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Unproduced and Unfinished Films: An Ongoing Film Comment project

By Film Comment

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A list of the best films you'll never see, L through Z

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: fcpoll@filmlinc.com.

See the first half of the list, or view our ranked list of the best films never made.

The Last ’Go-Round (Monte Hellman)

In 1993 Hellman aimed to adapt the novel by Ken Kesey about the early days of rodeo in Pendleton, Oregon, focused on two cowboys: one Native American, the other African American. Producer Katherine Wilson wrote the original script, but Hellman replaced her with Charles Eastman. The project fell through when Wilson failed to secure the rights from Kesey.

The Legend of the Last Viennese Fiacre (Fritz Lang, 1933)

This light-hearted comic tale concerned a carriage driver who gives a lottery ticket (which he considers “beneath him”) to the man who feeds his horses. Not only does the man win a large sum, he invests it in an automobile factory that threatens the driver’s livelihood. Lang intended to shoot in Vienna.

Leningrad: The 900 Days (Sergio Leone)

Inspired by the “invasion theme” of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony and influenced by Times journalist Harrison Salisbury’s book The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, it was the story of doomed love between a cynical American newsreel cameraman and a young Soviet girl against the epic background of the siege. Leone: “Think of Gone with the Wind.” The director imagined Robert De Niro in the lead, with music by Ennio Morricone, and shooting in the USSR. It was delayed indefinitely by Leone’s inability to commit his many ideas to paper and Soviet producers’ reluctance to grant permission.

Libra (Phil Joanou)

Based on Don DeLillo’s speculative novel about the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and the events leading to JFK’s assassination. Gary Oldman was to star.

The Lifted Spear (Akira Kurosawa)

Like Kagemusha, Spear would have climaxed with a grand battle involving the 16th-century warlord Nobunaga Oda. Due to wartime shortages no horses were available for the crucial scene, and the project was subsequently abandoned.

The Lily of the Valley (Max Ophüls)

Adaptation of the 1835 Balzac novel about an intense but chaste love between a man and a woman.

The Living Room (Michael Powell)

Adaptation of Graham Greene’s play set in Fifties London about a mysterious house, its occupants, and a love affair that turns tragic. Rex Harrison was to star.

The Lodger (Lino Brocka)

Written by Nick Joaquin.

The Loves of d’Annunzio and Duse (Orson Welles)

Welles wrote this screenplay for Greta Garbo (to play Eleonora Duse) and Charlie Chaplin (Gabriele d’Annunzio) and described the project as a story about two crazy monsters in a state of degenerate hyper-romanticism, with a ridiculous and theatrical passion. Neither Chaplin nor Garbo wanted to do it.

The Magic Mountain (Luchino Visconti)

Based on Thomas Mann’s novel about a young man in a TB sanitarium who meets a group of characters representing a microcosm of pre–World War I Europe. Visconti was inspired to adopt the novel during his convalescence at the very same sanitarium where Mann had died.

The Magic Mountain (Douglas Sirk)

Sirk was approached by a friend of Thomas Mann about making a film version.

Maldoror (Kenneth Anger)

A film based on the work of proto-surrealist poet Comte de Lautréamont. Production never went past test footage and rehearsals with ballet dancers for the film. The footage and information about the film are lost.

Man From Nowhere (Joseph Losey)

Written by Daniel Mainwaring for Losey and Hardy Krüger. Re-written in 1963 by George Tabori as a “Swiftian Fantastica” in a Spanish village, it was to star Richard Burton, with Dirk Bogarde in a supporting role.

The Man Who Loved Hitchcock (Larry Cohen)

Peter Ustinov was set to play Hitchcock in this murder mystery in which the director and his composer Bernard Hermann attempt to catch a killer who employs the director’s unused story ideas to commit a series of murders. The film was to begin with a flashback to Hitchock’s primal scene—being taken to a London police station and locked in a cell as punishment for his misbehavior.

