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Directors Who Wanted Sequels, But Couldn't Make Them Happen

In an age of cinema driven by sequels, franchises, and interconnected universes there has become a distinct divide between franchise filmmakers and the old guard of Hollywood. Plenty of directors have no interest in sequels at all. Martin Scorsese comes to mind, as do the comments made by Denis Villeneuve on post-credits scenes and "Dune." But you would be surprised how many directors over the years have wanted to make sequels that they just couldn't make happen. 

Some of the best directors in Hollywood have longed for a chance to make the perfect sequel — even when it seems like a strange choice. For whatever reasons, these projects weren't meant to be (or they are stuck in development hell). Whether it was an unsuccessful launch of a franchise or just a twinkle in a filmmaker's eye, these directors all wanted to make sequels to the movies they made but never got a chance to see them through.

Chris Weitz never got to follow up The Golden Compass

Much to the dismay of "His Dark Materials" fans — as well as writer/director Chris Weitz — 2007's "The Golden Compass" never got a sequel. What was meant to be the start of a trilogy adapting Phil Pullman's trilogy of fantasy novels became a standalone film after disappointing box office performance and mixed reviews.

In an MTV interview the year it was released, Weitz talked about his plans for the sequel, which was in the process of being written at the time. "The first draft of the script for 'The Subtle Knife' is completed. It was written by Hossein Amini, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter in whom I have a great deal of faith... but the nuts-and-bolts part of the making of the films to follow is a question of capital flow. Films like this are huge machines, which take a lot to get rolling."

Clearly, the debut was not viewed as a success. Internal troubles like New Line being folded in Warner Bros. early the following year are possible contributors to this series dying early as well.

Marc Webb never got to make his planned Sinister Six movie

Anyone who watched "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" will remember the cliffhanger ending sequence. Or... maybe you don't. At this point in time, Marc Webb's Andrew Garfield-led "Amazing Spider-Man" series is already the most forgotten of the Spider-Men of the big screen. Even Marvel's "No Way Home," a multiverse story bringing back principal villains from the Raimi trilogy, doesn't seem like it will touch this interpretation of the characters with a five-foot pole. Still, comic book fans will find it hard to forget how we almost got Paul Giamatti as the Rhino in a film featuring Spidey's most iconic villains.

The "Sinister Six" movie Webb was setting up would be his next entry in the canceled Spider-Man series, predating "The Amazing Spider-Man 3," which at one point was also on the docket. Webb was stoked on the idea of more, telling Den of Geek "Chris Cooper was going to come back and play the Goblin. We were going to freeze his head, and then he was going to be brought back to life. And then there was that character called The Gentleman. We had some notions about how to do it, but I think maybe we were thinking too far ahead when we started building in those things."

David Cronenberg was dying to make The Fly 2

It is strange to think David Cronenberg's body horror classic would be well served by a sequel. In fact, there was a sequel to "The Fly," and it was not a good idea. Stranger still is the reality that Cronenberg actually wanted to make another "Fly" movie and wrote the entire script. Sadly, according to the Canadian writer/director, 20th Century Fox didn't see eye to eye with Cronenberg on the script he turned in.

There was some talk that — like the original — the movie he was writing was yet another remake of the 1958 sci-fi horror flick, but that wasn't entirely true according to Cronenberg."It wasn't really a remake" he said (via GiantFreakinRobot), "it was more of a sequel or a sidebar. It was a meditation on fly-ness. None of the same characters or anything and, of course, with an understanding of modern technology. It was something I was very pleased with and it was a disappointment not to get it made."

Cronenberg was also interested in pursuing an Eastern Promises sequel

Cronenberg stepped away from his typical body-horror genre fare in the 2000s to work on critically acclaimed crime thrillers "A History of Violence" (2005) and "Eastern Promises" (2007). Both of these movies starred Viggo Mortensen and the actor was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his role in "Eastern Promises."

