EDITORIALS

Universal Kills 'At the Mountains', Del Toro Heading to 'Pacific Rim'

by
March 7, 2011
Source: Deadline, HitFix

Guillermo del Toro

Let's start with one of del Toro's quotes: "I don't want to make a movie called At the Mountains of Madness. I want to make this movie. And if I cannot make this movie I'll do something else... It'll be horrible." Looks like that day has come. After leaving The Hobbit in order to pursue his dream of directing At the Mountains of Madness, for months I thought Universal had actually done right, they'd pulled together a dream project and it was going to turn out amazing. But as the months went by, it was obvious that one of the worst movie studios today hasn't changed at all. Instead, it looks like they're going to kill the project before it even starts.

Now before I get attacked for making outrageous claims, let's go over the basics on this project. Guillermo del Toro has been trying to adapt H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness for a very long time - most of his career. Last year, after Avatar was such a huge success, del Toro somehow convinced his friend James Cameron to join as producer and help them shoot in 3D. Though GdT has been setting up tons of other stuff at DreamWorks Animation, Disney and beyond, they've been pushing along, developing sets to convince the execs, even circling actor Tom Cruise, who was/is pretty much on-board. But Deadline now reports that Universal is still hung up on the R-rating and budget, so much so that it's likely del Toro will move on and direct the tentpole monster film Pacific Rim, for Legendary Pictures this summer, instead.

If there was ever one project to just bite the bullet and say screw it, let's just give them the $150 million they want at an R-rating and take a huge risk - this was it. They had Guillermo at the helm, Cameron producing, Cruise starring! Seriously, could it get any better than that? I don't think so. Now Deadline doesn't say this project is dead (sadly it is), we're reading between the lines, but it's obvious Universal wanted a worse film (why go PG-13 just to stay PG-13?) and del Toro wanted to make what he wanted and they just didn't get it. HitFix also posted a story this afternoon with a quote from Mountains of Madness producer Don Murphy:

"We are all trying to get Mountains up and running with Tom and Jim and everybody but no start date has been set AT ALL."

But an exec closer to Rim responded saying, "the At the Mountains of Madness rumor is just Don Murphy beating the drum trying to force Uni's hand. Uni hasn't greenlit anything." This all began when io9 posted a couple out-of-context quotes this morning claiming that At the Mountains of Madness had finally been greenlit and was set to start shooting this June, but then Murphy proved that was not the case, as did that other executive. So reading between the lines here, it's obvious that Universal was struggling with del Toro's vision and instead of sitting there waiting, del Toro had to move on. And to show you how this was not just a fleeting decision for a filmmaker, I added that quote at the start to emphasize that if he ever did have to "do something else... it'll be horrible." And it looks like Universal put him in that "horrible" spot.

At the Mountains of MadnessWhat I'm trying to emphasize here is that del Toro and Cameron and almost everyone involved were dead-set on shooting At the Mountains of Madness this year, but they were struggling to get Universal on-board with them. I've worked in this industry long enough to clearly recognize that Universal has been making lots of terrible decisions like this recently that really do hurt them in the long run. It's quite easy to see that they only think about tossing out shoddy PG-13 flicks, outrageously cutting budgets because they don't know how to take risks, and only making Taylor Lautner movies or Battleship adaptations, not genuinely brilliant passion-fueled projects like At the Mountains of Madness. Sure, they could get this going next year and all will be well, but I seriously doubt that'll happen, they're going to keep kicking this around forever. In fact, I ask them to prove me wrong. Give it the greenlight with Cameron, Guillermo, Cruise and that R-rating and I'll be very happy. But I bet that no one at Universal has the balls to do that.

Everything is still up in the air at the moment, and Deadline is saying that Guillermo might go shoot Pacific Rim for Legendary first this summer, then eventually go back to Mountains later. If you recall, Pacific Rim is an epic sci-fi script written by Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans, Black Hole remakes) set in a future where malevolent creatures threaten the earth, and the planet must band together and use highly advanced technology to eradicate the growing menace. It's a PG-13 tentpole, but is said to have "big monsters and the creation of a new world." Its obvious that Legendary really wants del Toro - he's been linked to the Godzilla movie and even had shirts printed last year at Comic-Con with his signature. As always, Deadline states "it could very well be the next film del Toro directs" but can't report with certainty on this situation just yet.