The Man Who Was Thursday (Raúl Ruiz)

In this adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s novel scripted by film critic Jonathan Romney, an idealistic poet is enlisted to infiltrate a group of anarchists. He becomes “Thursday” in their council of seven (named after the days of the week), but each member, one after the other, is also revealed as a police agent in disguise. Finally, they all confront the master plotter, Sunday, who, in an apocalyptic climax, turns out to be (possibly) God, the cosmic prankster. Set in 1905, the film would anachronistically veer into modernity—for instance, Edwardian cops would work on laptops. Ruiz and Romney hoped to capture a sense of simultaneous familiarity and alienation, the ordinary in the exceptional, and the exceptional in the ordinary. Horror and comedy would coexist in an atmosphere of provincial sleepiness where traffic lights would come in seven colors, indoor electric light would shine upwards from below, and landscapes would be plunged into permanent twilight.

Mandrake the Magician (Federico Fellini, 1960s)

This adaptation of the iconic newspaper comic strip never got beyond initial talks. Embassy Pictures picked up the idea in the Eighties, commissioning a screenplay by Julien Temple, who imagined David Bowie in the lead. Dissatisfied with Temple’s approach, Embassy hired Michael Almereyda to do a complete rewrite in 1982, but a new studio head dropped the project before a director was attached. 

The Manor and the Estate (Chantal Akerman)

An adaptation of two Isaac Bashevis Singer stories. After the commercial failure of Les Rendez-Vous d’Anna, Akerman was unable to finance the new film. She moved to Los Angeles to raise the $25 million she would have needed, but was unsuccessful.

Man’s Fate (Fred Zinnemann, 1969)

An adaptation of Malraux’s 1933 novel La Condition humaine, about a failed communist insurrection in Shanghai, written by Han Suyin. MGM canceled production one week before shooting was to commence, with $4 million of the $10 million budget already spent on sets. The cast included David Niven, Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow, Eiji Okada, Juzo Itami, Joss Ackland, and Clive Revill.

Man’s Fate (Michael Cimino)

Cimino himself adapted the Malraux novel and intended to shoot in Shanghai with Johnny Depp, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Malkovich, Uma Thurman, and Alain Delon.

The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes (Joe Dante, 2004)

Biopic centering on Roger Corman’s making of The Trip, the 1967 drug culture chronicle authored by neophyte screenwriter Jack Nicholson. The screenplay by Tim Lucas and Charlie Largent was polished by Michael Almereyda and James Robison. Colin Firth was attached to play Corman; Gemma Arterton his girl Friday, Frances Doel. 

The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Tim Burton)

Remake of Roger Corman’s picture about a man who discovers that having X-ray vision may not be so great after all.

Marine! (Allan Dwan, 1967)

The biopic about Lt. General “Chesty” Puller and his exploits in the Korean War, written by Harry Brown for Warner Bros, was abandoned when Jack Warner sold the studio.

Mary Queen of Scots (Alexander Mackendrick, 1969)

Sandy Lieberson was producing with financing from Universal and Mia Farrow was lined up to star, with a screenplay by novelist James Kennaway. According to Sandy Mackendrick, her husband envisaged the film as “a character study in a series of private and personal relationships” and in one interview the director described the film as “a gangster study which smells of cow-dung.” Mackendrick first attempted to develop the project while still at Ealing Films in the 1950s, but studio head Michael Balcon vetoed it as “too disrespectful of royalty.” Later, at different points, Mackendrick  worked on drafts of the script with Gore Vidal and Anthony Burgess. Sets were being constructed, and casting was under way, when the project was cancelled after Universal pulled back from its of European productions.

Mary Rose (Alfred Hitchcock)

In what Hitchcock described as “a little like a science-fiction story,” a Navy lieutenant’s wife mysteriously disappears on a Scottish island. She shows up 25 years later, unchanged, but dies of shock when she learns of the lapsed time. She reappears to her husband five years later as a ghost, tells him she’s “waiting” (for what, she’s forgotten), and vanishes.

The Master and Margarita (Elem Klimov)

Adaptation of the satirical novel by Mikhail Bulgakov written between 1928 and 1940 in which Satan and his entourage visit the fervently atheistic Soviet Union and wreak havoc among its literary elite and its suffocatingly bureaucratic social order. When Klimov failed to realize this dream project, he gave up filmmaking altogether.

Master of Lies (Nicolas Roeg)

This modern-day Jekyll-and-Hyde story was to star Donald Sutherland as a celebrated author who suffers from attacks of blindness. Jamie Sives and Shirley Henderson were to co-star, with Eddie Dick producing.

