Not even 24 hours after we heard no miracle was reached for David Fincher’s thriller series “Utopia” at HBO and we tried to dig around a little more, Deadline has the scoop: “Utopia” is dead. Written by Fincher’s “Gone Girl” collaborator Gillian Flynn, “Utopia” ran into trouble a few weeks ago when Fincher and HBO clashed over the budget on the show. Fincher wanted north of $100 million for the first season, and for comparison, Netflix’s budget for the first three seasons of “House Of Cards” was also $100 million. But Fincher doesn’t do anything on the cheap and won’t get out of bed without a petty pay day (see “Steve Jobs," which Sony balked at at the time because of his $10 million asking price).
Things were already looking grim and the writing was on the wall for “Utopia” last week as the cast were released from their contracts, including star Rooney Mara who lead Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” But budget conversations crumbled and both parties walked away. Deadline revealed the rest of the show’s cast, which included on top of Mara, Colm Feore, Eric McCormack, Dallas Roberts, Jason Ritter, Brandon Scott, and Agyness Deyn. The cast had apparently been rehearsing for a month, so perhaps the production originally had faith that the budget issues would be resolved. HBO owns the rights to “Utopia” so Fincher cannot shop it elsewhere, but apparently the cable honchos may try and go forward with another director.
Deadline’s story doesn’t include something else we’ve heard: despite shutting down to retool, Fincher’s ‘80s music video show “Videosyncrazy,” whose production was halted for additional script work, that show is dead too. It’s unclear if after “Utopia” negotiations fell through, Fincher pulled the plug on all his HBO projects.
“Utopia” centered on a group of people who get their hands on a cult graphic novel called "The Utopia Experiments," which predicted no shortage of disasters. An organization known only as The Network hunts them down as the group tries to prevent the next disaster foretold in the pages of the manuscript from happening.
Fincher seemed set to pivot into TV, and in doing so had no active film projects in development, but he may have to go back to the drawing board in terms of his near future plans. He still has a Netflix show with Charlize Theron somewhere in development, so maybe there’s hope for that. Update: I've since heard that “Videosyncrazy” let all its actors out of their contract too and is "beyond dead." HBO blew it with Fincher so badly (they knew about the budgets issue since February) it could mean that his show with James Ellroy, "Shakedown" is also dead.