TAKE TWO: How would these films turn out had these directors made them?

Many of us who follows Hollywood knows that a film goes through several writing stages before it hits the big screen; we also know that many directors were involved in this process, most of the time these directors decided to leave the project on their own terms or get fired by the studio. Then the studio would bring in another director to take over the project, sometimes it works out, many times the second or third director would end up leaving or get fired from the movie.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Mission Impossible 3 playing on TV and thought to myself, this film really blows and I really wished Cruise and Paramount went with David Fincher’s version. (You can read here as to why that didn’t happened).

So I decided to come up with a list of films that could’ve been directed by a different director and maybe the final product might be better than the ones we got.

Watchmen

Back in the late 80s, Terry Gilliam was put in charge of bringing the popular graphic novel to the big screen. The studio hired Sam Hamm to write the script, for those of you who are old enough, you probably remember Hamm; he wrote Tim Burton’s Batman and was the most popular writer in Hollywood at that time. But after several attempts at rewriting the script, Gilliam determined that the project just won’t work for the big screen and suggested that it should be made into a mini-series. Well, the studio disagree and so he left the project. By the way, if you want to read Hamm’s Watchmen script, I believe it’s available online but be warned, it’s quite awful.

So in early 2000s, Paramount hired Paul Greengrass to take over the project and his version was going to take place in our modern day society. In fact Paramount has so much faith in the movie; they even set up a website for it, well over a year before the film’s release date; it was scheduled to open in the summer 2006. Well in early 2005, Paramount then CEO Sherry Lansing decided to step down and Brad Grey took over. When Grey became the CEO, his first priority was to cut many of Paramount’s big tentpole projects, of course this includes Watchmen. Originally Paramount was going to have two big films opening in summer of 2006, Grey decided to just release one and the one he chose was Mission: Impossible 3. Now, I don’t blame Grey for making that decision because the M:I films are a well known franchise while not many people know anything about Watchmen.

I do feel bad for Greengrass and his team though since they worked on the project for several months trying to bring Watchmen to the big screen and suddenly they’re jobless. Of course things turned out well Greengrass, after he lost the gig he went and made United 93, which he got nominated for an Oscar and then he made The Bourne Ultimatum, which became the highest earning film of that franchise. M:I-3 on the other hand was a box office disappointment. I couldn’t stop thinking though, how would Watchmen turn out had Greengrass directed it? I’m pretty sure it would’ve been much better than Snyder’s bloated and too much slow motion crap fest.

Mission: Impossible 2

After the massive success of the first M:I film, Paramount and Tom Cruise wanted to move quick and make a sequel. They got Oliver Stone to come on board as the director after Brian De Palma declined to come back to do another one. Stone and screenwriter Robert Towne came up with plot about a big pharmaceutical company trying to spread a deadly virus to the world and the M:I team has to stop them. I remember Stone even tried to convince Paul Newman to come out of retirement and appear in this movie, he would’ve played Cruise’s Ethan Hunt’s boss, which went to Anthony Hopkins in the final film. The film was scheduled to open in the summer of 1999 but Cruise was stuck shooting Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, so they had to push the shooting date of this film way back. After several months of waiting, Stone decided he couldn’t wait any longer and left the project so he could shoot Any Given Sunday.

After Stone left, the project was handed to John Woo, who’s still high on the success of Face/Off. When Woo took over the movie, he told Robert Towne to rewrite the script and make it more of action/romance which is what we got. Now I enjoyed M:I-2, but I really would have love to see what Stone could’ve done with the movie. I’m pretty sure his version won’t have tons of doves flying around, slow-mo shootouts and cheesy love triangle storyline.

I Am Legend

Back in the late 1990s, Warner Bros. was gearing up for their 75th anniversary celebration and they wanted to release two big films in the same year. The new Superman film was supposed to come out in summer of 1998 and for the holiday season they were going to release a remake of I Am Legend. Ridley Scott signed on to direct and Arnold was inked as the leading man. Mark Protosevich wrote the script that was truer to the original novel, minus the one liners intended for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Everything was ready to go until they did some math and realized the film would cost well over $100mil to make. Remember this was back in the 90s, so a $100mil film was rare. By comparison, today the average cost to make a tent-pole picture is $150mil. Well, after they couldn’t figure out how to bring down the price tag, the project was put on hold.

The film finally opened in December of 2007, almost ten years after its original release date. Of course we all know it starred Will Smith and directed by Francis Lawrence. I enjoyed this version but I think Scott would’ve done a better job than Lawrence.