Following the success of the movie, Cronenberg began thinking of ideas for a sequel around 2012. In an interview with The Playlist, the director outlined the path he was going down for the story. "We would see Nikolai [Viggo Mortensen] go to Russia and there would be Russian elements and so on and so on. And [original screenwriter] Steve Knight wrote a lovely script." This didn't ultimately pan out. According to Cronenberg, Focus Features wasn't willing to come to an agreement on an appropriate budget for the scale of film he was pitching.

Now it's dead in the ground. Steven Knight, the writer of the first movie, has completed the script for "Small Dark Look", a pseudo-sequel set in the "Eastern Promises" universe. Jason Statham is set to star in the upcoming movie.

Paul Verhoeven almost directed a sequel to Total Recall

Sci-fi satire expert Paul Verhoeven (of "Robocop" fame) proved his prime wasn't just in the '80s when "Total Recall" came out in 1990. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone this adaptation of the mind-bending story from Philip K. Dick. Following the movie's release, it seemed none of the big stars wanted to return for a sequel — despite interest from the crew.

A couple years later Gary Goldman, one of the screenwriters on "Total Recall," optioned "Minority Report" (another Dick story that would eventually become the Tom Cruise movie) and pitched it to get Verhoeven involved. "He asked me if I had thought about how well the story worked as a Total Recall sequel," Goldman recalled. "Although it had nothing to do with the themes of the movie, there was something about the tone and driving narrative that made it seem perfect for a sequel."

The two were contractually obligated to work with Ronald Shusett (another writer on the original), but luckily he was very into the idea. The pieces were lining up perfectly; Verhoeven was on board to direct and Schwarzenegger was back in. And then production company Carolco Pictures fell upon hard financial times, signaling the beginning of the end of the studio in 1995. By the time these budgetary issues were worked out, Verhoeven was already well underway on his next movie "Showgirls."

Joseph Kosinski was set to direct a Tron: Legacy sequel

After decades of being one of Disney's most forgotten movies, the cult "Tron" fanbase's quiet whispers had grown to a roar by the 2000s. Now over a decade old itself, "Tron Legacy" was released to mixed reactions (aside from the Daft Punk score that everyone admits was the best part) and once again "Tron" didn't set the world on fire. It was director Joseph Kosinski's first feature and his involvement in the sequel has been heavily rumored.

In 2015, he was set to direct and then the production of the film ceased a few months later. Years have passed and there are still occasional murmurs of another "Tron ” movie, with Kosinski's name floating about. As of 2020, rumors were still circling that the movie was in the works. There has been one confirmed update regarding Kosinski's involvement, but the chances of Disney moving on with a different director are pretty high. Equally as high are the chances of a third "Tron" movie never seeing the light of day. Fans, keep your fingers crossed for this one.

James Cameron and Arnold never got to team up again for True Lies 2

If any filmmaker has the power to produce any unnecessary sequels they could dream up it is James Cameron — director of the most profitable movie. So why is it then, when he and Arnold Schwarzenegger both wanted a sequel to the 1994 action-comedy "True Lies," it could never happen?

Well, for one Cameron's next project was "Titanic." Both a massive undertaking and a life-changing movie for Cameron, the historical epic changed the arc of the director's career forever.

The final nail in the coffin on a "True Lies" sequel came after the world changed in 2001. James Cameron admitted he would be uncomfortable making "True Lies 2" post-9/11. In 2009 Cameron said "since September 11, I've never felt comfortable generating laughs with nuke-toting Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. 'True Lies', even though it has a cautionary thread underneath the pratfalls, is in a strange way a product of a more innocent time" (via Den of Geek)

Although, a few years ago Fox wanted to reboot the franchise in a TV format for a more modern story. Cameron was set to serve as executive producer on a "True Lies" show. There was a pilot written in 2017 that would be directed by McG if the project moved forward, but it seems to have been stalled and forgotten about in recent years. 

