Guillermo del Toro, double Oscars

A handy guide to Guillermo del Toro's unproduced scripts

Contributed by
Nov 30, 2018

Is there a filmmaker alive with more projects on the shelf than Guillermo del Toro?

After bursting onto the scene in 1993 with his feature debut Cronos, the Mexican filmmaker started to either attach himself to new projects, develop his own, or receive offers to direct/produce/write something exciting that would never come to be. They've ranged from an adaptation of the George R.R. Martin sci-fi tale Sandkings to the movie that became The Wolverine in 2013, with all of them either getting lost in the purgatory known as development hell or taking so much time to coalesce that del Toro moved onto something else or left due to the old standby, "creative differences."

Now some of those projects — like Hater or Marvel's Thor or 3993, the conclusion to del Toro's "Spanish Civil War" trilogy — never get past the preliminary stages. Others make it to the screen long after del Toro departed only with different filmmakers (like The Hobbit). Meanwhile, del Toro revealed earlier this week via Twitter that he has some 19 completed scripts sitting on his hard drive; as he put it, not "maybes" or "wish list" projects, but finished screenplays, each representing months if not years of work.

What's inside those files? After carefully perusing GDT's list, we researched each entry and came up with a guide to those unproduced scripts — what they were about, what if anything they were based on, and why they ended up not happening (at least not yet).

With Oscars in hand for producing and directing The Shape of Water, and one of his dream projects, Pinocchio, coming to fruition at last, del Toro is not going to find himself looking for work anytime soon. The man will also no doubt continue to collect projects because he loves movies and stories too damn much to stop. But while we await what's next, let's look at these 18 films (and one TV show) that could have been.

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At the Mountains of Madness

Perhaps the Holy Grail of unrealized del Toro projects, this was supposed to be a hard-R rated, $150 million adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft's best-known stories, about a doomed Antarctic expedition and the ancient horrors it encounters beyond a hidden mountain range. 

Yet even with del Toro directing, James Cameron producing, and Tom Cruise attached to star, Universal Pictures balked at the price tag and R rating del Toro insisted was necessary to tell the story properly. And so the mountains remain unexplored onscreen, although if you look around a bit (and you didn't hear this from us), you can find the 2010 screenplay online.

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Beauty and the Beast

Del Toro signed up seven years ago to direct and write a new Gothic version of the classic fairy tale for Warner Bros. called Beauty, with Emma Watson attached to star as Belle. But after three years of development, the project stalled and del Toro walked. 

Meanwhile, Disney put its own version, based on its animated gem, into production with director Bill Condon. That film — still starring Emma Watson — was an enormous success when it came out last year.

Kazuo Ishiguro The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant

This 2015 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (whose sci-fi flavored book Never Let Me Go was filmed in 2010) took place in fifth-century Britain, post-King Arthur, and followed an elderly couple looking for their missing son while fending off ogres, trolls, dragons, and a mysterious memory-erasing mist. 

Producer Scott Rudin picked up the rights to the book and apparently hired our pal del Toro to pen an adaptation — it sounds like something that would be in his wheelhouse — but nothing has been heard about it since.

The Champions

The Champions

Based on a British TV series that ran for 30 episodes in 1968 and '69, The Champions centered around a team of international United Nations agents who are given superpowers by a secret civilization when their plane crashes in the Himalayas. 

A superhero saga with an occult twist, The Champions went through several drafts by both del Toro and Mission: Impossible - Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie, an intriguing team-up to say the least (del Toro also lost an entire draft when he spilled coffee on his Macbook — a story backed up by McQuarrie).

The Coffin

The Coffin

Another Cameron/del Toro project that never saw the light of day, The Coffin was based on an IDW comic book by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston about a scientist who creates a special cybernetic suit designed to capture the soul after the body within dies — the mobile "coffin" of the title. After the dying doc himself becomes encased in one of his suits, he must stop an evil corporation from stealing his tech while also saving his estranged daughter's life. 