I'm just trying to show why Universal is making one of the stupidest decisions in Hollywood. Even Deadline says: "Del Toro and his team have delivered a stunning visual presentation that met the studio's budget specifications, but I'm told the studio is still wary about the R rating and price." Unfortunately they don't have a single movie in these last three years that anyone can reference as an example of their cost-cutting working successfully, either in terms of the final quality of the film or resulting box office. But Deadline also adds that "the filmmakers are trying to salvage [a term mostly used when it's in the shitter] Mountains by placing it at another studio, and that behind the scenes drama is still playing out." Do I really need to be the one that must point out that it has gotten so bad, that even the filmmakers want to leave that studio?

Honestly, any studio is better than Universal, so I really hope they "salvage" this and set it up somewhere it actually belongs. So what is the best outcome for both of these projects? Guillermo makes a kick ass Pacific Rim movie first, then follows that with his long overdue At the Mountains of Madness, but at another studio that understands and believes in his passion and his vision. I will be crossing my fingers hoping for the best.

Update: I must sadly report that Guillermo has confirmed that At the Mountains of Madness is "dead." He replied in an email to The Criterion Cast stating, in response to a query about the start date, that the project has indeed gone in the opposite direction. "The opposite- Dead. – G" is all he wrote and all he needed to write. Other sites like Heat Vision have since confirmed that del Toro is moving on to direct Pacific Rim next, leaving Mountains of Madness. How the heck could a studio that claims to be so passionate about their films and filmmakers effectively kill del Toro's lifelong passionate project? One of the worst stories I've had to report on and of course, it's a Universal project. They killed BioShock previously, now this, what's next?

Find more posts in Editorial, Movie News, Opinions

Discover more on ZergNet:

