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10 Unmade Tim Burton Films: From 'After Hours' To 'Superman Lives' & More

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 11, 2012 at 1:00PM

It's curious that a director as idiosyncratic and... well, just plain weird as Tim Burton has become one of Hollywood's A-listers. But from 1989's "Batman" to 2010's billion-dollar grossing "Alice in Wonderland," the helmer's managed to turn his dark, gothic imagination into something that genuinely captures the hearts and minds of the general public. Indeed, films like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and the upcoming "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," which are produced by Burton, show that he, like Alfred Hitchcock before him, has become one of the few directors who's become a true brand name: if they see his name involved with a project, an audience know what to expect, whether he directed it or not.
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Unmade Tim Burton

It's curious that a director as idiosyncratic and...well, just plain weird as Tim Burton has become one of Hollywood's A-listers. But from 1989's "Batman" to 2010's billion-dollar-grossing "Alice in Wonderland," the helmer has managed to turn his dark, gothic imagination into something that genuinely captures the hearts and minds of the general public. Indeed, even films like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and the upcoming "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," which are produced by Burton, show that he, like Alfred Hitchcock before him, has become one of the few directors who's a true brand name, with audiences knowing what they can expect when they purchase a ticket.

But despite his success, Burton, like every filmmaker, isn't necessarily able to get everything he wants made. The path of his career has been littered with a number of projects that either didn't get made at all, or got made with radically different interpretations and visions to them. With the director's latest, "Dark Shadows," hitting theaters today, we've rounded up ten projects that Burton was involved with that he ultimately ended up not directing. Check them out below.

Superman Lives

"Superman Lives"
Having essentially birthed the modern-day superhero movie with 1989's "Batman" and its sequel, "Batman Returns," three years later, Burton has flirted with the comic book genre frequently since departing the franchise. Back in 1993, Burton elected not to return for a third "Batman" movie with Warner Bros., but remained on board as a producer, while also developing a script for a "Catwoman" spin-off that would have seen Michelle Pfeiffer reprise her role. "Heathers" scribe Daniel Waters, who had introduced the character in "Batman Returns," penned a script, but turned it in on the day that "Batman Forever" opened to huge numbers; the success of that film meant that Warners weren't interested in a darker script. Pfeiffer and Burton lost interest, and the character was eventually brought to the screen in the 2004 Halle Berry monstrosity. Burton wasn't done with DC heroes, though. In 1996, he signed on to direct Kevin Smith's script for "Superman Lives," which would tell the story of the death and resurrection of everyone's favorite Kryptonian. Nicolas Cage was slated for the lead role, with Kevin Spacey, Jim Carrey and Chris Rock among the actors circling. Burton brought first Wesley Strick ("Cape Fear") and Dan Gilroy to rewrite the script, and the film got into heavy pre-production, with construction on sets started, and costume tests with Cage in the Superman suit taking place. But the budget got out of control, and the director clashed with megalomaniacal producer Jon Peters, eventually bailing to make "Sleepy Hollow" instead.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not

"Ripley's Believe It Or Not"
A pairing of Burton with Jim Carrey would seem to be natural, but to date, it's never quite happened, despite Carrey playing the Riddler in the Burton-produced "Batman Forever," and "Lemony Snicket" being a film that might as well have been helmed by the director. But for the best part of the last decade, the duo were planning on working together. Burton was long-attached to "Ripley's Believe It Or Not," from his "Ed Wood" writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, which reimagined Robert Ripley, the creator of the franchise of oddities and freaks, as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer on the search for a magical lost tribe of people. After a few false starts, the film was finally set to go ahead in the summer of 2006, with a December 2007 release planned, and Gong Li and Dan Fogler in supporting roles. But with both director and star unhappy with the script, and Paramount concerned over the $150 million budget, the plug was pulled only weeks before shooting was set to begin in China. Carrey's long-time collaborator Steve Oedekerk was brought on to rewrite the script, and it looked ready to go after Burton wrapped on "Sweeney Todd," but the director departed the project in the summer of 2007. Chris Columbus came on board in 2008, but it never quite happened. Only last year it resurfaced, with Carrey still attached, and Eric Roth ("The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button") writing the script, but we suspect Burton is long gone.

Mai The Psychic Girl

"Mai The Psychic Girl"
An anime-adapted musical by '80s New Wave favorites Sparks and directed by Burton? It could have happened. "Mai The Psychic Girl," which follows a fourteen-year-old psychic chased by the sinister Wisdom Alliance, was one of the first manga series to be published in English, helping to popularize the form in the West. Sparks were early adopters, intending to turn the series into a movie musical, and persuaded Carolco Pictures to pick up the rights in August 1991, with Burton coming on board to develop the project. However, Burton went over to Disney for "Ed Wood" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and by the time he came out again, Carolco had gone under. Francis Ford Coppola developed the project for a while in the 1990s, but as recently as 2010 it was reported that Burton was again developing the project, although it's unclear if it's as the Sparks musical, or as a more traditional adaptation.

This article is related to: Features, Tim Burton, Dark Shadows, Beetlejuice, Man Of Steel, Ripley's Believe It Or Not


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