By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 16, 2012 at 1:00PM
"Against All Enemies"
What Killed It? If you were to say that American cinema hasn't yet produced a great film about the war on terror, few would disagree. So it's hard not to wonder about "Against All Enemies," which would have been an adaptation of the incendiary memoir by Richard A. Clarke, the former chief counter-terrorism czar in the Bush administration. Sure, the directors involved -- first a post-"Crash" Paul Haggis, then Robert Redford -- might not have got the blood racing. But by all accounts, the script, from "Zodiac" writer James Vanderbilt, was a cracker, and under Haggis, it attracted Sean Penn to the lead role, with Vince Vaughn sought to play Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. But when Penn vehicle "All The King's Men" tanked, Sony put the project in turnaround, and while Redford tried to resurrect it a year later at Capitol Films, financing never came together -- unsurprising, given the lack of box office success of Redford's "Lions For Lambs."
How Can It Be Resurrected? There's been no word in years, so we assume there's no active development, and we wonder if filmmakers feel it's less topical now, with George W. Bush out of office and Osama Bin Laden at the bottom of the ocean. We'd argue that it's still a story worth telling: maybe a filmmaker like Steven Gaghan, Billy Ray or George Clooney might get interested down the line.
What Killed It? After "Die Another Day" became by some distance the biggest-grossing film in the James Bond franchise, back in 2002, MGM and producers Eon had a curious thought: could Jinx Johnson, the NSA agent played by Halle Berry, who had won an Oscar since filming the role, carry her own franchise? The idea of a spin-off had been considered once before, for Michelle Yeoh's character from "Tomorrow Never Dies," but that never really seriously moved forward. But this time around, Eon hired regular Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to write the script, and most surprisingly, the genre-spanning British veteran Stephen Frears was tapped to direct. While we weren't fans of "Die Another Day," the idea of a Frears-helmed Bond-style actioner with Berry in the lead was an intriguing one, but alas, it wasn't to be. The failure of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life" made MGM nervous about female-led actioners, and the studio pulled the plug, asking Eon to focus on a 21st Bond flick instead.
How Can It Be Resurrected? Given the near total reboot of the Bond-franchise, and the fact that Berry's career has sunk to the point that she's making shark attack movies, it probably can't. That being said, Purvis and Wade are still Bond stalwarts, so maybe it could be recycled for Naomie Harris' "Skyfall" character, should she make it to the end credits?
What Killed It? Guillermo Del Toro has so many projects that have yet to come to pass that we did a whole piece wondering which, if any, would ever get made. And seemingly, that goes double for films he was attached to produce. Announced back in 2007, "Born" was a screenplay by newcomer Dan Simpson, who co-wrote the script with horror veteran Clive Barker and British comic actor Paul Kaye. Del Toro was on board to produce alongside Barker and "Watchmen" duo Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, and the film was to have starred real-life married couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. And it had a seriously ingenious conceit: Bettany would have played a stop-motion animator who moves to a small town with his pregnant wife, only to be menaced by his claymation creations (who would have been provided by "Elf" animators the Chiodo Brothers). Production was planned for February 2008, but first Connelly dropped out, then the film seemed to lose steam altogether. Simpson made his debut elsewhere, on torture porn "Spiderhole" (which got a U.S. release last summer from IFC), and hoped to make it after that film, but HandMade Films decided not to fund the production, which was meant to take place in New Zealand.
How Can It Be Resurrected? "Spiderhole" didn't exactly set the world alight, but the script is still out there, and that conceit is pretty strong. Maybe if Simpson has success with his next project, the film could get new momentum.
"Alexander The Great"
What Killed It? We know what you're thinking: "I saw this! Oliver Stone directed it, Colin Farrell starred in it, and it was a bit shit!" And you're absolutely correct. But you might have forgotten that Stone's film put paid to not one, but two rival films on the same subject, either of which might have ended up being superior to "Alexander." After "Gangs of New York," Martin Scorsese planned a version, penned by "The Usual Suspects"' Christopher McQuarrie and his friend Peter Buchman. Leonardo DiCaprio was thought to be starring, but the pair decided to make "The Aviator" instead, after which DiCaprio would shoot a rival project, "Alexander The Great" from Baz Luhrmann, based on a script by Ted Tally ("Silence of the Lambs"), and with the late Dino De Laurentiis producing. Fox, who were co-funding with Universal, pulled out late in 2002, but DreamWorks stepped in, while Scorsese announced he had jettisoned his own take and would produce Luhrmann's, and Nicole Kidman was in talks to play Alexander's mother. But with the film's budget heading up to $140 million (a lot now, but even more a decade ago), and Oliver Stone's rival project going before cameras, Luhrmann got cold feet, saying he didn't want to be away from his family for so long.
How Can It Be Resurrected? A year after it was scrapped, De Laurentiis said publicly that he was hoping to get the film going again in 2006 for a 2007 release, partly inspired by the savage reviews and box office failure of Stone's film. But it never came to be, and the producer's passing likely means it won't, although with DiCaprio and Luhrmann working together again on "The Great Gatsby" at present, we suppose they might want to dig this up.