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Guillermo Del Toro Confirms 'At The Mountains Of Madness' Is Dead

by Kevin Jagernauth
March 8, 2011 12:59 AM
30 Comments
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Update: Guillermo Del Toro also reached out to the New Yorker, telling the magazine, "Madness has gone dark. The ‘R’ did us in."

Last night, it was reported that Universal, despite being in love with what they were seeing from Guillermo Del Toro for his dream project "At The Mountains Of Madness," were getting gunshy about giving a greenlight the massively budgeted, R-rated horror film. With a $150-million price tag and a visionary scope and scale, not even the potential lead of Tom Cruise could assure suits that the film would be a moneymaker. While nothing was quite certain, another project, "Pacific Rim," was being readied by Legendary Pictures as a possible next vehicle for Del Toro. But our hopes that somehow Universal and Del Toro might be on the same page have been dashed as the project is now officially tanked.

The Criterion Cast shot off an email to the director to follow up on rumors that circled earlier Monday that 'Mountains Of Madness' was gearing up for a June shoot. By the time Del Toro responded, the writing was already on the wall and he got right to the point in his response. Asked if the filming had a go-ahead and a summer start, Del Toro said: "The opposite- Dead. – G"

This is a crushing blow, and a clear indication that Hollywood more than ever is afraid of original ideas-- "Inception" be damned-- but we also can't entirely blame Universal for hedging their bets.

Getting an R-rated film to do boffo box office is a hard, hard task not made any easier when you're selling a niche, R-rated horror film. What do "300," "Wedding Crashers," "The Hangover," "The Matrix" and "The Passion Of The Christ" all have in common? Yes, they are some of the highest grossing R-rated movies of all time, but they were also cheap, the most expensive among them was "300" with a budget of $65 million. Peanuts, compared to 'Mountains Of Madness' which would have cost more than double, not to mention the P&A coin that would need to be spent. As Deadline noted yesterday, the film would need to take in $500 million worldwide to break even. It would have to be the most successful R-rated movie of all time ("The Passion Of The Christ" currently has that honor with $370 million worldwide) or do "Lord Of The Rings" or "Pirates Of The Caribbean" sized numbers. And now you begin to understand why the studio had trouble flipping the switch.

And it's not like Universal hasn't taken gambles. Looking back at 2010, the studio took a swing and missed on films like "Green Zone," "The Wolfman," "Robin Hood" and most notably "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World." And let's be clear, not one of these films did they let wither on the vine. All received strong support and in the case of the latter, it was probably pushed harder than any of them and it was cheapest of them too. But with a relatively paltry $60 million budget, to date, the film has still only brought in $47 million worldwide and with only a couple more foreign territories to open it looks like it will have to look at the long run in terms of breaking even. So yes, it's disheartening but also not very surprising.

So what will be next for Del Toro? We kind of hope it isn't "Pacific Rim" if only because it sounds like the most generic monster movie ever -- the story is set in a near future where ‘malevolent creatures’ threaten earth, and humanity must use advanced technology to fight them off [shrug]. But we hope he gets out there, proves himself with a successful movie, and is allowed to come back and make 'Mountains Of Madness' the way he always wanted, without compromise.

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30 Comments

  • Paul Winger | May 16, 2011 9:36 AMReply

    BUT AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS IS NOT DEAD. See stellajamesstudios.com/pr-views and the various press releases made the moment the del Toro project collapsed. It's gone to Stella James Studios and the film makers Mihai/Sparks, who released the audio book version in March as well. Long live Lovecraft!

  • Pickman | April 26, 2011 8:59 AMReply

    As much as I would have liked to see ATMOM in the theaters, maybe this is for the best. Hearing that Tom Cruise was on the cast made me cringe. Maybe the stars will be right in a decade or so and we will finally see some high quality HPL works on the screen. Hopefully then Cruise has joined a death cult (oh, wait, doesn't he dabble in that already?) and ended his miserable existence.

  • Elder Sign | March 24, 2011 7:19 AMReply

    Remove Tom Cruise from the cast list and it should be within an acceptable budget. I wouldn't want to see the movie with TC in it anyway, I can still remember the horrible Americanised War of the Worlds that he ruined.

  • The King in Yellow | March 21, 2011 7:57 AMReply

    Look at the good news - at least Scream 4 is coming out.

