Around mid 1990s, Mel Gibson pitched a remake of Fahrenheit 451 to Warner Bros. and they agreed to let him shoot it. Gibson had directed two films so far, The Man without a Face and Braveheart, he won an Oscar for the latter. So while in his directing mode he wanted to remake Fahrenheit 451 and at one point he was thinking of starring in it too. But he realized he was too old for the role and also because he already directed and starred on both Man without a Face and Braveheart, he just didn’t want to go through that again. So with a new script that stayed true to the book and the support from the studio, he was looking for a leading man. He pursued Tom Cruise around 1997 and he already had a team doing some pre-production work on set designs. The movie was going to be set 50 years in future. At the time, Cruise has just started shooting Eyes Wide Shutwith Stanley Kubrick and couldn’t commit to the project. So Gibson decided to wait for Cruise to finish shooting Kubrick’s film and he went and did Lethal Weapon 4 (the worst Lethal Weapon film IMO).
But when the shoot of Eyes Wide Shut went longer than expected, Gibson couldn’t wait for Cruise anymore because the studio had scheduled Fahrenheit 451 to come out in the summer of 2000 and also Cruise had committed to shooting Mission: Impossible 2 and Minority Report back to back. M:I-2 was supposed to come out summer 1999 and Minority Report in summer 2000. Of course as you all remembered, M:I-2 came out in summer 2000 and Minority Report in 2002, the long shoot of Eyes Wide Shut really cost Cruise a few of potential box office hits, with Enemy of the States and Fahrenheit 451 being two of them. I’ll come back to why I brought up Minority Report later in the story.
So around 1998, Gibson was under pressure to look for a new leading man and also he realized that he needed to update the script for modern day audience, this was the era when the internet was starting to dominate the world. The role was offered to Brad Pitt but he was not interested, opting to do The Fight Club instead with David Fincher. Rumor has it that Gibson even offered the role to Johnny Depp, but at the time Depp refused to do big budget studio films. Remember this was few years before Pirates of the Caribbean. With no leading man and a script that still in need of some retooling, Gibson informed the studio that he cannot finish in time for the summer of 2000 release and the project was put on limbo a couple of years later. Warner Bros. just had a lot of troubles trying to remake a few movies back in the 90s (read about Tim Burton’s Superman here).
Fast forward to mid 2000s, the project landed on the hands of Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), he rewrote the script and pitched it to the studio. He even got Tom Hanks to come on board to play the leading man. The studio executives were interested but they didn’t green light the project, yet. Darabont had a new film opening at the time, The Mist. I believe the studio executives wanted to see how that movie performs at the box office before giving Darabont $150 mil to shoot Fahrenheit 451. The Mist opened and it failed miserably at the box office and of course the executives pulled out of Fahrenheit 451. On top of that, in late 2007 Tom Hanks decided to leave the project, leaving it without a leading man. Last I heard, Darabont is still shopping the script around Hollywood, hoping another studio will pick it up.
Personally I would love to see this remake on the big screen, I mean I Am Legend went through some hell before it finally hit the big screen, so hopefully we’ll see the new version of Fahrenheit 451 playing at the local cinemas real soon.
Now back as to why I brought up Minority Report, well Spielberg and Cruise were going to shoot this film around 1999, but because Cruise was stuck doing Eyes Wide Shut and he wanted to do M: I-2 right after, they had to reschedule. Also, Kubrick passed away in 1999, so Spielberg wanted to do AI: Artificial Intelligence to honor him. So when both Cruise and Spielberg finally got together to shoot Minority Report in 2001, Spielberg decided to bring the team that was building the sets for Fahrenheit 451 over to Minority Report. So if you’ve already seen that sci-fi movie, then you’ve seen what Gibson had envisioned for the look of Fahrenheit 451.
Have you seen the François Truffaut original? What do you think of this remake idea?