The 4 Directors Most Notorious for Their Unmade Films

Just because a director, even a powerful director, intends to make a film, doesn't mean it always works out. Check out the four directors most notorious for announcing films that didn't get made!

We experience it all the time. A hot project is announced from a star director, and it sounds amazing. We look forward to it, and pay attention to the news. But after a while, development halts and that film, or at least the combination of that film with that director, doesn’t end up happening. Sometimes the project finds another helmer, sometimes it just ends up in the trash bin.

Of course, there are a few directors who, in recent history, have made quite a history for themselves for announcing films that don’t end up getting made. The purpose of this series of articles will be to detail the history of those ill-fated projects, intermingled with that of the films that they did, in fact, make. Thus, this is essentially a detailing of the careers of these auteurs over the course of the past decade or so. The dates pertaining to the failed projects will be listed in bold, to better help the audience keep track of everything.

For this list, we’ll be keeping track of the theatrical films directors failed to make entirely and were either made by other filmmakers or remain nonexistent. We will mention, but not number, films they still retained a writing or producing credit, unrealized films they were only producers on, or unrealized TV projects.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg likes to make movies. And he is constantly doing so. It seems he can hardly get started on one project before signing on to do two more. And for the most part, he will complete and release the films, sometimes within a year of each other, or even in the same year. But given the vast number of projects that he has been a part of, there are also bound to be a number that run into trouble and end up falling by the wayside. 

#1. Interstellar

In June 2006, Spielberg and Paramount began development on “a science fiction film” from an eight-page treatment by producer Lynda Obst and famed physicist Kip Thorne. It was already admitted at this point that it would take several years to develop. In the meantime, Spielberg was developing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as his next project, with The Adventures of Tintin and Lincoln also in development.

In March 2007: Jonathan Nolan was hired to write the film, which was now called Interstellar.

Later that year, Spielberg filmed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was released in May 2008.

From early to mid 2009 he filmed the motion capture for The Adventures of Tintin, which, due to the animation needed, would not be released until late 2011. 

Also in 2009, Spielberg dropped out of Interstellar when he moved his production offices from Paramount to Disney. That same year, with Lincoln still on hold, he announced War Horse as his next project. 

War Horse would shoot in 2010, Lincoln in 2011. 

Of course, Interstellar was taken over by Christopher Nolan, who heavily rewrote his brother’s script. Lynda Obst remained throughout development, producing alongside Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas. Jonathan and Christopher Nolan are the only credited writers on the script.

#2. Robopocalypse

In Jun. 2011, as he was preparing to film Lincoln, Spielberg signed on to direct a film adaptation of the novel Robopocalypse, with Drew Goddard writing, planning to film in 2012. The film was later set for a July 3rd 2013 release date, with filming locations already being scouted.

Lincoln finally filmed in late 2011, with The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse both being released that December

In May 2012, the release date for Robopocalypse was pushed back to April 25th 2014.

In November 2012, the same month that Lincoln was released, Chris Hemsworth, Anne Hathaway, and Ben Whishaw were all cast in the film

In January 2013: The film was “put on hold indefinitely.” Spielberg initially stated that it would only be six to eight months. However, at that time, no news came, and Spielberg moved on to other projects.

Of all the films listed here, Robopocalypse definitely came the closest to being a reality. It is a rarity to see a film canceled after the major cast members have been announced. Five years later, in March 2018, it was announced that Michael Bay would direct the film, with Spielberg now producing. However, Ropopocalypse remains unadapted for the screen. 

#3. American Sniper

On May 02 2013, with no other project in the pipeline, Spielberg was announced to direct American Sniper for Warner Bros., which Bradley Cooper was already producing and starring in.

However, on Aug. 05 of that year, Spielberg dropped out, stating that his version of the film could not be made under the budget restraints imposed upon him. 

In April 2014, Spielberg signed on to direct Bridge of Spies and The BFG within days of each other. 

Of course, Clint Eastwood ended up making American Sniper, which was released in 2015.

#4. It’s What I Do

On Mar. 2 2015, after having wrapped filming for Bridge of Spies, and preparing to begin The BFG, Spielberg was announced to direct film adaptation of It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, a memoir of war photographer Lyndsay Addario, to star Jennifer Lawrence. Only three weeks later, on March 25th, he signed on to direct Ready Player One as his next project.

Nothing more has since been said about It’s What I Do since.

The BFG was filmed from March to June 2015. Bridge of Spies was released in October of that year. In March 2016, three months before the release of The BFG and at the beginning of filming Ready Player One, Spielberg & Co. announced Indiana Jones 5 for for a July 2019 release. 