  • JJ | March 9, 2011 4:22 AMReply

    Those numbers are US Box Office numbers. The Passion broke $600M worldwide and 300, The Hangover and each of the Matrix films broke $400M (Reloaded broke $700M)....That being said its still a big risk that Universal is unfortunately not in any position to take right now

  • Andrew Migliore | March 9, 2011 3:53 AMReply

    What else do you expect from Hollywood? It is unfortunate though, it would have been interesting to see a big budget adaptation of a Lovecraft story directed by someone who understands Lovecraft's Mythos and the author's main tenant of fear of the unknown.

  • Let_It_Go_Unmade | March 8, 2011 11:47 AMReply

    Totally agree RNL -- but for 150 million I wasn't getting the suggestive and implicit vibe... more like a CGI festival of tentacles...

    Even in well executed films like DAGON, that moment at the end when the creature is revealed always seems to be a let down.

  • bradco | March 8, 2011 11:40 AMReply

    Perhaps if Pacific Rim is successful and with continued backing of James Cameron, we will see At the Mountains of Madness come to fruition at a later date, just leave Tom Cruise out of the equation, please.

  • captain naive | March 8, 2011 10:05 AMReply

    somebody get Megan Ellison on the phone !

  • RNL | March 8, 2011 9:41 AMReply

    "The genius of Lovecraft was his ability to create monsters so terrifying and horrible the human mind could not even CONCEIVE of them."

    Just because his characters tend to go mad doesn't mean the monsters are 'inconceivable'. They've been depicted plenty of times.

    Nor does a film adaptation have to show the creatures in all their detail. It's a bit of a false dichotomy that people set up between novels and films, this notion that films have to show you everything. Films can be just as suggestive and implicit as novels.

  • Mark Tedin | March 8, 2011 9:18 AMReply

    Can't he take Wayne Barlowe with him and try another studio? Nobody owns the rights to Lovecraft any longer.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | March 8, 2011 9:04 AMReply

    Funny that someone calls "Avatar" "original."

  • Rashad | March 8, 2011 9:03 AMReply

    Funny how Inception keeps getting referenced for originality. Avatar was an original script and is the biggest movie ever.

    Del Toro was lucky cruise would deign to be in one of his movies

  • JohnDoe | March 8, 2011 8:16 AMReply

    Maybe James Cameron will help him get this project off the ground somewhere else?

  • Let_It_Go_Unmade | March 8, 2011 8:10 AMReply

    This is the curse of all HP Lovecraft films. The genius of Lovecraft was his ability to create monsters so terrifying and horrible the human mind could not even CONCEIVE of them.

    To then ask a team of creature designers and VFX wizzes to go and render that unimaginable horror in a clear visual format renders the whole thing silly.

    Who wants to see a gigantic CGI version of the OLD ONES swallowing up Tom Cruise? And based on Guillermo's penchant for cheesy creatures (see Hellboy 1&2), I can't imagine how it would work.

    Time to move on...

  • RNL | March 8, 2011 6:31 AMReply

    Very disappointing.

    I haven't read the screenplay, but I have read the novel, and I find it hard to imagine what he needs that kind of budget for. Where is all the money going? Could someone who's read the screenplay explain what's been added/expanded to the plot of the novel? Is it all going on a big 'flashback' sequence while they're reading the hieroglyphics?

  • Joseph Nanni | March 8, 2011 5:39 AMReply

    Having spent three months prepping and the last three days shooting an HPL project, this is the worst news possible.

  • ThisGuy | March 8, 2011 5:08 AMReply

    I don't blame the studio anymore than I blame Del Toro.

    The film could be made if both sides just reached a compromise & made it a smaller scale R rated film.

    I don't think Madness is dead forever. Del Toro cares too much about the project- but maybe he should start rethinking how to make this film. From the sounds of it his plan has always been to make the "Avatar of R rated movies". A huge spectacle that could play to all audiences even though it features monsters straight out of the Thing that swallow people whole. If he really wants to remake he should scale it down and make it a genuine horror film.

    His best movie is still "Pan's Labryinth", a movie I assume was made for about 1/5 the price of his Hellboy movies (they're fun but I found neither to be great & the action scenes never truly excelled) & Madness could be made with some smart rewriting.

