex Garland wrote the first script, which was then pitched to studios by couriers dressed as Master Chief. Microsoft's terms required $10 million against 15 percent of gross; most studios passed, citing the lack of risk for Microsoft compared to their large share of potential profits. 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios decided to partner to produce the film, paying Microsoft $5 million to option the property and 10 percent of grosses. Peter Jackson was slated to be the executive producer, with Neill Blomkamp as director. Before Blomkamp signed on, Guillermo del Toro was in negotiations to direct. D. B. Weiss and Josh Olson rewrote Garland's script during 2006. The crew stopped and resumed preproduction of the film several times. Later that year, 20th Century Fox threatened to pull out of the project, leading Universal to issue an ultimatum to Jackson and Schlessel: either cut their large "first-dollar" deals, or the project was ended. Both refused, and the project stalled. The rights for the film have since reverted back to Microsoft. O'Connor has stated that the movie will be made at some point. At one point Steven Spielberg also expressed interest in being involved in the making of a film adaptation.
Harold and the Purple Crayon (Henry Selick; Spike Jonze)
Screenplay by Michael Tolkin based on the classic children’s book by Crockett Johnson.
Heart of Darkness (Orson Welles)
Adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novella. The production began to fall apart when Welles took a long delay in getting the script to his actors. In addition, the script was too long (at 184 pages) and with special effects work, miniatures, process and matte shots, and huge jungle sets, the film’s budget exceeded $1 million.
Hollywood Legend (Leo McCarey)
Based on a story by Adela Rogers St. Johns and co-written with Morrie Ryskind and Charles MacArthur, McCarey’s script is set in the early years of the film industry and follows the fortunes of a Vaudeville theater company who move to Hollywood to try their hand in the motion picture business. They buy an orange grove out from under a local California lush and through a combination of circumstance and happenstance land his young, precocious daughter, Nora, a starring role in their first picture. It turns out she has a knack for comedic timing. Nora’s coming-of-age and rise to stardom parallels the unsure footing of the burgeoning industry itself. The arrival of womanizing Yale dropout, Ricky Fields, and out-of-work, smooth-talking writer Alfred Tennyson “Oglethorpe” make for some interesting love triangles and business dealings. Rife with false pregnancy, elopement, whiskey and water, and terminal illness, it is essentially a classic love story between Ricky and Nora that unfolds through the World War I and right up to the coming of sound cinema.
A Horse for Mr. Barnum (Budd Boetticher)
A trio of American cowboys are sent to Spain to retrieve a string of Andalusian horses for the Barnum circus. The film was to be shot in Spain with Robert Mitchum and James Coburn, from a script by Burt Kennedy.
The House of Bernarda Alba (Luis Buñuel)
The source material was the play about a repressive widow and her five daughters, by Federico Garcia Lorca, one of Buñuel’s closest friends growing up in Spain and a victim of Franco’s secret police.
I Am Happiness on Earth (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
The project, a drama about three failed detectives set in a discotheque, was in preproduction at the time of the director’s death. The title comes from German New Wave singer Joachim Witt’s “Kosmetik.”
I, Claudius (Joseph von Sternberg, 1937)
The adaptation of the Robert Graves novel, produced by Alexander Korda, was to star Charles Laughton as Claudius, Emlyn Williams as Caligula, Flora Robson as Livia, and Merle Oberon as Messlina. The film was abandoned when Oberon suffered a serious car accident during production.
I, Zorba (Robert Wise, 1986-87)
An adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel Zorba the Greek starring Anthony Quinn and John Travolta.
The Idiot (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986)
Tarkovsky aspired to adapt Dostoevsky’s novel, but died before it could be realized.
L’Île noire (Alain Resnais)
Based on Hergé’s seventh, Scotland-set installment of The Adventures of Tintin.
In a Dream of Passion (Monte Hellman)
Hellman’s adaptation of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novel, La Maison de Rendez-Vous, about an American’s experiences in a Hong Kong brothel, was to be produced by Roger Corman.
Investigation (Sidney Lumet)
Remake of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) to star Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay and Andrei Konchalovsky was considered as an alternate director.
Ishtar (Donald Cammell)
A mythical goddess returns to Earth in this film to have starred Mick Jagger and Norman Mailer.
Jericho (Donald Cammell)
Written by Marlon Brando and Cammell, this was to star Brando and Robert Duvall in an ultraviolent action thriller. Brando would play a former CIA assassin blackmailed by the CIA into carrying out one last mission. In the middle of casting and preproduction, Brando dropped out, claiming he couldn’t get insurance, bankrupting producer Elliott Kastner.
Jesus (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Aiming to depict the historical Jesus and “to stamp out the myth that the Jewish people are to blame for Jesus’ death,” Dreyer worked on several drafts between 1930 and 1949 when financing ultimately fell through.
John Barleycorn (Raoul Walsh)
Adaptation of Jack London’s autobiographical novel about his struggle with alcoholism.
Just to Be Together (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1998)
Adapted by Rudy Wurlitzer from the director’s 1974 short story, “Two Telegrams.” The $11 million English-language drama was to start shooting on Los Angeles locations in February 1998. Robin Wright Penn was to play a successful urban-planning architect who divides her affections between her husband (Sam Shepard) and her lover (Andy Garcia). Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp would also be featured. Wright Penn withdrew for personal reasons.
Kaleidoscope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964-67)
After watching Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Hitchcock felt he was a century behind the Italians in technique. He asked the novelist Howard Fast to sketch a treatment about a gay, deformed serial killer. Pleased with the results, Hitchcock composed a shot list with over 450 camera positions and shot an hour’s worth of experimental color tests. MCA/Universal were disgusted by the script and immediately canceled the project, reducing Hitchcock to tears. See the images and test footage.
Kali Yung (Fritz Lang, 1960)
In 1960 Lang was asked to make two films in India (the other was Moon of Dassemra) but the projects were dropped due to disagreements between Lang and the producer over the script. Kali Yung was to be based on a historical conspiracy involving an evil cult, the Brotherhood of Thugs, who strangled more than 10 million travelers. The film was to be set in 1875 and center on a young doctor who runs a cholera clinic. His Sikhs disappear on an errand and his requested investigation is refused. The plot is complicated by the reveal of a past love triangle, and a subsequent murder renders the doctor as the prime suspect. The rest of the film revolves around his attempt to investigate the crime himself in order to clear his name; justice is achieved in the end.
Karl Marx (Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg)
Kozintsev prepared a biopic on Marx in 1939-40; the screenplay was published in German in 1992.
Kinderspiel (Robert Aldrich, 1957)
All the world’s children rebel against their parents in view of an impending nuclear war, in a film to be shot in Germany with Anthony Quinn.
King Kelly (Douglas Sirk)
Written by Daniel Mainwaring.
King Lear (Anthony Mann)
Mann reimagines the Shakespeare play as a Western featuring three sons instead of daughters.
King of White Lady (Monte Hellman)
King Shot (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
Co-produced by David Lynch, it was to star Asia Argento, Jeff Bridges, Marilyn Manson, and Udo Kier in a “metaphysical western set in a desert casino, featuring a man the size of King Kong and Marilyn Manson as a 300-year-old pope.”
Kiss Me Deadly (Michael Mann)
Remake of the Robert Aldrich film.
On to projects L through M.
A list of the best films you'll never see, L through Z