#5. The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

The very next month, in April 2016, he announced a film adaptation of the non-fiction book The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, to be made ahead of Indy, and even released ahead of Ready Player One (due to that film’s lengthy post-production schedule), filming in 2017 and being released at the end it. Mark Rylance was soon cast as Pope Piux IX, and Oscar Isaac as the adult Edgardo Mortara. 

Ready Player One was filmed from July to September 2016.

In early 2017, Isaac dropped out of The Kidnapping. The project was delayed, as Spielberg decided to instead direct The Post on essentially the same timetable, with filming starting just two months later, for a December release. 

The Post was, in fact, made in record time, and released in December 2017. Ready Player One then hit March 30th 2018.

Spielberg then decided to remake West Side Story as next film, that film releasing Dec. 10 2021, and relegated himself to a producer on Indy 5, which would be directed by James Mangold, has since filmed, and is currently slated for theaters on June 30 2023.

As a director, Spielberg currently has The Fabelmans due out for award season 2022.
 

Kevin Smith

#1. Fletch Won

At some point in the ‘00s, amidst 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, 2004’s Jersey Girl, and 2006’s Clerks II, Smith began developing an adaptation of the novel Fletch Won, part of the Fletch series that had previously been adapted into two movies starring Chevy Chase. The plan was for Smith’s longtime collaborator Jason Lee to take the lead role. Smith had a difficult time getting his go-to studio, Miramax, to finance the project with Lee in the lead. Smith would ultimately attempt to get the film made for five years before calling i quits.

#2. Green Hornet

In 2004, Smith wrote a script adaptation of the radio character Green Hornet, with the intention to direct. The film was called off, however, after the box-office failure of Jersey Girl that year, with Smith directing 2006’s Clerks II next.

#3 & 4. Hit Somebody: Home & Hit Somebody: Away

On May 14 2009, Smith announced that he was co-writing a Hockey-based comedy entitled Hit Somebody, based on the Warren Zevog song, with famed author Mitch Albom, which he intended to direct. 

In the meantime, he went to work on Cop Out, his first directing job on somebody else's script, which opened in 2010. He then wrote and directed the horror film Red State, which hit in 2011. 

In Jan. 2011, at the  Sundance premiere of Red State, Smith claimed that Hit Somebody would be his final film, while he would continue to tell stories in other media. In Aug. 2011, smith announced his intention to turn the film into a two-parter: Hit Somebody: Home, which would be rated PG-13, and Hit Somebody: Away, which would be an R. film. In Jan. 2012, however, Smith reversed the decision, claiming it would be one film again.

In 2012, Smith announced he was making Clerks III, which would actually be his final film.

In Dec. 2012, due to inability to get funding for the project, Smith instead claimed that Hit Somebody would be produced for an unknown TV network as a six-part mini-series.

He then began writing and directing  the horror-comedy Tusk. In December 2013, while filming Tusk, Smith said that he would, after all, continue to direct films that were personal to him.

Tusk hit theaters in Sept. 2014, with the sequel, Yoga Hosers, filming that August, into Jan. 2015.

#5 & 6. Moose Jaws & Anti-Claus

On Mar 12. 2015, he stated that Clerks III would film in May, followed immediately by Hit Somebody from Sept. to Christmas of that year. He would then film Moose Jaws (the conclusion of the True North Trilogy) and then the horror film Anti-Claus in 2016.

#7. Mallrats 2

Less than a month later, however, on Apr. 08 2015, Smith claimed that Mallrats 2 would be his next film, stating that the mall they wanted would soon be torn down, and this prioritized it over Clerks 3. Mallrats 2 didn’t materialize anytime soon, however.

In May 2016, Smith announced he was writing a television remake of the film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.

In Jun. 2016, with Yoga Hosers still yet to hit theaters, Smith announced that Mallats 2 would instead be produced as a 10-episode TV series.  Yoga Hosers was then finally released in Sept. 2016, while Smith walked away from the Buckaroo Banzai project in Nov.

Needless to say, Hit Somebody, Ant-Claus, and Mallrats 2 all failed to materialize. In 2017, when Jeff Anderson dropped out of filming for Clerks III, the project was canceled. 

Instead, Smith made Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, claiming that he still intended to follow this with Moose Jaws. However, in July 2019, months before Jay and Silent Bob hit theaters, Smith claimed that Clerks III was now back on. 

Smith followed through, filming Clerks III, which is due out this year.

Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is known for his prolific filmography, having consistently made at least one film every two years (and often more than that) for the first 19 years of his career, often alternating between hard-R action films and children’s fare. While he has been known to be able to get certain projects filmed and done in record time due to his unique filmmaking methods, he is also known to consistently have several projects on his docket at once, with some taking years to develop, or never coming to fruition at all.