Megalopolis (Francis Ford Coppola)

An Ayn Rand–flavored science fiction film set in the present day. After New York City suffers a “disastrous incident,” an architect sets out to rebuild it, linking it with ancient Rome during the Catiline Conspiracy. Nicolas Cage, Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Kevin Spacey, and Parker Posey are all said to have read for parts, and 30 hours of second unit footage is rumored to have been shot. However the project was scrapped following the destruction of the Twin Towers on Septmber 11, 2001. 

The Merchant of Venice (Orson Welles)

The cast was to include Welles, Charles Gray, Irina Maleva, Dorian Bond, Bill Cronshaw, Mauro Bonanni, and Nina Palinkas. Shooting over a period of 35 years (1938-73), Welles used a handful of cameramen (including Gary Graver) in a variety of locations everywhere from Venice to the Dalmatian coast.

The Merchant of Venice (Michael Almereyda, 2006)

Set in Las Vegas, this screen adaptation was by John Logan. The cast included Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Zooey Deschanel, Gerard Butler, Thomas Jane, Q’orianka Kilcher, Sam Shepard, Elliott Gould, and Thora Birch. Financing fell through weeks before the picture’s start date.

Mine (Martin Scorsese, 1981)

Paul Schrader and John Guare wrote drafts of the script for this biopic about the American composer. Lavish production numbers of Gershwin’s works were to be related to scenes from his life as discussed by Gershwin on a psychologist’s couch. The project was canceled due to complications with rights and the fear that a young audience would not understand or care about Gershwin.

The Miracle of Merriford (John Ford, 1965-6)

Adaptation of Reginald Arkell’s novel about a small English town in World War II whose church is damaged by American forces moving in their equipment. The script was by Willis Goldbeck and James Warner Bellah; one of the American soldiers was to be played by Dan Dailey.

Mister Mister (Nicholas Ray)

Western about kids who seize control of a town from their parents.

Modern Pride (Tim Hunter)

A father-daughter romance to star Bill Murray and Diane Keaton.

Moll Flanders (Ken Russell, early 1980s)

Bob Guccione tapped Russell to produce an adaptation of the Daniel Defoe novel, then sued him for failing to deliver. (Guccione lost.) In 2007, Russell teamed up with producer Harry Alan Towers and began scouting locations in Croatia. Unfortunately both Towers and Russell died before the project could be mounted.

Mona Lisa (Larry Clark)

Remake of Neil Jordan’s 1986 underworld thriller to star Eva Green and Mickey Rourke, or Rosario Dawson and Hayden Christensen.

The Monk (Luis Buñuel)

The French surrealists were fans of Antonin Artaud’s translation and reworking of Matthew Gregory Lewis’s 1796 Gothic novel The Monk, and Buñuel initially conceived of make a film based on it in the late Fifties with Gérard Philippe, star of the director’s Fever Mounts in El Pao. But Philippe died soon after in 1959.  Buñuel went on to adapt it with and Jean-Claude Carrière in 1964. The story centers on Ambrosio, a devout priest whose stance on the issue of chastity is so extreme that he even condemns marriage itself as sinful. Succumbing to the charms of temptress Matilda, he is led down the path of sin and helps Matilda in the deliberate destruction of the virtuous and virginal Antonia. When his crime is discovered, Ambrosio confesses to being "guilty of fornication, witchcraft and murder." The inquisition takes up the matter and to escape torture and death at the stake, Ambrosio accepts a Faustian pact that promises Matilda’s blood. The film’s final scene is set in the present day Rome during a papal address, where a potato bearing the miraculous likeness of Ambrosio is discovered.
Buñuel hoped to cast either Omar Sharif or Alain Delon as Ambrosio, while Jeanne Moreau was set to play Matilda and Michel Piccoli was signed up to play the Grand Inquisitor. But disagreement between the film’s two producers led to the collapse of the project. In 1972 Buñuel friend and fellow surrealist Ado Kyrou took the script and was able to finance a film starring Franco Nero, Nathalie Delon, and Nicol Williamson, which Carrière observed "was very different and not very successful, really." In 2009 Moreau and Carrière participated in a two-hour staged reading of the original screenplay at the Angiers film festival.

