The century-plus history of the cinema has seen more than its fair share of grand projects nurtured by filmmakers for years before being abandoned under any number of conditions. In modern times there have been few directors as determined to make a dream project into a reality as Guillermo Del Toro and his long-gestating adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft‘s 1936 novella At the Mountains of Madness.
After keeping it on the back-burner for several years, the man who brought the world the Hellboy movies, Pan’s Labyrinth, and last year’s international blockbuster Pacific Rimannounced his intentions to bring Lovecraft’s vision of bone-chilling horror to the big screen in 2010. The project found a home at Universal Pictures with none other than James Cameron serving as a producer and Tom Cruise circling the lead role. Del Toro intended to shoot Mountains of Madness in 3D on a budget of around $120 million. Giving this film the coveted green light seemed practically a certainty, but unfortunately the studio pulled the plug early the following year over concerns if the film would reach a wide enough audience to justify the sizable expenses that would be required to suitably adapt it for the screen, especially since Del Toro was aiming for an R rating with the final product.
The director soon signed on to make Pacific Rim for Warner Bros., but did not completely abandon his cherished ambitions of adapting the classic Lovecraft story until 2012 when he revealed that Ridley Scott’s Prometheusshared too many story similarities for a Mountains of Madness film to be relevant any longer. The project was officially dead in the water, or so it seemed….
With numerous projects on his plate including the upcoming FX series The Strain, next year’s Gothic horror film Crimson Peak, and the recently-announced Pacific Rim 2, Del Toro now feels that the time may be right for Mountains of Madness to be revived. According to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker is exploring the possibility of setting the adaptation up at Legendary Pictures (which produced Rim and Peak) and modifying the previously R-rated feature to a potential PG-13:
I think that now, with the way I’ve seen PG-13 become more and more flexible, I think I could do it PG-13 now, so I’m going to explore it with [Legendary], to be as horrifying as I can, but to not be quite as graphic. There’s basically one or two scenes in the book that people don’t remember that are pretty graphic. Namely, for example, the human autopsy that the aliens do, which is a very shocking moment. But I think I can find ways of doing it. We’ll see. It’s certainly a possibility in the future. Legendary was very close to doing it at one point, so I know they love the screenplay. So, we’ll see. Hopefully it’ll happen. It’s certainly one of the movies I would love to do.
The Strain premieres on FX on July 13, 2014. Crimson Peak opens on October 16, 2015. Pacific Rim 2 is currently set to open on April 7, 2017, but that could always change.
Del Toro is in a much better position to make At the Mountains of Madness now than he was three years ago. Despite failing to make much of an impression on U.S. moviegoers, Pacific Rim cashed out with enough global box office success and DVD and Blu-ray sales for its director to get the go-ahead to make a sequel. The Strain is looking pretty good and could be another hit series for FX, and the period piece Crimson Peak has an impressive cast and might possibly see Del Toro up for his first Academy Award since Pan’s Labyrinth garnered six nominations and three wins at the 2007 ceremony. The man has the prestige, the grosses, and the adoration of fans around the world. It would be difficult to deny him another shot at getting Mountains of Madness onto the silver screen.
After severing ties with Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures is currently based out of Universal Pictures, which means that if Mountains of Madness finally gets made, it will be at the same studio that shut off its green light back in 2011. With a more marketable PG-13 rating perhaps the film Guillermo Del Toro has desperately wanted to make for many years may finally happen.