In fact, Rodriguez at one point got tired of people pointing this out to him, and had this to say.

“I don’t know why people pay so much attention to what I’m developing. Actually, any filmmaker is always developing cool things because you never know what’s going to go first. It depends on what actors are available or if you want a specific actor or what financing is available...So I usually develop a lot of things and keep a lot of things going that are ready to be pounced on at any one time...But the internet! They need to have people go to their site so they can have ads, so they’ll report any little movie-making idea. So if you’re developing something, they say, “Oh, he’s developing this! This is going to be his next movie!”

Yeesh, well….This is awkward. That being said, Rodriguez therein admits that he specifically is developing “a lot of things,” and he has made the decision to announce them publicly as well.  That said, here are some of the films of Robert Rodriguez we’ve never gotten to see!
 

#1. Madman

Since 1998, Rodriguez has owned the film rights to Mike Allred’s comic Madman. In 2004, while Rodriguez was working on both The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D and Sin City for release the next year, Allred announced that a screenplay was being written by George Huang. In 2006, Allred stated that production would likely commence later that year. Clearly, nothing came of it. 

It should be noted that these comments were only made by possibly overzealous Allred, without any confirmation by Rodriguez, who may have never planned to film at the time stipulated.

Rodriquez’s next film was, in fact, Grindhouse, released in April 2007. A follow-up, Machete, based on the fake trailer in the film, was then announced, with sequels also being discussed shortly after. Talk of a sequel to Sin City also continued intermittently.

#2. Barbarella

A rebooted screen version of the comic Barbarella already had a script being written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade when, in May 2007, just after the release of Grindhouse, it was announced that Rodríguez would direct the film for a 2008 release, with Rose McGowan set to star in the title role. The film was apparently one reason that filming on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was delayed, and that film would not happen for another seven years. 

When the film’s budget swelled past $80 million, the studio, Universal, backed out of it. After multiple delays, in June 2008, the film was put on indefinite hold, and was confirmed the next year to be “dead.” 

(McGowan and Rodriguez then turned to creating a reboot of Red Sonja, though Rodriguez was only set to produce. That film failed to materialize too, though they did make the similar Conan the Barbarian [with Rodgriguez producing] as well.)
 

#3 & 4.The Jetsons and Land of the Lost

In May 2007, the very same time Rodriguez and Universal were talking about making Barbarella for 2008, they also began discussing the idea of him making The Jetsons or Land of the Lost for 2009. Rodriguez was unsure as to which one he would direct.  He ended up doing neither, with Land of the Lost being directed by Brad Silberling and being released in 2009.

With Sin City 2 still waiting in the wings, Rodriguez announced in January 2009 his film Shorts: A Tale of the Wishing Rock, which he made in record time, releasing it that August, by which time he was shooting Machete.

In 2009, Rodriguez announced plans to make his own sequel to Predator, called Predators, which he confirmed that April that he would be directing, with an unnamed co-director.

#5. Fire and Ice

In May 2009, while preparing Shorts and Machete, Rodriguez announced plans to make a live-action remake of the 1983s animated film Fire and Ice, making a deal with that film’s producer Frank Frazetta, of whom he remains a noted fan.

#6. Nervewrackers

Also in 2009, Rodriguez stated that he would be directing a film from his own script, called Nervewrackers, which bore this synopsis.

Set in 2085, the story centers on a character named Joe Tezca who is part of an elite unit dispatched to quell a crime wave in a theoretically perfect future society.

Around the same time, he also confirmed, after two years, that The Jetsons was actually still in development.

Nervewrackers was set for an April 2010 release date. However, the film did not materialize, and was eventually taken off the docket. Rodriguez claimed that the reason for the delay was waiting for his “perfect actor” to become available, without disclosing who that was.

In Jul. 2009, it was confirmed that Nimrod Antal would be directing Predators, and Rodriguez would only be producing. With so much on his plate, it’s possible Rodriguez allowed someone else to make it so that it could be created in a timely manner.

Rodriguez then set to work filming Machete, which was released in 2010, after which he started production on Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.

#7. Heavy Metal

In 2011, Rodríguez announced that he had purchased the film rights to the comic book Heavy Metal, and was developing an animated film. It has yet to happen. 

#8. Machete Kills Again…In Space

In July 2011, at Comic-Con, with Spy Kids: All the Time in the World close to being released, Rodriguez did his fans a favor and laid out a precise list of all the feature films he still had had planned. Totalling five in number, they were…

Two sequels to Machete (Machete Kills & Machete Kills Again), Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, Heavy Metal, & Fire and Ice. Nervewrackers did not make the list, and so was apparently forgotten. 