The Monster Maker (Alain Resnais, 1970s)

In collaboration with Stan Lee, Resnais planned a pop-art parody about a frustrated movie producer who seeks creative and spiritual redemption by making a film about pollution. Lee and Resnais sold the script in 1971 but it was never made.

Mother (Albert & David Maysles)

Motke Ganef (Henryk Bojm)

An unrealized adaptation of Sholem Asch’s novel about Motke the thief, which contrasts the lives of poor Polish Jews living in a shtetl with those living in the slums.

The Moviegoer (Terrence Malick)

Adaptation of Walker Percy’s novel about a Korean War vet turned stockbroker whose traumatic experiences cause him to search for life’s deeper meaning, heading for New Orleans. Malick abandoned the idea after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, where the film was to take place.

The Moviegoer (Jim McBride)

McBride and LM Kit Carson wrote a script with Sam Waterston and Karen Black set to play the leads. Second unit footage was shot during Mardi Gras, but film never went any further.

Mouche (Marcel Carné, 1992)

Adapted from Guy de Maupassant, and provisionally entitled L’Amour de vivre, it was cut short by money problems after only eight days of shooting, despite its saucy plot: a woman sleeps with seven men, one for each day of the week, but when an eighth enters the picture, the men begin to sleep together. Carné’s attempt to “bring Impressionist painting to life” failed twice, in the Eighties and Nineties. Jacques Quintard was going to produce.

Mrs. Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel  (Edward Huebsch)

Adaptation of William Trevor novel about a German photographer who comes to document a shabby Dublin boardinghouse. It was to star Romy Schneider.

My New Partner (Martin Brest)

Larry Gross was to write, Dustin Hoffman and Sean Penn to star, and Lawrence Gordon to produce. It never got past treatment stage.

Napoleon (Charlie Chaplin)

Fascinated by Napoleon’s eyes and pose, Chaplin wrote several fully developed screenplays for the project he titled N, and conducted extensive historical research, much of which he later applied to The Great Dictator. Basing his screenplays on Jean de Limur’s adaptation of the Jean Weber novel, Chaplin was surprised to receive advice from Winston Churchill, who eagerly pitched ideas for the film. (The documentary Chaplin’s Napoleon is available on Hulu Plus, and an archive of Chaplin’s work on Napoleon exists in Bologna, Italy.)

Napoleon (Stanley Kubrick, 1969-70)

A biopic on Napoleon set to be made just after the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick was so enthusiastic to make the project that he confessed to identifying with Bonaparte down to the way he ate his food. Jack Nicholson was slated to play the title character, but when corporate changes hit MGM, Kubrick lost the approval.

No Bail for the Judge (Alfred Hitchcock)

Based on Henry Cecil’s book about a lawyer who must defend her magistrate father against charges of strangling a streetwalker. Audrey Hepburn was to star, until she got pregnant (and the U.K. cracked down on prostitution, diminishing the film’s credibility).

Noriega (Oliver Stone)

With Al Pacino to star, Stone asked Clint Eastwood to play George Bush, but Eastwood declined. It is unclear whether financial or political concerns prevented production—the script apparently questioned the roles of Oliver North and George Bush in the Panamanian dictator’s ascent.

Nostromo (David Lean)

Adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel about an Italian adventurer written initially by Christopher Hampton and then Robert Bolt. At one point Steven Spielberg was executive producer, with Dennis Quaid and Isabella Rossellini starring. Lean’s death ended the project.

One American Movie (Jean-Luc Godard)

Some of this film was shot by Godard with the assistance of D.A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock. Godard left before editing started, though Pennebaker and Leacock released footage of Godard shooting and directing the film and called it One P.M.

One Saliva Bubble (David Lynch, 1987)

An early project of Lynch and Mark Frost written almost a year before the Twin Peaks pilot. A saliva bubble from a country bumpkin working at a top-secret military base gets into a weapons system, causing the device to fire upon Newtonville, Kansas, and prompting the townsfolk to switch identities with one another. Lynch called it “an out-and-out wacko dumb comedy”; Martin Short and Steve Martin were initially attached to star. Screenplay is available here.

O.S.S. (John Ford)

Scripted in 1967-68, it concerned the World War II intelligence agency and its chief, Ford’s personal friend, Major General William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan. John Wayne was to play Wild Bill.

The Other Sea (Theo Angelopoulos)

Toni Servillo starred in a study of the political and social turmoil in contemporary Greece. Shooting was underway when the director died.

Il paradiso all’ombre delle spade (Valerio Zurlini, 1963)

A three-part epic about several generations of an Italian family in colonial Africa, i.e. Ethiopia. The film would begin with the battle of Adwa in 1896 and end somewhere in the Sixties. Zurlini’s penultimate film, Indian Summer (1972), was reportedly an adaptation of material from this project’s third part, using key characters and situations.

Parting the Waters (Jonathan Demme)

Co-produced by Harry Belafonte, the film was written by Anna Hamilton, who adapted the book by Taylor Branch about the civil-rights movement in the Sixties.

A Passenger to Bali (Anthony Mann)

Adaptation of novel by Ellis St. Joseph, to star Jack Palance as a con man who incites mutiny on a ship to Bali.

Peter Pan (George Cukor)

This live-action version of Peter Pan was to have starred Audrey Hepburn in the title role and Laurence Olivier as Captain Hook. It was scrapped when Disney sued, claiming rights.

Le Petit tailleur de Londres (John Berry)

Based on the 1959 novel by André Gillois, adapted by Arnold Manoff and John Berry.

A Pin to See the Peepshow (Robert Hamer)

Adaptation of a 1924 book by F. Tennyson Jesse about a woman wrongly convicted as an accomplice to murder when her lover kills her husband. Hamer liked Margaret Lockwood for the lead.

Pincushion (John Carpenter)

Postapocalyptic odyssey was to star Cher, whose character must deliver a life-saving serum to Salt Lake City. John Raffo scripted.

Pinkville (Oliver Stone)

Stone’s film was to be about the investigation into the My Lai Massacre, written by Mikko Alanne and to star Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Woody Harrelson, Xzibit, Michael Pitt, and Toby Jones.

Pinocchio the Robot (Tobe Hooper)

Lee Marvin was to star as Geppetto, in a story written by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby.

A Place Only Mary Knows (Sergio Leone)

Co-writing with Fabio Toncelli and Luca Morsella in the late Eighties, Leone intended an homage to several American authors, including Mark Twain and Margaret Mitchell. The story tracks a Union army officer, a shady businessman, and a young Italian immigrant from Boston to Colorado to Atlanta during the Civil War on a hunt for stolen gold. Richard Gere and Mickey Rourke were to star.

The Portrait of Dorian Gray (Manoel de Oliveira)

The President Elopes (Fred Schepisi)

Romantic fairy-tale comedy written by Alice Arlen with Robert Redford as the President. Michelle Pfeiffer or Meryl Streep would play a “beautiful woman who puts him in touch with ordinary people.”

Princess of Mars (Bob Clampett, 1935)

Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett approached Edgar Rice Burroughs to adapt the serialized story from 1912-1917 into a feature film. Burroughs liked that an animated film could circumvent all the limitations of live action. He requested that Clampett create an original story for John Carter separate from A Princess of Mars. Collaborating with Burroughs and his son, John Coleman, Clampett created animated footage featuring rotoscoped drawings of an athlete standing in for John Carter, Green Martians riding “eight-legged thoats,” and a fleet of rocket ships emerging from a Martian volcano. This footage was pitched to MGM but after its poor reception at a test screening, the project was dropped.

Public Enemies (Bud Yorkin, 1986)

Buddy action-comedy starring John Travolta and Whoopi Goldberg. Production was scheduled for 1986, but nothing materialized.

The Rack (John Huston, 1982)

To be based on the 1947 novel about tuberculosis and to star Nastassja Kinski.

Red Harvest (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970s)

An adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective novel. Jack Nicholson and Debra Winger were attached, but the project fell through when there were complications with gaining rights to the book.

The Return of David Holzman aka Echo Arms (Jim McBride)

McBride wrote a sequel to David Holzman's Diary in which William Hurt was going to play an older but not wiser David, who becomes a suspect in a murder.

Rhinoceros (Alexander Mackendrick)

Woodfall Films invited Mackendrick to direct Clive Exton’s adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s play, originally to star British comedian Tony Hancock and Carry-On actress Barbara Windsor. Mackendrick unsuccessfully tried to persuade Zero Mostel to take a supporting role and then the project was reworked to star Peter Sellers, who was to play Berenger and Peter Ustinov as Jean—but then Sellers backed out.

The Rifle (Sam Fuller)

The unrealized Vietnam protest project, written by Fuller as a novel first and then turned into a screenplay, centered on an old M1 rifle from World War II that is passed down through the lives of the characters. The film was to show the war from the perspective of the “little people” most affected by the violence. Fuller wanted to shoot from the viewpoint of the rifle in continuous 10-minute takes.

Ronnie Rocket (David Lynch)

A comedy starring a reanimated dead teen, set in a rundown, industrial future. Screenplay available here.

Saint Joan (Jacques Feyder, 1929)

Greta Garbo was to star in this adaptation of the Shaw play.

Samori (Ousmane Sembène)

Samori Ture founded the Wassoulou Empire, which resisted French rule from 1882 until his capture in 1898. Sembène: “If I were to die without having made it, you are allowed to write that Sembène died dissatisfied. If I made a film on Samori, afterward I would leave cinema straight away.” The project was delayed because of political disagreements between the states it would be shot in—ironically, the same states that Samori once united. It was supposed to be the first African superproduction.

The School for Wives (Max Ophüls)

This adaptation of Molière’s L'Ecole des femmes starring Louis Jouvet and Madeleine Ozeray was undertaken in Switzerland after Ophüls escaped from occupied France. Jouvet and his theater company had been performing the play for some time and Ophüls worked with the actor on an adaptation that was based on a Pirandellian conceit whereby the action would play out both onstage in a theatrical setting, and also backstage behind the scenes. However the production collapsed after Ophüls had an affair with Ozeray, who was Jouvet's lover.

Sea Wolf (Joe Dante)

Adaptation of Jack London novel written by Andrew Chapman and produced by Rafaella De Laurentiis, Howard Rosenmann, and Brian Grazer. Steve Guttenberg or Tom Hanks was to star.

The Second Death of Ramon Mercader (Monte Hellman)

Hellman worked on this adaptation of the spy thriller by Jorge Semprun between 1992 and 1994, but acquiring the rights from Semprun proved too expensive. Patrick Bauchau would have played the hero.

Selma (Lee Daniels)

Written by Paul Webb, Daniels's ambitious passion project about Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King and the marches that led to civil rights reform was set up at The Weinstein Company and the cast included Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, David Oyelowo, Ray Winstone, Robert De Niro, and Cedric the Entertainer. The project was far enough along that Jackman had gained 30 pounds to play Jim Clark, a sheriff who arrested Martin Luther King. But the financing never solidified, and Jackman had to go lose the weight to star in Real Steel.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (John Ford, 1952)

Adaptation of T.E. Lawrence’s autobiographical account of serving with rebel Arab forces against the Ottoman Turks. David Lean would later consult Ford’s The Searchers for his own adaptation, Lawrence of Arabia.

Shantaram (Peter Weir)

Johnny Depp was to star in Eric Roth’s adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel about an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who flees to India to escape imprisonment.

The Short Night (Alfred Hitchcock)

Prison-break potboiler adapted from novel by Ronald Kirkbride and to shoot in Helsinki with Sean Connery and Liv Ullmann, plus a supporting role by Ed Lauter. This was the last screenplay Hitchcock developed at Universal.

The Silent Flute (1969)

Bruce Lee and two of his martial arts students, Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn  worked on a script  and went to India together to scout locations.

Snow (Akira Kurosawa)

Another award-winning, early screenplay by the director.

Somersault (Lino Brocka)

Written by Nick Joaquin, this would have “revealed Brocka’s Ophulsian side” according to Pierre Rissient.

Spilt Blood (Olivier Assayas)

A large-scale gangster film to star Daniel Auteuil.

St. Mawr (Ken Russell)

Adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s novella about a woman so jaded by men she could only find passion with a horse. Russell wanted to shoot in New Zealand and Australia, in 1987; Ann-Margret, Glenda Jackson, and Raul Julia were to star.

The Stopwatch Gang (Jonathan Demme)

Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, and Bono were to star as Canadian bank robbers.

The Story (Jean-Luc Godard)

A film about gangster Bugsy Siegel.

The Story of a Bad Horse (Akira Kurosawa)

Kurosawa wrote the script before his career as a filmmaker took off.

The Streets of Laredo (Peter Bogdanovich)

Co-written with Larry McMurtry, this was to star James Stewart, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda. A decade later, McMurtry turned the screenplay into a Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. John Ford talked Wayne out of doing the project.

The Story of My Life (Otto Preminger)

Biopic of Israeli General Moshe Dayan written by J.P. Miller.

Suffer or Die (Michelangelo Antonioni)

Scripted by Tonino Guerra and Anthony Burgess, it was to star Debra Winger alongside Mick Jagger or Richard Gere or Giancarlo Giannini as an architect. Amy Irving was cast at one point as a Catholic novice.

Summer Soldiers (Sam Peckinpah)

Development stopped due to Peckinpah’s dispute with Warner Bros. and producer Phil Feldman. Actor Robert Culp was a co-writer on the project, contemporary thriller about mercenaries involved in a coup on a Caribbean island.

A Sumptuous Ceremony (Luis Buñuel)

Collaborating once again with Jean-Claude Carrière, the screenplay was intended as an homage to Andre Breton, who defined eroticism as "a sumptuous ceremony in an underground passage." Carrière: “From the outset our watchwords were "terror" and "eroticism." We imagined a young girl in a prison cell receiving a visit from a phantom bishop; a trap door led to an underground passageway and to a boat filled with explosives for blowing up the Louvre museum.” The script was never completed due to Buñuel’s declining health.

Superman Lives (Tim Burton, 1997)

An adaptation of the comic book, written by Kevin Smith. Nicolas Cage was attached and production got as far as screen tests, costume tests, and a teaser poster. After the project failed to take off, Burton and Smith feuded publicly.

Smith's script is available here.

The Surrogate (Paul Verhoeven)

Fox thriller based on Kathryn Mackel novel about a couple who discover their surrogate child-bearer is insane. Halle Berry was to star.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Barry Shear, 1968)

Writer Harlan Ellison and Shear developed a project about two gay detectives which they imagined would be played by Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier.

Taj Mahal (Fritz Lang, 1956)

Lang was invited by the Indian government to make a film in India about the maharajah who built the Taj Mahal. Disagreements on standards of beauty caused problems in casting and Lang dropped the project, but the stint in India proved influential on his later films set in India.

A Tale of Two Cities (Terry Gilliam, 1994)

Mel Gibson was going to co-star with Madeleine Stowe as Sydney Carlton, but withdrew to film Braveheart. The project almost came together with Liam Neeson in his stead, but the studio cut the budget in half and Gilliam balked.

The Tales of Hoffmann (Jonathan Miller)

To star Placido Domingo.

Technically Sweet (Michelangelo Antonioni)

The director worked on this screenplay in the late Sixties and envisioned Jack Nicholson in the lead role as a man lost in the Amazon wilderness after surviving a plane crash.

The Tempest (Michael Powell)

Powell’s film would have featured James Mason as Prospero, Michael York as Ferdinand, Mia Farrow as Ariel, Topol as Caliban, and possibly Helen Mirren as Miranda. Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe was to help with set design and André Previn was to write the score.

Theodora (Martin Scorsese)

The tale of Theodora and Justinian, written with Gore Vidal.

To the White Sea (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2001)

The Coens wrote a nearly dialogue-free adaptation of James Dickey’s 1993 novel about a WWII American fighter pilot who, shot down on a mission over Tokyo in 1945, murders his way through the outskirts of the fire-bombed city. Brad Pitt was set to play the brutal protagonist, with Jeremy Thomas producing.

Twelfth Night (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, late 1950s)

To star Danny Kaye and Audrey Hepburn.

The Twilight of the Gods (Sergei Eisenstein)

Ulysses (Sergei Eisenstein)

Eisenstein saw montage-like techniques and cinematic interior monologues at work in Ulysses, and wrote extensively about the shared affinities between Joyce’s novel and cinema.  

