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Guillermo del Toro teases 'weirder' version of shelved 'At the Mountains of Madness' movie

One of the master's great unrealized projects isn't dead yet.

By Matthew Jackson
Guillermo del Toro

Years ago, before he was the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro came very close to realizing one of his dream projects: An adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. Pre-production work was done, Tom Cruise was cast to star in the film, and James Cameron was on board as a producer. Then, just as Del Toro and company were gearing up to make the film, the studio shelved the project, leaving it in a limbo where it remains to this day. 

But that doesn't mean At the Mountains of Madness is consigned to the pile of the Greatest Movies Never Made forever. Speaking to Fangoria's The Kingcast podcast this week to promote his new film Nightmare Alley, Del Toro noted that he's already brought up the project to Netflix, where he's already working on other projects like his upcoming anthology series Cabinet of Curiosities

"Well, listen, take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know? (laughs) I went through the cupboards and found (The Count of) Monte Cristo, (At the) Mountains of Madness," Del Toro said. "Those were a couple of the ones I presented first."

So, could we see a Netflix production of At the Mountains of Madness in the coming years? If we do, Del Toro's going to take his time getting there, because now that he's working with different distributors, he's also seeing new ways to revitalize and restructure the story. 

"The thing with Mountains is, the screenplay I co-wrote fifteen years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite," Del Toro said. "Not only to scale it down somehow, but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that would make it go through the studio machinery... I don't think I need to reconcile that anymore. I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it. You know, where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out. Some of the big set pieces I designed, for example, I have no appetite for. Like, I've already done this or that giant set piece. I feel like going into a weirder direction."

Another tricky element of making Mountains of Madness finally happen is, of course, Del Toro's own busy schedule, which includes work as both a writer/director and a producer on several major genre projects. As Nightmare Alley heads toward its release later this month, he's also hard at work on his Pinocchio film for Netflix as well as producing Cabinet of Curiosities, which was announced earlier this year with a dream team of horror filmmakers attached. Like everyone else in Hollywood, he's also dealing with the scheduling shifts brought on by the pandemic, which brought everything to a halt last year.

"Everything that I had spaced out for three years, all of a sudden the deliveries came all at the same time," Del Toro said. "But it is my hope."

As for what we might expect from this new, rewritten version of At the Mountains of Madness, Del Toro didn't delve into too many specifics, but he did mention that some key elements of his original, $150 million idea will remain in place.

"I know a few things will stay," Del Toro said. "I know the ending we have is one the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings, for me. There's about four horror set pieces that I love in the original script. So, you know, it would be my hope. I certainly get a phone call every six months from [producer] Don Murphy going 'Are we doing this or what? Are you doing this next or what?' and I say 'I have to take the time to rewrite it.'"

So, Del Toro fans, take note. With a little time and a little home, one of his great dream projects could be on the way soon.