You might think that a screenplay writer's worst nightmare is getting their script rejected by production companies. But when that script gets approved and becomes an unfinished piece of work that never makes it to the big screen... that can be especially disappointing. Some directors intentionally pulled the plug due to behind-the-scenes drama and script issues. However, others were forced to quit their projects due to circumstances beyond their control, whether it be natural disasters, accidents, or budgeting issues. Either way, we can only imagine what it feels like to put so much time and effort into a film that's left incomplete.
Not all of these movies were guaranteed to be major hits, but it's pretty clear that a few of them were actual gems in the making - and it kind of sucks that we can never see the finished product. See which unfinished movies we missed out on:
20th Century Fox
Believe it or not, acting was not Marilyn Monroe's forte. The pop culture icon was apparently a perfectionist who suffered from stage fright and relied heavily on her acting coaches. But when she got hired to work on Something's Got to Give (a remake of My Favorite Wife), she called in sick several times and failed to show up for work. She'd skipped so many days that Fox agreed to let her go and replace her. But then Dean Martin, who was also a part of the movie, refused to keep working on the film without Marilyn. As a result, the movie was completely recast and renamed Move Over, Darling. And as for the original verison, only 37 minutes of footage exists.
You probably remember the cult classic from 1984. But in 2007, a remake was supposed to be released, starring famous faces like Adam Brody, Kristin Cavallari, and Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Producers started filming in 2006, but just two weeks in, they had to scrap the movie because of filming location issues. The officials from Emory University (the Atlanta location where it was meant to be filmed) took one look at the script and backed out of the deal because they deemed the content way too inappropriate.
Still, the producers tried to move on to another location. They temporarily used Agnes Scott College in Decatur, but they eventually decided to give up on the film because the school wasn't spacious enough to film the outdoor scenes.
The film, which was supposed to be a comedy about miracles happening in a small Irish community, was expected to be a huge success. It was going to star Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, and Debra Winger. But just two weeks after filming began in 1995, CineFin was in a financial crisis. They'd only shot 24 minutes worth of footage, but by the time they packed up and left Ballycotton in County Cork (the location where they'd been filming), the small town nearly went bankrupt. People were actually put out of business and some lost thousands of dollars in bounced checks. Plus, it turned out that the only person who got paid for their work in the film was Marlon.
If you're curious to know more about the drama that unfolded behind the scenes, you can check out the documentary Ballybrando, which includes interviews with the cast.
Comedian and actor Richard Pryor teamed up with Penelope Spheeris in 1968 to do a satire called Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals. It was supposed to be about a group of Black Panther members who took a rich white man hostage and put him on trial for racial crimes that happened throughout America's history. However, the only negative of the footage got destroyed when Richard and his then-wife, Shelley Bonis, got into a heated argument.
Penelope tried to repair it and was able to reconstruct roughly forty minutes of the film, but it was too crumpled to be seen properly through the projector. She and Richard eventually gave up on the film and the footage was thought to be long gone, but when Penelope stumbled upon a clip of it in her own archive in 2005, she donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. When that footage was shown in a tribute to Richard after his death, his widow sued Penelope, as well as Richard and Shelley's daughter, Rain, for stealing the negatives for the film. It turns out the lawsuit is still pending to this day.
The executives at 20th Century Fox thought it would be a great idea to put out a film starring the popular British band, The Sex Pistols. So by 1978, they hired screenwriter Roger Ebert and director Russ Meyer to work on the film (largely because of the success of their previous movie, Behind the Valley of the Dolls). But just one day after they started filming in England, Fox took away their funding and shut down the entire thing because they weren't fans of the x-rated script. All the sets that were built for the film had to be destroyed.
But on a brighter note, though, you can read the entire screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? on Roger Ebert's website.
The legendary Alfred Hitchcock wanted to create an adult thriller about a handsome bodybuilder who preyed on young women and lured them to their deaths. He had also planned to use innovative film techniques, such as the use of natural light and point-of-view camera work. However, he found it difficult to get funding because people were turned off by the amount of sex and violence in the film (the script included graphic scenes like rape, necrophilia, and murder).
Before quitting the production process, he was able to finish about an hour of footage. But in a sense, it still lives on because he recycled some of those same ideas for his 1972 thriller, Frenzy.
K. JAM Media
So technically, the film was edited, completed, and released as Accidental Love. However, the original version was David O. Russell's Nailed (a story about a young waitress who accidentally gets shot in the head by a nail gun). It started filming in 2008, but there were several delays because of financial issues. When Capitol Productions went bankrupt in 2010, David finally quit the project. But four years later, Millennium Entertainment gained rights to the film and finished it without David. David was so unsatisfied with the end product that he insisted on leaving his real name out of the credits. But it's understandable, considering that it has a nine percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes...