    I mean this happens all the time. Scorsese's "Last Tempation of Christ" was originally envisioned as an epic in the vein of "Beh-Hur". It became clear to Scorsese that was NEVER going to happen so he scaled it down & made a fantastic character piece.

    Madness could be shrunk down from the "biggest action adventure film of all time"- an R rated Mummy- to a more claustrophobic horror film.

  • Evilcritter | March 8, 2011 5:05 AMReply

    As much as I love Del Toro and want to see him make this film, once I heard Tom Cruise was attached my interest plummeted. The budget seems inordinately high as well. Was Del Toro going to build the whole of the ancient city? Someday, hopefully, this project will come back, with a more suitable cast and a more reasonable budget.

  • Mike | March 8, 2011 4:49 AMReply

    That just ruined my day. Very sorry to hear this, I hope he gets to make the film someday.

  • Carnal | March 8, 2011 4:23 AMReply

    I love this mans work, and he is more than capable of pulling off lovecraft, he showed me that in Hellboy. The man obviously knows something about Cthulu based mythos. Let the sleeper awaken.

  • kure | March 8, 2011 3:47 AMReply

    its already confirmed that hes doing pacific rim,it starts filming in september.and its not generic,trust me this will be a huge,huge movie with stuff we havent seen before and with enormous budget...

  • Ryan | March 8, 2011 3:37 AMReply

    "This is a crushing blow, and a clear indication that Hollywood more than ever is afraid of original ideas"

    It's a crushing blow, yes. But, a book adaptation is--by definition--not an original idea.

  • Joe | March 8, 2011 3:35 AMReply

    You can make the film for less than the above mentioned cost. And you can make it without a name star and you can make it relatively cheap (when you refer to 60 million as "paltry", there's something wrong with you.)
    If Bava could make classics with NO money, why can't Del Toro? He's as talented as Bava, why can't he be as resourceful?
    The Bands made Re-Animator for a lot less than 60 million.

  • Bob Brinkman | March 8, 2011 3:34 AMReply

    Sorry, I don't trust the financial estimates of the film industry. These folks claim that the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series have both lost money. Indeed, according to them, no movie in the past 20-30 years has made any money.

    I wish I had their accountants working for me...

  • Irrelephant | March 8, 2011 3:31 AMReply

    Let's not make crass generalizations here. Del Toro is far from uniquely equipped to handle Lovecraft. Sure he's incredibly gifted for the craft of monstermaking, but is there anything in his previous work to indicate his tone would match Lovecraft's hopelessness? Frankly, I just don't see it. I'm saddened by this news, it's a film I would love to see, but I harbor no ill will towards Universal - as Kevin correctly points out, they've definitely been taking risks for a long time, even when it hasn't paid off. I have faith that the project will be resurrected some day.

  • James | March 8, 2011 3:24 AMReply

    Surely this movie could be made for less than $150m?

    Like everyone I'm dying to see it, and with an R rating as its creators intend, but If Del Toro really wants to get it made he should find a way to make it for less rather than holding the studio to ransom over such a massive budget and potential P&A spend.

    I know this is a controversial opinion but it's either that or do the PG-13 version, which I'm guessing, having not read the book, is impossible, otherwise he'd be doing it?

  • R. Fischer | March 8, 2011 3:14 AMReply

    Thats another blow for original filmmaking. Not only that Tom Cruise in it would have been a bad joke...its a serious setback for all the Lovecraft fans out there that the movie is now in limbus.
    The only director that would have been able to bring a Lovecraft story to the big screen would have been del Toro.
    I hope that he does not give up and the project will be realized
    one day.
    And for the other hand - when will filmstudios realize that we dont need another shitty monster movie with a story seen 1000 times before or another Avatar crap. For cancelling this project i have one for you - Universal go to hell...

  • Edwin Pagan | March 8, 2011 2:59 AMReply

    It's unfortunate. But as Del Toro fans we've been here before, and we will continue to stand by our cinematic hero.

    Edwin Pagan
    LATIN HORROR
    http://latinhorror.com/

  • JustSayMaybe | March 8, 2011 2:19 AMReply

    A sad sign of the times. Poor Guillermo del Toro, putting so much work into projects that fall through for him. Hopefully he can get something going soon.

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