Said to be a somewhat modern take on Frankenstein (which would explain GDT's interest), the project was put into development in 2004 but little was heard about it after 2011 or so.

The Count of Monte Cristo 2002

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Alexandre Dumas adventure classic (the photo above is from the most recent of many film adaptations, released in 2002) would have received a decidedly different spin from GDT, who planned a steampunk version set in the Wild West. This may well be the oldest project on the filmmaker's list — he was first approached about it in the early 1990s and has reportedly worked on the script on and off for years since. At one point he came close to getting the financing from Legendary Pictures, which opted to back his film Crimson Peak instead (at least he got to make something!). 

Also known as The Left Hand of Darkness (but not related at all to the Ursula K. Le Guin novel), this sits alongside Pinocchio and At the Mountains of Madness as one of del Toro's most passionate ongoing projects.

Dan Simmons

Drood

Based on a novel by Dan Simmons (The Terror), Drood is a fictionalized account of the last five years in the life of Charles Dickens as he descends (in the book anyway) into a morbid obsession with death, murder, and drugs in the darkest corners and underground recesses of London itself. Universal optioned Simmons' weighty (800 pages) tome in 2008 and del Toro got to work on a script, but little has been heard about it since. Perhaps the success of The Terror could get the project kickstarted again.

Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage

The original 1966 film Fantastic Voyage is one of those sci-fi titles that is ripe for remaking: today's modern filmmaking technology could do a truly dazzling job with this wild story about a team of scientists and a ship that are miniaturized and injected into a dying man's body so that they can repair damage to his brain.

Well, somebody did think that a remake was a good idea, because in 2016 it was announced that del Toro would be directing it and James Cameron (yes, him again) would be the producer. Although GDT worked on a script (along with David S. Goyer and neuroscientist Justin Rhodes), the film got stuck in development and GDT moved on to The Shape of Water. This is one we'd especially like to still see happen.

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion

We were there at Comic-Con 2010 when GDT announced with great fanfare that he was going to write and direct a new Haunted Mansion movie for Disney, which he described as "scary and fun." He later added that it would not be a comedy like the 2003 Eddie Murphy vehicle, but that it would be respectful to the concept behind the original Disney amusement park attraction.

GDT turned in a screenplay in 2012, deciding at the time that he would produce but not direct the film. Although he's said as late as 2016 that he's continued to work on drafts of the script, its status remains uncertain.

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The Hulk

The only project on this list that is not a feature film screenplay, this was actually a pilot for a Hulk TV series that Marvel and ABC were mulling over in 2010. When the second official MCU movie, 2008's The Incredible Hulk, failed to light the box office on fire, the thinking was that the big green guy might work better on TV, where he had achieved success before.

But then Hulk was recast, with Mark Ruffalo stepping into the role and becoming a big hit in 2012's The Avengers, so the TV version went bye-bye. That doesn't mean, we suppose, that he couldn't get his own series again on the new Disney streaming service. GDT, however, moved on years ago.

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Justice League Dark

There was a lot of buzz around this project circa 2012-2014, when del Toro boarded and developed it as a possible writer and director. The script he drafted would have included classic DC characters such as Swamp Thing, Demon, Zatanna, Constantine, and others from the supernatural side of the DC universe. 

But the endless turmoil at Warner Bros. and DC over their slate of projects consigned this one to development hell, with GDT departing in 2015. Doug Liman took over as director a year later, but also dropped out in 2017. As of now, Justice League Dark remains in limbo, one of the many cinematic ghosts that haunts del Toro and DC's filmographies.

Mark Frost

The List of Seven

Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost penned this occult-tinged mystery novel in 1993, in which real-life historical figures such as Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle interacted with the characters to solve an increasingly horrifying conspiracy. Not much more is known about the film version, but GDT says he wrote a screenplay and actually included some sketches for the film in his 2013 book Cabinet of Curiosities

It was speculated that Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes movies, which bore some similarity to this material, stopped The List of Seven from making it to the screen.

