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The Real Reason The King Arthur Trilogy Died

Given the fickle nature of the movie biz, it's not uncommon for a project to fall in and out of favor based solely on which way the wind is blowing. That production model is mostly business based, but it has left no end of intriguing big screen endeavors by the wayside over the years, with both fans and filmmakers left to wonder what might've been. David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, The Judge) is one of those filmmakers, and the project he continues to wonder about is the abandoned King Arthur trilogy he very nearly helmed in the early 2010s.

That trilogy would have seen Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) appearing as the titular monarch, with Joel Kinnaman (Suicide SquadAltered Carbon) stepping into the role of Lancelot. In a recent interview with Collider about his upcoming Netflix comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Dobkin took some time to address how close he came to getting King Arthur before cameras prior Warner Bros. pulling the plug on his epic. It seems he had very specific plans for the film, and a handful of notable names lined up to appear opposite the then more-or-less-unknown Harrington and Kinnaman.

"We were greenlit and on our way to making the movie. I had a DP [director of photography], Philippe Rousselot was shooting the movie. There was a production designer. We had Gary Oldman for Merlin. We were trying to talk Marion Cotillard into playing Morgana. We were going out to Liam Neeson for Galahad," Dobkin explained. "The whole idea was the Batman formula. Christian in the beginning of Batman [Begins] playing Batman with all these big actors around him, and you let the storytelling kind of carry the movieSo that was the design, and when I sold the film to Warner Bros., there was no cast contingency."

Warner Bros. apparently balked at the star power of the trilogy's proposed cast

Kit Harrington and Joel Kinnaman are obviously known commodities in Hollywood these days. The same was not true in 2011, however, with Harrington having just debuted on Game of Thrones and Kinnaman landing his breakout via The Killing the same year. While Warner brass was eager to forge ahead with King Arthur sans star power, Dobkin claims the studio's International marketing team was more than wary of the prospect.  

"After I showed the screen tests of Joel and Kit together, we got greenlit, and a day later, the international department who saw the screen test kind of came in and were like, 'We don't think we can sell the movie with these two guys,'" the filmmaker recalled. "Everything was up and running, and then international Warner Bros. put the brakes on the movie, and they told me we had to recast."

Dobkin was reportedly so dismayed at King Arthur being blocked by the studio that he took a long break before thinking about re-casting. When he circled back, the scope of the project had changed, and it was apparently no longer a trilogy. 

"Joby Harold had written a new version of the movie very different from my script, completely different, but with a lot of the same premise. You can't tell that story in one movie. You just can't. There's no way to believe that Arthur and Lancelot have had a friendship enough to believe that there would be pressure once Guinevere enters the picture."

That one-movie version is essentially the King Arthur Guy Ritchie delivered in 2017. It became one of the biggest box office bombs of the decade, so perhaps Dobkin was on to something. Either way, he still views the experience as "a heartbreaker," insisting that he "really loved that script." Heartbreak aside, we're sincerely hoping Dobkin one day gets his epic King Arthur to the multiplex, because the story really is more than worthy.