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Credit: Naughty Dog/Ville Assinen (e-will)/Paramount Pictures

10 movies that need to be rescued from development hell

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Oct 14, 2019, 2:30 PM EDT

Gemini Man's existence is arguably nothing short of miraculous.

The high-concept sci-fi action film from director Ang Lee and star Will Smith — about a veteran assassin forced to battle his younger clone — spent more than 20 years in Development Hell, the place where many good-to-great movie ideas go to mostly die a slow death. Few movies get to escape, especially those with a sentence as long as Gemini Man's.

With the movie's release last weekend, here are 10 more movies we hope follow in Gemini's wake (new band name, calling it!) and get their deserved theatrical release.



Guillermo del Toro at the NYCC 3Below panel

At the Mountains of Madness 

Given Hollywood's current crush on horror properties for the 17-and-up crowd, an R-rated adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story — directed by Guillermo del Toro, produced by James Cameron, and starring Tom Cruise — sounds like a sure bet for a green light now. Sadly, in 2006 (and again in 2010), the R-rating and the hefty price tag (more than $100 million) proved more risk than reward for studio execs (womp womp).

Lovecraft's Madness was often considered unfilmable, but GDT and co-screenwriter Matthew Robbins cracked the story about a group of explorers venturing to 1930s Antarctica and finding very ancient, very monster-infested ruins. Even after conceding to develop a PG-13 version of at Legendary Pictures, the tonal change wasn't enough and the project was sent back to the Development Hell from which it came.


The Legend of Conan 

It's painful that the proposed sequel to 1984's Conan the Destroyer, pitched as this franchise's version of Logan or Unforgiven, is likely never coming soon to a theater near you.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has spent years trying to get the film out of limbo, but big-budget disappointments — like 2015's Terminator Genisys — hurt the much-anticipated sequel's chances of being made. It's too bad, since word 'round the campfire is that the script by Chris Morgan (the Fast and Furious franchise) and Andrea Berloff is the comeback movie the aging warrior and the actor playing him need and deserve.


Dredd 2

We are more likely to have our world turn into one full of actual Mega-Cities and Judges before a sequel to 2012's painfully underrated Dredd.

Despite an inventive, Die Hard-meets-The Raid script from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) and a Comic Con crowd-friendly performance by Karl Urban as Judge Dredd, the film severely underperformed at the box office. It found a passionate fan base on home entertainment, but the economics didn't add up.

Too bad, because Garland (who actually ghost directed the original film as well as wrote it) had some great ideas — the origins of Mega-City One and the Judges — that could have made it one of the best sequels ever. Here's hoping the long-rumored TV series, Judge Dredd: Mega-City One, doesn't suffer the fate of this buried sequel.



Warner Bros.' Akira is the movie equivalent of playing Hamlet — everyone seems destined to at some point take on one of Development Hell’s most popular residents.

From Blade director Stephen Norrington to the Hughes Brothers, from George Miller to Jordan Peele, the live-action version of the iconic Japanese anime has a prestigious revolving door of talent attached. Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi was the most recent filmmaker trying to bring life to this classic, but casting and budget hurdles sent the movie back to the drawing board.


The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Since at least 2002, The Last Voyage of the Demeter has garnered cult status as one of the best unproduced screenplays, telling the story of the fateful final voyage of the Demeter, the ship that carried Dracula's coffin in Bram Stoker’s classic novel.

The project has gone through a lot of iterations in the past several years, but most popular Demeter scenario was set to star Noomi Rapace and Sir Ben Kingsley in 2012, with David Slade (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) attached to direct the tale of the doomed ship carrying the infamous vampire to England. That version, like the titular vessel, ran aground. But Hollywood seems to finally be righting the ship, with the recent announcement that Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark's André Øvredal is in talks to direct.

world war z brad pitt

World War Z 2

A sequel to 2013's zombies vs. Brad Pitt hit seemed (ironically) like a no-brainer, especially with Pitt convincing his friend and longtime collaborator David Fincher to come aboard as director and re-shape the sequel’s original script by Locke writer Steven Knight.

But, like most of Fincher's projects, the movie came down with a significant case of scope creep — the rising budget, on top of Fincher's contractual demands to drive the marketing vision for the film, lead to a falling out of sorts with Paramount ... which wouldn't be the first time Fincher and the studio parted ways over a project (more on that later).

friday 13th 2009

The Sequel to 2009’s Friday the 13th 

Unlike Jason, the Friday the 13th franchise can be fatally detoured. 2009's rebootquel wasn't a huge hit, but it did enough business to warrant a sequel. Paramount Pictures quickly put one in development and brought on Sahara director Breck Eisner to make the movie, which would serve as an origin story for the hockey-masked killer. But the film vanished from the studio's schedule, as did Eisner. Making matters worse, Paramount had a limited window with the rights before they reverted back to the original owner, New Line. The project is currently at the bottom of Crystal Lake, thanks to legal issues and, yup, classic "creative differences."

The Last of Us

The Last of Us

Fans of the popular Sony PlayStation title know how cinematic this survival horror game is. So did Sony Pictures and Screen Gems, when they announced in 2014 that Sam Raimi was set to produce a new take on the movie, with The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann scripting.

But "franchise fatigue" and oversaturation plagued the zombie movie genre and, in 2016, Raimi revealed the project was at a "standstill." It's too bad, because if anything could re-energize the genre, it's Us.

logan's run

Logan’s Run

The long-gestating remake of the 1976 dystopian sci-fi cult classic, in which citizens are submitted to ritualistic population control once they turn 30, started clawing its way out of Development Hell in 2004 with Bryan Singer attached to direct. After he vacated the project, directors like Oblivion's Joseph Kosinski came — and went.

2011 saw the team behind Drive's success, Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn, get the closest to making the movie a reality. Sadly, Refn's vision did not align with Warner Bros.' financials and that scenario got shelved. While Logan's Run isn't 'officially' dead — Ryan Condal (Hercules) wrote the most recent draft — it's very unlikely it will get out of turnaround anytime soon.



After Se7en but before Zodiac, David Fincher was this close to adapting Brian Michael Bendis' graphic novel about Eliot Ness on the hunt for a real-life serial killer in Cleveland.

Fincher cast Matt Damon as the famous lawman and Paramount was primed to greenlight one of the most well-written and disturbing scripts ever made. But, like with most of Fincher's films, budget disputes and creative differences with the studio buried the project. While we lost out on seeing Torso, it was a win-win for fans in that its demise lead to Zodiac, another masterpiece on the auteur's CV.