Dune

Alejandro Jodorowsky spent years in the 70s trying to bring this popular sci-fi book to the big screen, but after he spent millions on pre-production, he ran out of money and couldn’t shoot it. According to Frank Herbert, the author of the book, Jodorowsky’s script was the size of a phone book and it would’ve been a 14 hours movie, which was one of the reasons why it never made it to the big screen.

So in the late 70s, the film rights were sold to producer Dino De Laurentiis and he hired Ridley Scott to take over the project. Scott intended to split the book into two movies but after realizing it would take over 2 years to complete the movie, he decided he didn’t have the strength to do it. Also, his older brother has just passed away around that time, so he needed time off to grief.

In the early 80s, De Laurentiis decided to hire David Lynch to direct the movie because he was so impress with Lynch’s previous movie, The Elephant Man. Lynch decided to take over the screenwriting duty as well, even though he’d never read the book. After a 135 pages script was finished, Lynch started shooting the film in early 1983. The film finally came out in December of 1984 and it was a huge box office failure. Lynch was so distraught by the film’s failure, he vowed to never again work on a big budget movie.

Dune is one of a rare film where I didn’t hate it but didn’t really like it either, but every time it’s on TV, I’d watch it. In fact I bought a Blu-ray version last year and watched the entire thing again. I always wonder what kind of film it would be had Jodorowsky or Scott directed it.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Originally Stanley Kubrick was going to direct this movie, in fact he started developing the concept of the film way back in the 70s. By the 80s, he thought the technology was ready and he hired a few writers to write the script for him. He didn’t want to hire a kid actor to play the lead role, so he went to automobile manufacture such as Honda and Toyota and asked them if they could build him a realistic child robot that he can use for filming. Of course they told him that was impossible, so he decided to put the project on hold until the technology would be more advance.

In the early 90s after he saw Jurassic Park, he thought the technology was indeed ready and he again started working on the script. But when he saw some CGI pre-visualizations, he was not impressed and again he put the project on hold. He decided to start working on his other movie, Eyes Wide Shut, hoping by the time he finishes this film, the technology would be advanced enough so he could start shooting A.I. Unfortunately he passed away in early 1999 and we never know what his version of the film would’ve been like. From what I remember reading, his version would have been much more darker than Spielberg’s and it wouldn’t have included that “happy” ending with the super intelligent robots ruling the earth.

– Post by Ted S.

You can find all of Ted’s contributions here.


So folks what do you think? Do you wish these films were directed by another filmmaker or are you a fan of the final product? Also, feel free to name other films you thought could’ve been better with a different director behind the camera.

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42 thoughts on “TAKE TWO: How would these films turn out had these directors made them?

  1. the last half hour of Watchmen is risible, but up to then I thought Snyder did a pretty decent job. Not sure Greengrass’s plan to switch the action to the Iraq War would have worked. Jude Law could have made a decent Ozymandias though.
    had no idea Stone was in M:I2 running. couldnt have been worse than the misdirected Wooing we got. nice rock-climbing though

    1. Ted S.

      Wow didn’t know Jude Law was considered for Ozymandias, he would’ve good, I think.

      Ha ha, yeah you’re so right about Woo’s misdirecting, I think most of his films are like that but because he directed action scenes so well, he seems to get a pass from movie fans.

  2. The perception with AI is that Kubrick wanted darker, and Spielberg made it lighter. But Spielberg contends it’s exactly the opposite.

    “People pretend to think they know Stanley Kubrick, and think they know me, when most of them don’t know either of us,” Spielberg told film critic Joe Leydon in 2002. “And what’s really funny about that is, all the parts of A.I. that people assume were Stanley’s were mine. And all the parts of A.I. that people accuse me of sweetening and softening and sentimentalizing were all Stanley’s. The teddy bear was Stanley’s. The whole last 20 minutes of the movie was completely Stanley’s. The whole first 35, 40 minutes of the film – all the stuff in the house – was word for word, from Stanley’s screenplay. This was Stanley’s vision.”

    “Eighty percent of the critics got it all mixed up. But I could see why. Because, obviously, I’ve done a lot of movies where people have cried and have been sentimental. And I’ve been accused of sentimentalizing hard-core material. But in fact it was Stanley who did the sweetest parts of A.I., not me. I’m the guy who did the dark center of the movie, with the Flesh Fair and everything else. That’s why he wanted me to make the movie in the first place. He said, ‘This is much closer to your sensibilities than my own.'”

    Also, Kubrick tried to hand the project off to Spielberg as early as 1995, although Spielberg talked him into holding onto it.

    (all of this is assuming Wikipedia is accurate… which is a gamble)

    1. Ted S.

      Oh I didn’t read stuff on Wikipedia, I wrote this off of my recollection of a Time magazine, they did a huge cover story A.I. after it came out in theaters and it pretty much divided audiences and critics alike. I’m sure that story is online somewhere.

      Yeah we’re pretty much assume how the film would’ve turned out had Kubrick directed. I did enjoyed Spielberg’s version but as avid Kubrick fan, I’d love see his version.

      I think he even offered the gig to Spielberg way earlier than that, maybe early 80s right after E.T.?

      1. I am absolutely guilty of thinking that Spielberg softened A.I. If they had ended it with Osment ***SPOILER ALERT***
        trapped under the sea I really would have enjoyed the darker ending much more. I always thought Spielberg tagged the happy ending on. My bad. Still would have liked to see Kubrick’s take on it.

        1. Ted S.

          Yeah I think a lot of us assumed that Spielberg really made the film kid friendly and thought Kubrick would’ve made a more darker version. And yes I would’ve love to see Kubrick’s version.

    2. Yes, I was going to mention this as well. And honestly, after watching it a few more times I like the ending better. Its really not a happy ending. Its actually quite haunting if you think about it deeper.

  3. Excellent post Ruth. Just excellent! I always find the behind the scenes trivia very interesting. I would have loved to have seen Scott’s I Am Legend and Stone’s MI:2 but I have to say, I actually really liked Snyder’s Watchmen. I think it’s my favourite of all the superhero movies so far. I was a big fan of the graphic novel and I think he done a great job in bringing to the screen. Another film I loved and wouldn’t change a thing about is A Scanner Darkly. Apparently before Richard Linklater got involved, there was interest from Terry Gilliam as director and the original script was by Charlie Kaufman. As I say, I wouldnt change anything but it’s still an intriguing thought.

      1. Excellent post Ted. Just Excellent! 😀 The Dune one also has an intriguing history. Apparently Lynch had a five hour version kicking around. Have you heard anything of this? It was supposed to be released at some point but I’ve been waiting years. I hope it’s true. Not that I’m Dune’s biggest fan but I really love Lynch and would like to give the film another chance with a more extensive cut.

        1. Ted S.

          Yeah I read something about Lynch’s 5 hours cut but I think there are some legal issues and that’s why he couldn’t release it. I could be wrong but you know how it is with studios and producers.

          It took close to ten years before Warner Bros. could release Blade Runner Final Cut because one of the producers hated the film so much he wouldn’t give them permission to release it. But I assume he came around years later and we finally got Ridley Scott’s preferred version of Blade Runner.

          1. Lynch has totally and completely disavowed the film. Any and all versions. Lynch hated the film so much that there are even some versions with the “Alan Smithee” pseudonym listed as director. He stated after that film he would never give up final cut again.

            1. Ted S.

              That’s so true, he really hated the movie so I don’t think we’ll ever see his director’s cut of Dune.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Mark, as a film geek I love reading behind the scenes stories too. I might give Snyder’s Watchmen another try, I haven’t seen it in a long time.

      Wow Terry Gilliam would’ve been a good choice for A Scanner Darkly and Charlie Kaufman wrote the script!? Damn I’d love to see that!

      1. Yeah, that would be something. I absolutely love Linklater’s take on it but to have Gilliam and Kaufman involved in the paranoia of Philip K. Dick would be a blast.

    1. Ted S.

      Yup I was pretty excited when Kubrick announced he was going to make A.I, his return to sci-fi, unfortunately he passed away right after the announcement. I liked Spielberg’s version but I think Kubrick would’ve done a better job with the material.

      I’ll give Watchmen another shot.

      1. I say one thing…Watchmen has one of my favorite credit sequences ever set to Dylan’s “Times Are A-Changin’ “. Snyder also gets bonus props for keeping the movie a hard R rating.

        1. Ted S.

          Yeah I like that opening too and I’m glad they made it a hard R; I’ll give the film another shot, maybe I’ll like better the second time around.

  4. Really interesting post, Ted. Nicely done. I wasn’t aware of any of these, aside from Kubrick/AI. While it would have been interesting to see what Greengrass would do with Watchmen, I thought Snyder did a surprisingly bang-up job with that one. I watched it immediately after reading the novel, and felt it was a pretty good adaptation. Perhaps time has been kind for it?

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Eric.

      Seems like I’m in the minority for not liking Snyder’s Watchmen, I too saw the film right after finishing the graphic novel. I’ll give it another shot.