Hellboy 2 Angel of Death

Mephisto's Bridge

Mephisto’s Bridge was a project based on the 1994 novel Spanky by Christopher Fowler, in which a yuppie-type sells his soul to a demon and lets the entity inhabit his body. GDT wrote the screenplay before setting it aside to direct Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Some of his demonic design ideas for Mephisto’s Bridge, however, found their way into the Hellboy sequel, most notably in the form of the Angel of Death. So we suppose that this probably-lost-for-good but intriguing project lives on somehow.

Nightmare Alley 1947

Nightmare Alley

One of GDT's more recently announced projects, Nightmare Alley is a proposed remake of a 1947 film noir that starred Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell as carnival workers who run a fake mentalist act, which the Power character later uses to cheat the patients of a female psychiatrist he hooks up with. Considered scandalous and immoral at the time, the original has become a cult classic.

The carnival setting and brooding tone are right up GDT's alley (pardon the pun), and he was set as of 2017 to pen the script with partner Kim Morgan. Little has been heard since, although it could potentially be one of his next live-action productions along with Fantastic Voyage.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim 2

As we all know, GDT's 2013 kaiju-vs-robots epic Pacific Rim barely crawled to $99 million at the North American box office, but a tremendous response in China almost singlehandedly set the wheels in motion for a sequel. Del Toro was on board initially and penned a follow-up script, but the sale of the studio (Legendary) and other development issues led to him leaving and directing The Shape of Water instead.

The sequel eventually did surface as the box office flop Pacific Rim: Uprising, but somewhere in another universe there exists a Pacific Rim 2 written and directed by our hero. Del Toro has said that his version of the story would have been "very different," and for now (or until the filmmaker publishes all his unproduced scripts — now there's an idea!) we can only wonder what that means.

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Superstitious

This is a strange item: one of two scripts on del Toro's "completed" list about which no other information can be found at all. Was it an original project? A screenplay written on spec? Del Toro has not shared any further insight into it, and a number of searches throughout the vast, soulless void (i.e. the internet) have come up empty. We're gonna have to ask the man himself the next time we run into him.

Mr Toad

The Wind in the Willows

Del Toro was tasked in 2003 with developing a new take on the classic 1908 children's novel by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, that would have been a combination of live action and CG. But, apparently the studio behind the project, Disney — which had previously filmed the story as half of its 1949 animated package, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad — wanted the filmmaker to make the movie a little too modern for del Toro's taste, so he split.

GDT has yet to make an all-out family film, so the story of Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad (of Disney's "Wild Ride" amusement park fame), and Mr. Badger and their adventures on the banks of a pastoral British river would have been a unique experience for him, even while channeling the fairy tales he loves. Still, when studio execs demand that you put Mr. Toad on a skateboard, as the Disney folks reportedly asked GDT to do, it's time to leave and be thankful the project never got off the ground.

The Witches

The Witches

It was 2008 when news broke that GDT was interested in directing a stop-motion version of Roald Dahl's classic (and quite dark) children's book, with his good buddy Alfonso Cuaron producing. But that was mostly the last we heard about the film until just last June, when it was announced that Robert Zemeckis was now going to produce and possibly direct the picture, with del Toro still on board as a producer.

The Witches was adapted once before, in 1990, by the now sadly departed Nicholas Roeg, and many consider that film to be one of the best Dahl adaptations ever. But a story about a boy and his grandmother tracking down a secret cabal of witches seems just so right for del Toro, and too tempting to pass up, so we'll hold out hope that this could still happen and that Zemeckis might even let GDT direct it.

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Secret Project (Untitled)

We have no idea what this was, is, or could be. But it seems to be something that Guillermo was keeping very close to his chest. Care to speculate below?

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