Although about 80 percent of the film was already completed, the director, George Sluizer, decided to stop filming in 1993 because of the unfortunate death of River Phoenix, who played Boy in the movie. The film stayed unfinished for nearly two decades until George found all the footage he could and tried to re-assemble the film or its 2012 release. For the missing scenes, he replaced them with his own narration.
Dark Blood was the last film that River ever worked on, as well as the only one where he was cast as the villain.
In 1999, director and screenwriter Harmony Korine intended to put out a comedy film that focused on him going around New York City and harassing people to the point of a physical fight. His only two rules were that the person had to be bigger than him and they had to throw the first punch. Eventually, though, he got arrested for starting all those public fights, and on top of that, he was too badly injured to continue with the project. As for what inspired him to create such a film, he explained: "I wanted to push humor to extreme limits to demonstrate that there's a tragic component in everything." ...Hmm. Okay, but this probably wasn't the best way to go about it.
The independent animated comedy, which was based on the web series Waterman, was slated for 2007. But the release date was constantly pushed back due to financial difficulties. By the beginning of 2008, only 40 percent of the film had been completed and by 2009, the director announced that the filming process stopped because they'd had a busy year. In 2010, Bryan Waterman began a Kickstarter campaign in an attempt to raise the money he needed for the film, but since less than half of the $35,000 goal was pledged, he was unable to move forward with the project. Since the web series was so popular, a lot of fans felt like they missed out on this one.
If you've ever seen Henry Selick's Coraline, then you probably would've loved to see his work in The Shadow King (meant to be released in 2013). It was supposed to follow a young orphan who can bring life to shadows. He eventually turns them into his Shadow Army to help defeat an evil shadow monster that's trying to destroy New York.
After over $50 million was spent on the film, Disney suddenly dropped out due to budgeting issues. And until now, the film still hasn't been finished. However, Henry did mention in 2016 that he hadn't completely given up on the movie. So chances are, he's still working on it as we speak (fingers crossed!).
Yes, technically, the film was completed and released earlier this year. However, the original version, which included a completely different cast, began filming in 2000. While money wasn't an issue, the film faced several other problems. The filming location was near a military base and the noise messed with the audio quality; A flash flood occurred and destroyed a lot of the production equipment; Even worse, most of the actors never actually showed up to the set. So understandably, the entire project came to a halt after just a few weeks of filming.
To learn more details about the abandoned film, you can check out the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha.
Super Happy Fun
Quentin Tarantino worked on the comedy film with Craig Hamann for over four years. It was about a man who kept trying to do something special for his best friend's birthday, only to have his plans backfire. Production began in 1984 and the two were able to get over 70 minutes of footage. However, some of the negatives got destroyed in a lab fire, leaving them with just 36 minutes of the film. Still, the remaining parts were edited together and released at a few film festivals.
The late director, Stanley Kubrick, really wanted to make a film about the Holocaust and World War II. He decided to loosely base it on Louis Begley's Wartime Lies, which tells the story of a Jewish mother and son who try to survive in Europe by posing as Polish Catholics and using Aryan identity papers. Stanley had already secured his cast and made some headway with filming, but Warner Bros. eventually canceled the film because they found it a bit too similar to their previous film, Schindler's List (The Aryan Papers would have been released just a year later).
This film could've made history as the first 3D computer-animated movie EVER... But it was never finished, so it pretty much missed the boat. New York Institute of Technology began the project in 1976 and the production team only consisted of computer engineers and programmers (with no director). However, the team ultimately decided that it was a bit too ambitious because they didn't have the advanced technology to put together a truly great film. As a result, Toy Story ended up taking the title for first 3D computer-animated film in 1995.
The film was supposed to be a sequel to the teen classic, 10 Things I Hate About You. It was going to star Evan Rachel Wood and Thomas McDonell. However, there were several delays in the filming process. Though Intandem Films claimed that it was due to Evan's pregnancy at the time, the production company actually ran out of money a few weeks after they started filming and they shut down.
To add to the drama, Evan was accused of breaking her contract by leaving the film, so the production company filed a $30 million lawsuit against her for not showing up to work. However, her reps responded by saying that she wasn't at fault, but rather, the lawsuit was just "a bullying tactic from financially troubled producers." It turned out that the production company wasn't paying Evan for her work... And so unsurprisingly, nothing ever became of that lawsuit.
A lot of fans would've loved to see Jerry Lewis's The Day The Clown Cried. It was considered controversial because of its content, which focused on a circus clown who got imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. But though Jerry got the go-ahead to start filming, he dealt with financial issues. When the producer ran out of funds, Jerry continued to work on the project using his own money. But after doing a rough cut, Jerry technically didn't have the necessary rights to release his film. Though he eventually worked on the rough cut without the film negative, the movie hasn't been seen by audiences to this day.
In 2013, Jerry said: "I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all, and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad."