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Movies Canceled Because Of An Idiot Mistake

It's a miracle any movies ever get made, let alone the dozens Hollywood produces each year. Hundreds of people are involved, not to mention millions of dollars, dangerous equipment, and tons of other variables that can and will go wrong. Sometimes, something will go so wrong on a movie in production that filmmakers just call the whole thing off — all because of some dumb thing that somebody did. These movies never saw the light of day due to poor decisions or human error.

At the Mountains of Madness

If anyone could make a movie out of At the Mountains of Madness—the master work of horror and science-fiction author H.P. Lovecraft—it's Guillermo del Toro, the writer/director behind imaginative groundbreaking films like Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth

At the Mountains of Madness has been a long-simmering passion project for the filmmaker, and his plans for the movie almost found a green light at Universal Pictures. While the film, about scientists who discover ancient, terrifyingly powerful entities in Antarctica, had some similarities to Prometheus, that's not what killed the project

Despite interest from Tom Cruise and James Cameron producing, Universal balked at spending $150 million on an R-rated movie that teenagers wouldn't be able to see (and help earn back its budget). The director took the blame, saying he "should have lied" to executives and told them that At the Mountains of Madness would be PG-13 to secure funding.


A lot of video games have been made into movies, but none have been particularly well received. An adaptation of Microsoft's enormously successful Xbox Halo franchise may have changed that. Alas, according to a 2017 investigation by Wired, a Halo movie never happened because of major corporate interference. 

In 2005, Microsoft took the odd step of soliciting bids from studios interested in producing the Halo movie—but only the very biggest ones, and not Columbia Pictures, as it was owned by Sony, which manufactured Xbox's competitor, the PlayStation. 28 Days Later screenwriter Alex Garland wrote a script according to Microsoft's exacting specifications (available online), which had to be picked up from a talent agency at a specific time. Showbiz executives then had just 24 hours to read it and make Microsoft an offer.

Despite some strict stipulations from Microsoft—such as a refusal to pay for any of the film's potentially enormous production costs—Fox and Universal were the last two studios interested in making Halo, and they decided to team up. They hired Neill Blomkamp (District 9) to direct, but got miffed when the filmmaker had his own ideas about what kind of film Halo should be. Blomkamp wanted it to have a cyberpunk feel; he says executives wanted a "generic, boring film—something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that." That disagreement is where the whole project, which had been tenuous from the start, started to crumble.

Star Trek: Planet of the Titans

Star Trek was canceled after three seasons in 1969, but its popularity exploded in syndicated reruns. Creator Gene Roddenberry was in discussions with Paramount as early as 1972 about a movie, and after a movie called Star Trek: The God Thing fell apart in pre-production (the plot involved the Enterprise crew squaring off against God, who was determined to destroy Earth), they got started planning a brand new Star Trek screenplay called Planet of the Titans. Roddenberry had looked at a number of story ideas and treatments and decided on one by screenwriters Chris Bryant and Alan Scott in which the Enterprise investigates the disappearance of another ship, which leads to the disappearance of Captain Kirk and then the discovery of a planet that's home to the Titans of ancient Greek mythology. It was set to begin filming in 1977 with a budget of $10 million.

But then, just before filming was set to start, Paramount president Barry Diller called the whole thing off. Why? He thought the script was too pretentious and not very good. But according to the movie's hired director, Philip Kaufman, it was because another science fiction epic with "Star" in its title was released in 1977: Star Wars. Reportedly, executives didn't think there were enough sci-fi fans out there to support two big space movies in the same year. Good job, guys, way to really understand the industry.

Justice League: Mortal

Before the current fashion of shared comic superhero universes resulting in all-star team-ups (The Avengers, Batman v Superman), D.C. Comics and Warner Bros. could've been first out of the gate with Justice League: Mortal. In production in 2007 and planned for release in 2009, George Miller of Mad Max: Fury Road was signed on to direct, sets had been built, and the actors had been cast, fitted for costumes, and were even rehearsing. Among them: Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Adam Brody as The Flash, Common as Green Lantern, and Jay Baruchel as villain Maxwell Lord.

The movie was budgeted at a whopping $200 million, which was supposed to be offset by shooting in Australia, which offered major tax incentives to film productions at the time. But, because getting executives to plan ahead with a $200 million budget is difficult, some tax cuts were denied to Justice League. Lawmakers intended the provision to help smaller, independent movies, not Hollywood blockbusters, so Justice League resolved to film somewhere else. But that never happened because the script needed work and the time allotted for that ran right up against the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. By the time the strike was over and the script could be completed, many of the actors were no longer contractually obligated to stay with the film, and they moved on. You'd think that they would have taken steps to keep the actors around even through the strike. At the very least, they could have just recast the whole thing.