Und Morgen: Mord! (Fritz Lang, 1961-2) 

Translating as “And Tomorrow: Murder,” it followed a seemingly respectable bourgeois moralist of some social prestige who commits suicide when his perverse criminal past comes to light. 

The Undefeated (Robert Aldrich)

Under Western Eyes (Nicholas Ray)

Story by Nicholas Ray, who wrote the treatment with James Jones. The script was never finished.

Untitled Marx Bros. Project (Billy Wilder)

It was meant to be set in and around the United Nations. When Chico died, Harpo felt too emotionally unstable to continue the project.

Untitled Titanic Project (Alfred Hitchcock)

In 1938, while Hitchcock was still shooting his penultimate British film, The Lady Vanishes, he and David Selznick agreed that his first Hollywood film would be about the Titanic. English novelist Richard Blaker wrote a 22-page treatment (supervised by Val Lewton), which Selznick apparently disliked. After Hitchcock arrived in Hollywood, his assistant, Joan Harrison, was to return to England to perform more research on the Titanic and interview survivors, but the war forestalled her voyage.

Us (Sydney Pollack)

Written by Eric Roth, this was to star Jane Fonda as an archaeologist who discovers what might have been the Garden of Eden at a dig in Machu Picchu, alongside Robert Redford.

Vicky (George Cukor, 1972)

Faye Dunaway was to star in this biopic about Victoria Woodhull written by James Costigan, which Cukor described as a Cinderella story about a practitioner of free love who was also the first woman to run for president.

Waiting for Godot (Roman Polanski)

Polanski proposed a film adaptation of the play to Beckett, who politely refused to allow it. Beckett insisted that the play was not cinematic material and that an adaptation would destroy it. He asked for Polanski’s forgiveness and that the director not dismiss him as a “purist bastard.”

What Makes Sammy Run (Sidney Lumet)

Adaptation of Budd Schulberg’s 1941 fictionalized exposé about a poor Jewish boy who is determined to escape the ghetto and be successful, ethics be damned. Tom Cruise or Ben Stiller was to star.

Whispering in Distant Chambers (Jacques Tourneur, 1966)

Conceived by the director as “almost a documentary on parapsychology,” it survives as a rough treatment dated 1966. The story concerns an American multimillionaire who brings advanced technology into a haunted house and ends up capturing the voices of the dead. Tourneur proposed the project to American-International and Hammer Films; both declined.  

The White Company (John Ford)

One of several films Ford did not complete towards the end of his career, it was based on a book by Arthur Conan Doyle set in England, France, and Spain during the Hundred Years’ War.

White Gold (Charles Laughton)

Remake of 1927 film.

Who Killed Bambi? (Russ Meyer, 1978)

Intended as a punk rock version of A Hard Day’s Night, the film was to star the Sex Pistols. It was to be based on a screenplay by Roger Ebert and Malcolm McClaren. Some footage wound up in Julien Temple’s The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle.

Read Roger Ebert’s account.

Will You Marry Me? (Allan Dwan, 1959)

Comedy set in Rhode Island and written by Dwan.

Women (Paul Verhoeven)

To be adapted from Charles Bukowski’s fictionalized account of his experiences (and frequent dissatisfaction) with sex and romance.

The Yards at Essendorf  (John Sturges)

This World War II story of an American soldier behind enemy lines in Germany, written by Stirling Silliphant, was to be shot in western Canada.

The Yellow Jersey (Jerry Schatzberg)

Based on Ralph Hurne’s novel about an aging, woman-chasing professional cyclist in the Tour de France, and to star Dustin Hoffman or Christopher Lambert. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman, Colin Welland, and Lawrence Konner.

The Yig Epoxy (Robert Altman)

A plane-crash comedy starring Peter Falk and Sterling Hayden, to be produced by Warner Bros. Altman called it “a cross between Dr. Strangelove and M*A*S*H,” to be adapted by Alan Rudolph from Robert Grossbach’s book Easy and Hard Ways Out. Peter Falk, Sterling Hayden, and Henry Gibson were to star in “a big, big cast.” 

See A through K here.

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