In an unusually candid interview, director Guillermo del Toro has revealed why his dream adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness fell apart, and what he's doing instead.
Speaking with Deadline, del Toro believes that it was his insistence on making an R-rated film out of H.P. Lovecraft's classic horror novella that ultimately made the project too risky for its studio, Universal Pictures, to bet $150 million on. "It was the subject of multiple conversations all the way through December," explained del Toro about the studio's attempt to get him to change the movie to PG-13. "The definitive answer was known in December after a big meeting, when we were given the new parameters of budget and rewrites. We proceeded over the next few months to hit those parameters."
Del Toro insisted that all the other requirements for the film, including sticking to the $150 million budget, delivering an impressive visual presentation to the studio and getting Tom Cruise to star, were in place or nearly so. "Closing Tom's deal was in their hands," said del Toro. "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."
The problem for Universal, it seems, was that even with Cruise locked in and James Cameron on board as a producer for the 3-D production, the bean counters determined that the movie would need to make at least $500 million to earn back its money—something possibly out of reach if teenagers could not get into the theater. "As far as the movie grossing that much, obviously I'm not impartial, but I have to believe that with 3-D, 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," said del Toro. "I think the R should be worn like a badge of merit in promoting the movie. To say, this is not a gory movie, not a movie full of profanity or violence, but it's a really intense movie."
Del Toro hopes that Universal will let him and Cameron take the project to another studio, but in the meantime he is confirmed to direct Pacific Rim, a sci-fi epic set in a future where the nations of Earth must battle a malevolent invasion. Filming for that will tentatively begin in September. As for the chances of getting At the Mountains of Madness or any potentially risky film off the ground in the future, Del Toro said this about the movie industry: "What is really dramatic to me is that most decisions are now being taken by comps, and charts, and target quadrants. All these marketing things we inherited from a completely different system, in the '80s, it has taken hold of the entire industry. Marketers and accountants seem to be running things, and less and less of the decisions are in the hands of filmmakers."
Do you think del Toro was right to stand his ground, or should he have settled for the PG-13 rating so he could get his movie made? Do you agree when he says that marketing and money concerns are ruining movies?