Disney acquiring Fox put a sequel to Robert Rodriguez's Alita: Battle Angel in limbo

Legends Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron (in a producer role on the film) teamed up to adapt one of the most popular manga of all time: "Battle Angel Alita." The movie was released as "Alita: Battle Angel" in 2019 to mixed critical response, but it quickly developed a ravenous fanbase desperate to see the story continued. Admittedly, Rodriguez's adaptation feels like an intro to the universe and leaves a lot of room for Alita's story to continue.

It seemed after the relative success of the first that an "Alita" sequel was inevitable. And then distributor 20th Century Fox was bought by Disney and the movie currently exists in limbo. Rodriguez wants to continue Alita's story, but isn't quite sure what form it will take yet. He suggests that Disney Plus could be a possible route forward for the series.

"As far as where it would go or how it would be made, I think streaming has opened up many opportunities such as sequels," the director said, "it's already got a built-in audience that wants to see it, and then it's delivered to them in a way that's the easiest for them to consume. So, it's not a bad idea."

Adam McKay has some wild ideas for Step Brothers 2

Ever since its release in 2008, Adam McKay's "Step Brothers" has been an enduring comedy of the era. Featuring top-notch performances from Will Ferrill and John C. Reilly as Brennan and Dale, the movie has fans desperate for more of these hilarious characters, but McKay would want to take them in a direction a lot of fans might not be happy about.

McKay has said that he imagines Dale and Brennan would be huge Trump supporters that had fallen far down the QAnon rabbit hole. "They'd be way into it, and they'd be torturing [Richard] Jenkins and [Mary] Steenburgen's characters with it," McKay said, "they would eventually be having meetings at the house and somehow QAnon would drift into Jenkins's work life and the Q Shaman would show up at Jenkins's workplace. They also would have loved Trump."

Mel Brooks will probably never make Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money

It began as a one-off joke in Mel Brooks "Star Wars" parody, but it nearly became a reality. In "Spaceballs," the Han Solo stand-in Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) is saying farewell to the wise and mystical Yogurt (Brooks) when Brooks' character says, "Who knows? God willing, we'll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money."

Fans might not realize just how close that gag came to becoming a real sequel. In 2015, Brooks announced he was interested in making a sequel to "Spaceballs" with this facetious title. He provided an update in 2017, saying "Well, you know, MGM is slightly interested in doing it because of 'Star Wars Rogue One' and 'The Force Awakens' so they think maybe ... So we're talking."

2017 feels like a lightyear ago in "Star Wars" discourse. It is likely that after "Rise of Skywalker" wrapped up the Skywalker saga, the market for "Spaceballs 2" has dried up for the time being.

Simon West wanted to take Con Air to Space

The 1990s were the peak of Nicolas Cage's career as an action movie star. The Jerry Bruckheimer produced "Con Air" starred Cage, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames in an explosive plane heist. It doesn't fully hold up by today's standards, but maybe it just needs to crank the dial up all the way to be relevant in modern times. At least that's what "Con Air" director Simon West was thinking back in 2011.

Back then, the director had a wild pitch to take the sequel to his action classic where few men have gone before: space. "Con Air in space," West said. "A studio version where they're all robots or the convicts are reanimated as super-convicts, or where the good guys are bad guys and the bad guys are good guys.. If it was clever writing it could work."

It doesn't sound super well thought out so it makes sense that it never happened. Still, we kind of wish a studio had thrown a lot of money at this just to see Nic Cage doing crimes in space.

Jan De Bont wanted to complete the Speed trilogy

Everyone loves "Speed." It's a perfect high-concept action vehicle (no pun intended) for Keanu Reeves. Nobody loves "Speed 2." Aside from the lack of Keanu, the sequel made by the director of the original — Jan De Bont — moved the action from the highway to the sea and lost a lot of momentum for it. The idea for that movie came from a dream De Bont had that was probably best left deferred.

De Bont was rumored to be working on an idea for a third "Speed" movie that would bring the series back to its roots. Supposedly titled "Speed 3: Highway to Hell," it seemed like De Bont was going back to the high-speed stress that inspired such a following to this day for the action movie star it birthed in 1994. Maybe Keanu returning to "The Matrix" is a sign that one day we will get a true sequel to "Speed."