Next, Rodriguez made Machete Kills, released in 2013, and, finally, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, in 2014. The former revealed the new title for the third Machete film as Machete Kills Again...In Space.

#9. Jonny Quest

In May 2015 it was reported that Rodriguez was attached to direct a film version of Jonny Quest, based on the script that he had written with Terry Rossio. 

#10. 100 Years

One project that Rodriguez has apparently finished is the film 100 Years: The Film You Will Never See, which was made in association with Louis XIII Cognac, and filmed in 2015. However, much like an actual bottle of Cognac, it would not be released for 100 years, in 2115. The film was not even announced until it had already been completed that November.

In October of that year (after filming 100 Years, but before it’s announcement), Rodriguez was then announced as the director of Alita: Battle Angel, a Manga adaptation that had been a pet project of James Cameron’s for many years, and which he would now only produce. Pre-production on this project actually started in earnest, with filming taking place the next year.

In July 2016, while filming Alita: Battle Angel, it was announced that Rodriguez was no longer directing the film adaptation of Jonny Quest that he had co-written.

#11. Escape from New York

In March 2017, shortly after finishing filming of Alita: Battle Angel (which would not be released until 2019), Rodriguez announced he was making a remake of Escape from New York, with the film’s original director John Carpenter producing. 

Later that year, he instead signed on to direct UglyDolls, an adaptation of the plush toy line, and his first animated film, which was given a release date of May 2019. However, in May 2018, it was announced that Rodriguez would only produce, with Kelly Asbury directing. 

In 2019, Rodriguez having gone a record five years between released films, Alita: Battle Angel and UglyDolls both hit theaters. He then directed two films for streaming in 2020, Red 11 and We Can Be Heroes, as well as an episode of The Mandalorian the same year. He both directs and executive produces the spinoff The Book of Boba Fett, releasing its first season between late 2021 and early 2022. 

After that (and excluding 100 Years), Rodriguez still has four films that have never been announced as dead, and he may still be hoping to make: Machete Kills Again...In Space, Heavy Metal, Fire & Ice, and Escape from New York. He has no films in active development as a director.

Guillermo del Toro

Believe it or not, Guillermo Del Toro has had so many unrealized projects that it actually has his own wikipedia article! This shows, more than anything, that Del Toro simply loves making movies, and always has an idea for one, whether they end up happening or not. Still, I wish he’d refrain from publicly announcing them until they’re really in the pipeline.

Also, the Wiki page mentions film projects like Blade 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Thor, and Halo, that were already happening before him, and which he was only briefly in talk for for a brief time, I Am Legend, which it states he was only asked to do, The Wtiches, a project he “expressed interest in,” and Hater, a film he would only have produced. 

I will be skipping those, keeping this restricted to more personal projects that he himself tried to get off the ground, and/or that he was attached to direct for some time.

And even this list only includes films, not the myriad of unrealized video games he has begun developing!

#1. The Sandkings

Around 1995, when he had still only directed the Spanish-language film Cronos, Del Toro approached George R.R. Martin about making a film adaptation of his novelette Sandkings, as his second, and first English-language, film. However, the idea was soon abandoned when that story was instead adapted into the first episode of the revival of The Outer Limits, which aired that year.

Del Toro instead made Mimic as his first English-language film, released in 1997.

#2. Domu: A Child’s Dream

In the late 90s, Del Toro announced his intention to adapt the Japanese animated film into a live-action film. However, although he tried for several years, he proved unable to get the rights to the property.

Del Toro next made the Spanish-language horror film The Devil’s Backbone in 2001, followed by Blade II in 2002. As stated, he was only briefly then in talks to direct both Blade 3 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, before deciding to do Hellboy.

#3. The Wind in the Willows

In 2003, while preparing Hellboy, Del Toro was in talks to direct a CG-animated film adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, but after many delays, the project was abandoned. 

#4. Hellboy III

Del Toro then released Hellboy in 2004. The director announced right away his intention to create a trilogy, but the sequel was ultimately put on hold for some time.

#5. At the Mountains of Madness

That same year, in 2004, Del Toro revealed his intention to make a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1931 horror novella At the Mountains of Madness. That film too experienced delays and remained in development.

Del Toro then made Pan’s Labyrinth, released in 2006.

#6. Killing on Carnival Row

In Feb. 2006, still months before the release of Pan’s Labyrinth, it was announced that Del Toro would direct Killing on Carnival Row from a script by Travis Beacham. The project, however, never materialized.