  • stfugtfo
    why is universal the worst studio?
  • Antonio C.
    Well I'm pissed off at the Fact that it has a 90% chance of not being made. I've been waiting for ATMM for a really long time and now Uni wants to just drop it? How obsurd! Well I agree with you Alex that Uni is the worst, they just don't keep a good movie when the see one.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      Exactly! I'm glad I don't need to explain this in further detail to everyone, it's easy to see that they're making a huge mistake with this project.
  • Ravster
    Oh god. Give it to Warner Bros, I'm sure they'd be willing to bring it under their tent.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-William-Thomson/1410161189 James William Thomson
    I thought Pacific Rim was the tentative title for the new Godzilla pic? It makes sense reading the summary of Pacific Rim.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      Nope - they're two entirely different projects, no connection at all. That confusion came about because some other websites (names shall not be mentioned) made a mess of that story and made everyone else believe that... but nope, Pacific Rim and Godzilla are two completely separate projects. :)
  • Cinemamind
    NO!!! They shat on the world by denying a Bioshock movie, please don't do it to a very passionate and creative director!
  • come on
    Oh what a fanboy rant. Let's get this straight, Universal may not be a Warner Brothers, but they certainly aren't a 20th Century Fox or a Disney. In fact, as far as artistic creativity goes, they are second only to WB. So, if anything you might want to blame the legion of directors who given too much freedom screwed up before GdT, or the execs that greenlighted the budgets for those movies. Have some integrity please.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      And this sounds like a studio-written response from a publicist or exec at Universal just trying to attack in return. Sure it's a fanboy rant, but it's backed with quotes, factual evidence, and strong opinions rooted in 5 years of industry saturation. Everything I'm commenting on is factual - it's actually written out this time by Deadline, there's quotes from multiple execs, this is complete proof that Universal just made one of the biggest mistakes they've ever made - and many folks in the industry I've talked with all afternoon completely agree with me. Sadly, I don't think it's their first bad decision, it's just one of the bigger ones we're publicly hearing about. Disney? Fox? You mean the studios behind Tron Legacy, The Avengers, Andrew Stanton's John Carter of Mars... or Matthew Vaughn's X-Men, Ridley Scott's Prometheus, Darren Aronofsky's The Wolverine, Rise of the Apes? Those two studios have drastically improved recently whereas Universal? Fast Five, Battleship, Ouija, a competing Snow White project, even Bourne Legacy sounds like a terrible idea. I don't know how anyone can logically make a claim like that about Disney & Fox vs Uni.
      • come on
        What is your point? The Avengers is now considered an original film? X-Men with its troubled production issues once again? More reboots and retreads in Wolverine, Planet of the Apes and Aliens? We're talking also about the past here. One right does not undo a lifetime of wrong. But that's the problem with your "facts". Time and time again, you act as you are, that is, an overzealous fanboy. Think about the logistics, the 150m cost, the R-rated nature, Del Toro's past box office performance, the nature of the industry etc. and try to convince me this was a good idea. Or are you using other studio execs and dubious sources that come out every so often? Deadline have hardly been the best journalistic website. Read what Drew said on HitFix if you're not too biased already blinded by typical fanboyism. Oh and Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 says hi. Big Mommas 3 as well. And when the next troubled production at Fox, or Disney happens, your rant will happen again, guaranteed. So suck it up.
  • Anonymous
    does anyone REALLY think he'll direct "pacific rim"? whatever the reasons - he's bailed on 2 straight movies. (although i was THRILLED when he left hobbit - i'd rather have PJ doing it.) too bad about this movie - i hear the passion in fans when the talked about the book and was looking forward to AtMoM
    • Anonymous
      He didn't really bail on either of them. Hobbit had been all set to shoot but with no greenlight or funding. They were sitting on their hands for close to two years. ATMM has been in a similar situation. Del Toro's been getting things set up for this flick for over a year and the studio is holding up the production. The guy just wants to make a damn movie, has a proven track record of quality flicks, but he needs some executive somewhere to pull their thumb out of their ass and give one of his projects a green light. You've got studios tripping all over themselves to get him to direct shit, but Universal has the one thing he really wants to work on and is trying to force him to tone it down. You could probably make a decent PG13 Lovecraft flick, but honestly, why would you want to even try? The studio is basically trying to turn the concept into a stupid action hero sort of movie. I wouldn't want to do that to Lovecraft, either. I just hope the studio doesn't take his pitch and hire some hack to make their neutered version instead.
  • http://www.skonmovies.com/ Sean Kelly
    I read "wary about the R rating" and wish we were in a time when there was no PG-13 rating.
  • happy camper
    good! screw pg-13
  • http://twitter.com/serke serke
    Universal needs to stop, take a look into it's past and remember that sparkling black and white logo of the past. Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, Frankenstein... Universal could mark it's glorious return to classic horror with At the Mountains of Madness. But in this modern age, audiences have come to expect more. Sophisticated special effects, believable dialogue, plots made of more than Swiss cheese and string. I don't know what kind of liberties were taken with the story, whether it will be set in the 20s or modern day, but even without the addition of female characters, I can see how gore and language and, um, "scenes of terror" might give it an R-rating. Just don't release it in winter. Make sure to focus the marketing on comic-cons, video gamers, evening/night tv spots, the age old print tie-in with the movie cover and color stills. Viral marketing, mayhaps? You've descended the stairs into the close, fetid air of the New York subway system. Amongst the deluge of information - a curious blankness, scrawled with the words - 'Imagination could conceive almost anything in connexion with this place...' and then, to mirror a passage from the novella, they could put some of that advertising stuff they use on buses on the front of some of the subway trains to mirror "the great black front looming colossally out of infinite subterraneous distance". And honestly, James Cameron's name is like Willy Wonka's frickin Golden Ticket. ----------from producer JAMES 'MIDAS' CAMERON ------- (a film by Guillermo del Toro) "At the Mountains of Madness" Cue money.
