By Edward Davis | The Playlist March 9, 2011 at 5:21AM
Filmmaker Still Seems Unclear Why Universal Walked Away From Project, "I Am As Puzzled As Most People Are" & More Learned From Extensive Interview
Just days after Universal canned Guillermo del Toro's long-gestating dream project "At the Mountains of Madness," the director is now opening up about what happened behind the scenes and the biggest takeaway is he's as surprised and shocked as we are.
In an extensive, no-holds-barred interview with Deadline del Toro reveals he met all the requirements Universal set out for him with project -- including their approved $150 million budget -- and that he was a week away from opening production offices and getting the ball rolling on the film (all Universal had to do was sign Tom Cruise who had committed to star). And he also adds, that simply setting up 'Mountains of Madness' at another studio isn't as easy as it sounds, and moreover, the ones that have shown interest want a smaller budget and a PG-13 rating. Speaking frankly and from the heart, del Toro spills on what happened. Here are the highlights from the interview, though the whole thing is worth a read.
On Universal's Surprising Decision To Can The Film
"They were blown away by the visual presentation, they openly admitted to loving the screenplay, saying it was dead on. And we hit the target on the budget they gave us, not a figure I arrived at. This came after months and months of story boarding, haggling with VFX companies, and bringing down the budget number. The week before the decision, I was scouting in the border of Canada and Alaska. We were a week away from opening offices in Toronto. We were crewed up, and frankly, I am as puzzled as most people are. One of the biggest, biggest points for me with this movie was the scope and the R, going hand in hand."
It Was In Universal's Hands To Close The Deal On Tom Cruise
"Definitely, closing Tom’s deal was in their hands. He was without a doubt, absolutely in favor of being in the movie. We met extensively, both in Canada and the U.S., dozens of times. Final polishes of the screenplay met with his approval. Closing the deal is not something that was in my hands. They needed to close it corporately. As far as the movie grossing that much, obviously I’m not impartial, but I have to believe that with 3D, Tom Cruise, Jim Cameron, the scope of Lovecraft’s novel that is one his best regarded and most widely known works, I would venture that it could absolutely have been done."
Del Toro Has No Idea Why Universal Pulled The Plug & Hasn't Yet Had A Face-To-Face Meeting With Them
"You may think I’m being glib, but I don’t know. Since the day of the decision, I haven’t had a face to face with them. We’ve exchanged a few phone calls. I my mind, we were given the parameters of a budget and screenplay, and I was given the chance by the studio to create a visual presentation. The week before the decision, I was scouting in the border of Canada and Alaska. We were a week away from opening offices in Toronto. We were crewed up, and frankly, I am as puzzled as most people are. One of the biggest, biggest points for me with this movie was the scope and the R, going hand in hand."
It Can't Just Easily Go Into The Hands of Another Studio; It Has To Go Into Turnaround First
"That is not a quick process. We would have needed first to get the formal terms of turnaround from Universal before we could formally get an answer from another studio. We were gauging interest and there was interest, very serious interest, but nothing that could happen before Universal names the terms in which they would allow us to try and set it up somewhere else."
Other Studios Have Approached Him to Make "At the Mountains of Madness" With A Smaller Budget & PG-13 Rating But Del Toro Won't Compromise
"I’ve been offered four or five times at different studios the chance to make this movie in what I think was the wrong way. With $20 million or $30 million less than what I need, with a contractual PG-13, and I don’t want to do it that way.....I think the MPAA could rule the movie PG-13 because the movie and the book are not gory. If that is the outcome, fine. But I don’t want to put the PG-13 on paper, for one reason. We created 'Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,' thinking we would be safe looking for PG-13 because we had no profanity, no sex, no gore, but we made a very intense movie in a very classical mold. And the MPAA gave it an R."
He Doesn't Take Universal's Decision Personally
"We have active projects where I’m a producer there and I’m still going to pursue my year and a half or two years I have left in my time with Universal. As disappointed and heartbroken as I am, for the studio, this is a business decision."
Says "Pacific Rim" Is Next & Will Start Shooting In September If All Goes Well
"I can only say I was very happy to be able to develop it under the radar in many ways. People got it confused with the Godzilla movie a few months ago but we cleared that up. I can say the scope and imagination that have been outlined in it are absolutely appealing to me. I cannot say more, it’s not the time," del Toro said. "The idea is unequivocally to start shooting in September. The terms of that will become public very soon, but the idea is to get behind the camera this year. I miss it terribly. Unfortunately for me, I have passed discreetly on a number of high profile projects last year in order to save myself for a project that I’ve been shepherding. That was 'Mountains,' and now it seems like it’s going to be 'Pacific Rim.' In both instances, these are projects I am generating."
Tom Cruise Is Still Interested In Making 'Mountains'
"The beauty of it is, in the last few days, I spoke to Tom, who has been incredibly supportive and who said, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s make this movie down the road.’ He’s definitely that interested and that happy where we were creatively. So we have good legs to travel on, if the time and the opportunity present itself. But we’re going to fight for that to happen."
So "Pacific Rim" Next & "At the Mountains of Madness" Next After That?
"I have learned in the last few years that God laughs as we make plans."