#7. Tarzan

In August 2006, after the release of Pan’s Labyrinth, Universal Pictures finally picked up the rights to Hellboy, with Del Toro preparing the sequel for 2008. Just two months later, in Dec. 2006, Del Toro also signed on  to create a Tarzan film. 

#8. 3993

Del Toro announced another new project, 3993,  in 2007, but it ended up futtering out.

By 2008, Del Toro had been in talks to direct the film adaptations of both Thor and Halo. However, in April, with the release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army now just two months away, Del Toro signed on to direct the two-part film adaptation of The Hobbit with co-writer and producer Peter Jackson.

The ending of Hellboy II: The Golden Army that July left the series very open to a third installment, but it soon encountered several delays.

The Hobbit canceled out anything else he was in talks for, including the Tarzan movie, although he still hoped to direct Hellboy 3 if the project would wait for him. 

#9, 10 11, & 12. Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Slaughterhouse Five, & Drood

In spite of this, Del Toro signed on to afterward direct four different films for Universal, the plan being for him to begin work after completion of The Hobbit. These were film adaptations of  three classics and a new novel: Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Slaughterhouse Five, and an original film, Drood. Although he admitted the films were far off, he had already stated Doug Jones as his casting choice for Frankenstein’s monster.

Stephen Sommers would replace him in Sept. 2008 as the director of Tarzan, but the film would continue to go through variations and stalls until David Yates directed the final film, released in 2016.

Still in 2008 (if you can believe it) Del Toro stated he was also developing a stop-motion adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio. This languished in development for years.

(Later that year, he also expressed interest in developing a stop-motion version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, but never actually signed on to it.)

In May 2010, after several production delays, Del Toro dropped out of The Hobbit. Peter Jackson ended up directing the films himself, but Del Toro retains a writing credit on all three films.

Nothing more was said about the four-film deal with Universal, the idea apparently being dropped.

#12 & 13. Drood & Van Helsing

In June 2010, Del Toro announced a film adaptation of Drood and his own film version of the character of Van Helsing that he was trying to get off the ground. However, he soon abandoned the former after it entered development hell, and there were no updates on the latter. Around the same time, he revealed that In the Mountains of Madness was no longer in development.

#14. The Haunted Mansion

That same month, on July 23rd 2010, at Comic-Con, Del Toro announced that he would write, produce, and likely direct a new film version of the Disneyland ride The Haunted Mansion. It never happened.

Less than a week later, still in July 28 2010, he revealed that he had been approached by James Cameron, who wanted to produce In the Mountains of Madness, and that it was back on.

On Sept. 21 2010, Del Toro also stated that he was interested in making film versions of both It and Pet Semetary, but that he was “very busy” and wouldn't be able to do it. Now that’s practicality. Of course, both films ended up happening without him.

Around the same time, Del Toro met with Universal about At the Mountains of Madness and agreed to pick up another script by Travis Beacham, Pacific Rim, to rewrite and produce. He agreed that if At the Mountains were not made, he would also direct Pacific Rim.

At the Mountains of Madness was indeed canceled shortly afterwards, on March 7 2011, as Del Toro was unwilling to compromise with the studio on a $150 million budget and R rating. Del Toro then signed on to direct Pacific Rim.

Also that year, Pinocchio, having languished in development for three years, was officially put on hold.

#15. Hater

In August of 2012, after filming Pacific Rim, Del Toro stated he would produce the film adaptation of the novel Hater.

In April 2013, Del Too was reportedly creating a pilot called Monster for HBO, based on the Manga. Pacific Rim was released three months later, in July.

Also in 2013, Del Toro was producing the drama Midnight Delivery, centered around the world of drugs, for Brian Kirk to direct, another project which failed to materialize.

Del Toro directed Crimson Peak in 2015, and The Shape of Water, which he filmed in late 2016.2017, winning Del Toro two Academy Awards, for Best Picture and Best Director.

On Jan. 23, 2017, Pinocchio came back to life, and Patrick McHale as announced to co-write the script with del Toro. On Nov. 8, 2017, it seemed dead again, as Del Toro stated that the project was not happening, because no studios were willing to finance it. 

Also in 2017, it was announced that Hellboy III would definitely not happen, with a reboot bombing at the box office in 2019.

The Shape of Water then hit theaters in late 2017, and ended up winning Del Toro two Academy Awards, for Best Picture and Best Director.

On Oct. 22, 2018, it was announced that the Pinocchio had once again been revived, with Netflix acquiring it. Del Toro went to work first on Nightmare Alley, which hit Dec. 2021. Pinocchio has since been produced and is slated to hit theaters this year!

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