In 2008, Pixar announced its slate of films for the coming years, and among them was Newt. The plot, according to a Pixar press release from 2008? "What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can't stand each other?" It was so far along in production that Pixar animators left little Easter eggs referencing Newt in Toy Story 3 (2010). For example, Andy has a "Newt Xing" sign on his bedroom door. But in 2011, Fox Animation Studios released Rio. The plot: rare exotic birds that don't get along are forced onto each other in hopes of propagating their species. In other words, it had almost the exact same plot as Newt. Fearing Newt would be labeled a knockoff of Rio, Pixar canceled its movie entirely, the only time the company has ever done that. Not that there was anything wrong with Rio, but Pixar makes good movies! We probably would have rather seen Newt. Sorry, Rio.

A Revenge of the Nerds remake

In 2006, Fox Atomic, the Twentieth Century Fox subsidiary charged with making smaller and more modestly budgeted movies, began to make a modern-day reboot of the classic '80s college movie series Revenge of the Nerds. Emory University in Atlanta agreed to have the film shoot there ... until school officials read the script and pulled out, likely due to the naughtiness that's more or less guaranteed with a comedy set in a college. Unfortunately, a lot of the movie had already been shot, so the production crew scrambled to find a nearby college to finish the movie. The tiny Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, stepped in. But once Fox Atomic president Peter Rice saw dailies of the shoot, he wasn't happy with the small-potatoes look of the movie and shut it down completely. We'll likely never see what remains of this Nerds movie that starred Efren Ramirez of Napoleon Dynamite, among others. This idiot mistake goes to Emory for not understanding what a college comedy is before agreeing to host one. Whoever signed off on it should take a film class. Maybe not at Emory.

Two sequels to Terminator: Salvation

In 2009, Terminator: Salvation, the first entry in the Skynet saga since 2003's Rise of the Machines, earned $125 million at the domestic box office and $246 million internationally, thanks in part to the star power of Christian Bale as time-traveling, robot-killing, humanity-saving John Connor. A sequel was a foregone conclusion — filmmakers were planning on creating a whole new trilogy of Terminator movies. Or they were, until producer The Halcyon Company went bankrupt, partially because it couldn't pay debts owed to a hedge fund called Pacificor. The true idiocy here is whatever complicated financing agreement Halcyon got itself into where $371 million in box office receipts couldn't cover the $39 million owed to Pacificor. Halcyon executives tried to salvage what they could by selling off the rights to Halcyon's properties, particularly Terminator.

It valued those at $70 million, a number so high that at first the only major bid was made by Avengers director and cult TV mastermind Joss Whedon. His offer: $10,000. (He said the bid was serious because he "loved the mythology" and the TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but also that the offer was so low because he was "being a dumbass." For example, he promised he'd give Christian Bale a "throat lozenge" for him to play John Connor again. Later on, Lionsgate put in a bid of $15 million, which Halcyon rejected for being too low (not Whedon low, but still low). Several Hollywood companies then got involved in a bidding war, with the eventual winner being a company called, you guessed it, Pacificor at a price of $29.5 million. (They were behind 2015's mildly successful Terminator: Genisys.)

Midnight Rider

The reason for the cancellation of this William Hurt-starring biopic about classic rock legend Gregg Allman isn't stupid, but the behavior of the people involved sure was. ("Stupid" here means "criminally negligent.") Filming began in February 2014 with a sequence of a train going over a trestle in rural Wayne County, Georgia. A hospital bed was placed on the trestle. It wasn't the safest shooting location — the company that owned the railway had actually denied filming permission to Midnight Rider, and a train came down the tracks while they were filming. High over a river, not everyone was able to get off the trestle in time. As the train hit the bed, flying debris struck camera assistant Sarah Jones. The debris knocked her into the path of the train, which struck and killed her instantly. The movie's director was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing and was sentenced to two years in prison and eight years of probation. No other scenes for the movie were ever shot.

Son of Fletch

Chevy Chase starred as smug and smarmy reporter I.M. Fletcher in Fletch and Fletch Lives, both based on entries in a series of comic novels by Gregory McDonald. After Fletch Lives was released in 1989, the franchise lay dormant until 1997, when writer-director Kevin Smith pitched Universal Pictures a third Fletch movie. Despite the title, Fletch Lives, Smith planned for the movie to be about Fletch's daughter, portrayed by Smith's girlfriend at the time, Joey Lauren Adams, with Jason Lee as the love interest. (Both had starred in Smith's previous films Mallrats and Chasing Amy.) Smith wanted Chase to return and the two met to discuss the project, but Smith later claimed Chase's incessant grandstanding turned him off—and then a series of personal crises (including the end of his relationship with Adams) led him away from Fletch and toward Dogma. Chase, feeling betrayed, repeatedly badmouthed Smith to the media, saying, "It's Hollywood-type crap treatment, so rude."

