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Director Bill Condon says it was a 'heartbreaker' to lose Bride of Frankenstein reboot

By Matthew Jackson
Bill Condon 2019

A little more than two years ago, director Bill Condon was on track to revive The Bride of Frankenstein as part of Universal Pictures' Dark Universe megafranchise. After the critical and commercial failure of The Mummy, though, the project fell apart, and now Condon is taking some time to reflect on what might have been.

Condon visited Collider this week to talk about his new thriller The Good Liar, and talk eventually turned to his time in the Dark Universe. Back in 2017 Universal was pushing hard for the shared universe concept, which was conceived as a way to revisit and revamp all of its classic monster properties, with Tom Cruise's The Mummy set to be a launching point. That film debuted to poor reviews and lackluster box office in June of that year, and by October the studio seemed prepared to close the coffin on Dark Universe. Future films, including Condon's Bride of Frankenstein, were pulled from release and put on indefinite hold, leaving the director to move on to other projects. 

So, what happened? As Condon explains, a lot of it was exactly what you'd expect: The Mummy didn't do well, and the studio got nervous.

"That was a heartbreaker, really," Condon said. "We were involved, we were prepping, we were deep into it, and I have to say … the simplest way to say it is that I think The Mummy, and not to say anything against the movie, but the fact that that hadn’t worked for them and it was the beginning of this whole reinvention of their monsters gave them cold feet at the end of the day. Because David Koepp was writing the script, I thought it was unbelievably good, and we were on the verge of making a really beautiful movie, I thought. So that was a shame.”

So Condon moved on, and the Dark Universe as it might have been was shuttered, but that doesn't mean Universal has given up on its monsters. In the two years since, the studio has begun working with a more individualized approach to reviving the characters, which led to the upcoming Invisible Man movie from Blumhouse and writer/director Leigh Whannell. It's unclear what the future holds for Bride of Frankenstein as a property, but when asked if he could shed some light on the plot of his now-abandoned movie, Condon deferred, and noted that Koepp could still make something happen.

"I don't know if [I'm allowed to talk about it], because David, I think, is still involved in figuring out the new approach," he said.

Condon also discussed the issue of budget as it applied to Dark Universe. The Mummy was made for more than $100 million, and rolled out as a massive, world-spanning action epic with horror elements. Bride of Frankenstein, as Condon and Koepp conceived it, would also have been a rather large-scale production, something the director now questions the wisdom of.

“The movie that we started was devised as a great big movie, and at the end of the day probably these movies should be smaller," Condon said.