    • Anonymous
      maybe GdT will have more luck with Universal if they turn ATMOM into a board game first. Serke, you've hit the nail on the head, as did Alex earlier. if a decidedly average film like Sanctum can double its money by having Big Jim's name on it, what would a concerted, well orchestrated marketing campaign with his name *and* GdT's on it do? casual filmgoer + fanboy frenzy = many bases covered. sure, an 'R' rated horror's more of a risk for a studio than a Chipmunks sequel, but look at who would have been involved! do you also remember when you would get major films coming out with 'R' ratings, and *everyone* was looking forward to Aliens, Terminator 2, even The Matrix sequels? ah, happy days...
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZAHVRD4HDE3S6B6CMLZMRQZP5A WhatFunIsThere
    The exec's at Universal are a bunch of cowards. They'd rather play it "safe" and give us (another) 50 billion remakes than take a "risk" and give us something original and new like At the Mountains of Madness.
  • Desraider
    This is a huge bummer, don't they know everytime a Passion project of a great director dies, a bag of kittens gets thrown in a lake... To bad money breeds greed and corruption, this could have been a great film.
  • Lebowski
    THIS INJUSTICE WILL NOT STAND. MAY THE GREAT LORD CTHULHU CONSUME THEM!
  • Fox
    This time, the most appropriate thing to say is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHh0rf0ojEc
  • BigDaddy
    This is a total bummer... But why is this dead just because Uni doesn't want it? Why can't GtD take it to WB or others? (Cameron can't get it on WB?) Also, why can't Cameron raise the money and produce without the studio? you know he has the connects. The only element that I don't care about in this story is the R-rating. I know it's a horror flick, but some great movies are PG-13. (Inception) Granted a horror movie is prob hanging on a great deal of violence and gore but I have always felt that story is king. I have faith that those two guys could have made an amazing film and it still be PG-13.... (sorry. maybe I have just gone soft since I have started having kids...)
    • Quazzimotto
      I think they "could" make an exceptional PG-13 film. But it wouldn't be this film. Some films just don't work without an R rating. I firmly believe a movie like John Carpenter' "the Thing" (ironically distributed by Universal), dumbed down to a PG-13 rating, would've been awful. But given the R rating, we have a Sci-Fi/Horror classic. A movie that is in the same vein as "At The Mountains of Madness" would have been. Sometimes the R is necessary for the director to achieve the most from their project. It enables them to maximize their full creative potential, instead of being held back by the studio's rating constraints. I think Universal made a major mistake. The WB is taking a huge chance on Zack Snyder' "Sucker Punch." Its sad to see a film being backed by some of the best in the biz being denied because of a studio's lack of a nutsack.
  • Craig
    Our best hope is that del Toro's next movie is insanely successful, and bolsters confidence that he can put asses in seats.
  • Lamar
    Boooooo!
  • Dave
    This sucks, but from a financial aspect, the studio made the wise decision. "At the Mountains.." is not a lucrative picture, it's a pet project from a superb director. This article pretty much spells out its demise: http://www.salon.com/entertainment/movies/guillermo_del_toro/index.html?story=/ent/movies/film_salon/2011/03/08/mountains_of_madness_derailed The article mentions that, based on the budget and marketing, it would've had to of made 500 million in box-office gross in order to create any kind of profit. That being said, the description of the project sounds incredible. But unfortunately, there just aren't enough fanboys in the world to make it feasible.
    • Anonymous
      That's what one of the execs used as an excuse for why the movie isn't going to get made, and that line is a huge steaming pile of bullshit. Assuming that the studio actually nets about 50% of the total box office gross (which is fair to assume from what I understand), then it's true that ATMM would have to gross about $350 million or so to start to turn a profit, considering your marketing costs. Breaking $500 Million basically means that your movie is a huge hit on the level of your average Micheal Bay film. For example, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary at all for ATMM with it's $150 Million production budget to gross $300-400 Million worldwide and be considered an average release in every way. And I'm talking movies like Wolverine and The Last Airbender. You know, huge piles of shit. I mean, here's a list of $150 Mil. films that didn't make $500 Mil: Pearl Harbor Wolfman Mission: Impossible 3 X-Men 3 Beowulf Night at the Museum 2 Batman Begins Wolverine I could go on. Aside from a couple, I don't think you could call any of them terrible failures, monetarily. Some of them even got sequels. You could argue that most of them are terrible films, and i'd agree, and then I'd have to ask if you thought a Lovecraft film from Del Toro would end up sucking as bad as those films. Personally, I think it would make a buttload of money regardless of the rating. It's been so long since we got a really high quality big budget horror film. I'm so sick of this low budget torture porn crap that gets made now. Sorry, but the more angry I am about something, the longer my comments are...
  • Quazzimotto
    Huge DgT fan. I didn't think news could get worse than when he had to leave the Hobbit...I'm very disappointed. How the tri-fecta of Cameron, Del Toro, and Cruise couldn't get this made any way they wanted shows Uni's non-commitment to quality films. Unreal. MGM in the making.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9emWB_rrMt0 Crapola
    He should make it himself, with his own money and cut the budget back. Who cares about Tom Cruise, he's a lunatic, he might as well get Charlie 'winning' Sheen. It'd be cool to see, I was looking forward to it and Alex, I can understand your anger at this but... I don't have a witty retort. I'm away to bed...
  • Guest
    He sould have reconsidereddoing Dr. Strange while waiting, he was attached before the Hobbit if i remeber correctly. A (hopefully) big Marvel hit might get him the clout to go ahead with ATMM captsnooze@iinet.net.auand stop some other director screwing up Dr. Strange.
  • Wellen
    This is one of those must see projects. Everyone would have gone to see this big budget fantastico! But why didnt they just lower the budget? Now they lost the project forever because another studio has taken it on. This website sjlume.com has the scoop.

FEATURED POSTS

GET MORE NEWS

Subscribe to our feed or daily newsletter:
Follow Alex's main profile on twitter:
For the news posts only, follow this acct:
Add our feed to your Feedly: follow us in feedly
Subscribe to me on YouTube for interviews 

POPULAR COMMENTS

NEWEST PODCAST

FACEBOOK + LINKS