Fletch Won

Regardless of the way things (didn't) pan out with Chase, Smith still wanted to make some kind of Fletch movie. Universal's rights had lapsed, so he convinced Miramax to buy up the rights with an eye toward creating a whole new series of Fletch movies. This time, the idea was a reboot, or an "origin story" about young Fletch. Once more, Smith wanted to cast his frequent collaborators, and Miramax was fine with that...except for the lead role. Smith was adamant that Jason Lee play Fletch, but the studio insisted he wasn't a big enough star to anchor the movie. Once again, an agreement couldn't be reached and the movie fell apart. In 2014, the project was revived at Warner Bros. with Jason Sudeikis said to be in contention for the role. But that was more than two years ago, and still no Fletch Won.

Dumb and Dumber 2

A prequel to the hit 1994 comedy Dumb and Dumber was released in 2003, and a sequel happened in 2014, but both could've happened a whole lot earlier. In the wake of the explosive success of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were offered all kinds of extracurricular projects. In 1998,Variety reported that the duo had been paid $1.5 million by new Line Cinema to write a Dumb and Dumber prequel. But then there was no movement on the project for two years. What happened? Parker and Stone told Playboy in 2000 that they regretted ever signing up to do it in the first place. For one, they were way too busy having to churn out dozens of episodes of South Park a year. They also didn't want to do a project that was somebody else's creation. In the end, Parker and Stone actually returned the money to New Line.

Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales

In 1968, around the time that he transitioned from doing safe, observational comedy to profane, honest satire about the state of race relations in the U.S., Richard Pryor wrote and starred in a movie with the intentionally controversial title Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals. It was an extremely dark, socially conscious comedy about a white man put on trial for the rape of a black woman. Apparently, Pryor was so obsessed with making the movie as good as it could be that he neglected his wife at the time, Shelley Bonis. She reportedly confronted him about it, and Pryor shredded the only working print of the not-quite-finished movie during the argument just to spite his wife. The unfinished film was considered lost for more than 30 years, until clips showed up in a Directors Guild of America tribute to Pryor in 2005. In seems that Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales director Penelope Spheeris (who later directed Wayne's World) had another print, but a stalled lawsuit is trying to keep it from becoming public.


Based on Guy Delisle's intense graphic novel of the same name, Pyongyang was supposed to start shooting in early 2015. Delisle actually spent two months living and working in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, and the book details his struggles of living under totalitarianism. Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski had signed on to direct, and Steve Carell was set to star. But after Sony Pictures pulled the North Korea-skewering Seth Rogen comedy The Interview in 2014 after bomb threats were directed to American theaters playing it, New Regency Films canceled Pyongyang before it even started filming. This idiot mistake is down to Sony for making The Interview and then letting their emails get hacked and starting the entire hullabaloo about releasing it. Oh, and The Interview wasn't even a good flick, so we got stiffed out of Pyongyang and we don't have much to show for it.

The Adventures of Fartman

In his memoir Private Parts, radio host Howard Stern recalls creating a mock superhero character called Fartman in 1981, when he was scheduled to interview TV's Batman, Adam West. (His "powers": high-powered flatulence and the ability to fly...via flatulence.) Stern started performing the character regularly on his radio show in the early '90s, and famously appeared as Fartman live at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards dressed in a superhero costume...and giant rubber butt cheeks. which expelled huge amounts of smoke-like farts. Comedy! Stern was so popular that New Line Cinema started production on The Adventures of Fartman, even hiring J.F. Lawton (Pretty Woman, Under Siege) to write and direct it. He promised plenty of nudity, crudity, sex scenes, bad language, and farting. In other words, exactly what one would expect from a Howard Stern movie. New Line, however, didn't quite get what they'd signed up for, as an executive asked Lawton if he could somehow try and make The Adventures of Fartman a more commercially viable PG-13 movie rather than the hard R it was clearly going to be. When Stern got wind of that, he was incensed and pulled out of the movie.

A Lord of the Rings adaptation in the 1960s

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books rank among the most beloved bestselling novels of all time. First published as three separate volumes in 1954, it took until 2001 for an epic, live-action adaptation to hit movie theaters, directed by Peter Jackson. It's crazy that it took so long—but it wasn't for a lack of trying. 

Shortly after Tolkien sold the film rights to the books to United Artists in the 1960s, the Beatles expressed interest in making the movies. Along with plans for recording an original, double-album soundtrack, the Fab Four would've starred, too. Paul McCartney once told Jackson that he would've played Frodo, John Lennon would have been Gollum, George Harrison was going to be Gandalf, and Ringo Starr was set to play Samwise Gamgee. Representatives of the band wanted no one less than Stanley Kubrick to direct. That's when the plans fell apart—Kubrick said films made out of Tolkien's books were "unmakeable."