  5. Awesome post Ruth! Interesting to get a quick taste of what could have been. Would have loved to see Greengrass’ take on Watchmen. And Stone’s MI:2 or Fincher’s MI:3. Wasn’t Fincher briefly attached to Spiderman before Raimi as well? That would have been cool.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Pete, yeah I pretty excited for Watchmen when Greengrass was the director attached to it.

      You can read more about how M:I-3 would’ve been like here: http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/4874/a-brief-look-at-carnahan-s-m-i-3, they talked about Carnahan’s and Fincher’s version.

      Yes Fincher was approached to direct Spiderman, from what I can recall he wanted to make it a darker film (no surprise there) and he wanted to start the story right when Stacy Gwen was killed and Peter has to live with that throughout the film.

  6. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ted and company:

    Excellent ‘What if’ reviews!

    ‘Watchmen’ suffered the same post production problems as ‘Sin City’. Lots of names tossed out. Very few takers. Snyder did a notable heavy job of getting the sets and films to look like the pages of comics. Though, overall there really wasn’t much of story there. That was too predictable.

    I would have like to have seen Bryan Singer’s take on it. Especially after his getting so much from the cast of ‘The Usual Suspects’.

    I wholeheartedly agree that Ridley Scott would have gotten much more from the shadowy, doom & gloom landscape of ‘I am Legend’.

    Any film that have Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg on the other cancels itself out. Opposite ends of the spectrum. A cooler choice would have Walter Hill. With a kind of creepy twist on ‘Streets of Fire’.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Jack,

      Yeah I remember so many A-list actors passed on the film and they settled for B and C listers. I agree that Snyder and his team did a good job of translating the look and feel of the comic to the screen, just wish the script was better.

      If you can find it online, I’d recommend you read the script of I Am Legend that was written for Scott and Arnold, it’s very good, minus the one liners intended for Arnold. I’m sure Scott would’ve fixed that.

      Walter Hill doing a sci-fi, that would’ve been interesting.

  7. Don’t forget James Cameron’s “Spider-man” and “Planet of the Apes” (both rumored to have featured Ahnuld).

    Why do you dislike “Mission: Impossible III”? I really like this film and think it was the best of the series until “Ghost Protocol.” For once, it seemed like there was a real team rather than Tom Cruise and some other guys in the background. It had a very suspenseful story that actually made sense (unlike the first film) and had a great visual style (unlike the second film–I grow weary of John Woo’s directing). I love how the opening sequence was taken from 2/3 into the film; I always appreciate non-linear storytelling. I also like how Cruise’s character was rooted in reality by getting married and actually loving his wife. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a terrific villain, too. I’m not a huge Oliver Stone fan, but I’m sure he would have done something much more interesting with “M:I 2” than Woo did, which was mostly stylistic silliness.

    By the way, I’m not sure if you meant to refer to the “happy” ending of “AI” ironically. A lot of people think that was Spielberg being syrupy, but actually it was the ending Kubrick intended, and it’s not very happy. All humans are dead, David has been resurrected after being at the bottom of the ocean for hundreds of years, and the advanced robots (thank you for recognizing that they aren’t actually aliens, as some people think) bring back his “mother” (or a semblance of her) for one last day before David dies. Because it’s presented in a sweet manner, people often think that he lives happily ever after with her, but it’s really to illustrate his emotional state (can robots have emotional states?). I always feel sad when I see that sequence.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah Cameron was in talks to make those two films you mentioned but I don’t believe he was officially attached to them. I just remember he really wanted to make Spiderman but when the property was stuck in legal issues, he decided not to pursue it.

      Your reasoning for liking M: I-3 are the reasons why I hate it. Non-linear story telling works for suspense films but I just don’t think it works for action films. Let’s face it, you know the hero will rescue the girl and kill the bad guys; no need to start the film with him being in trouble and then do a flashback. Also, M:I-3 didn’t really have a plot, so the bad guy (Hoffman) kidnapped Ethan’s protege, he rescued her but she died so he decided to kidnap the bad guy but he escaped. Then the bad guy kidnapped his wife, Ethan came to her rescue and that’s it. And I don’t really care about what the hell Rabbit Foot’s supposed to be either.

      Well that’s I why put quotations in happy, some people might see it as a happy ending and some didn’t. I prefer the film ends it with David being stuck under the ocean forever.

      1. James Cameron wrote an extended “scriptment” for “Spider-man”, which can be found here: http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/s/spider-man-scriptment.html. His involvement with “Planet of the Apes” was mostly negotiations and rumors.

        Technically speaking, the “Mission: Impossible” films are spy thrillers with specific action scenes rather than actually action flicks. Creative storytelling can work no matter what genre (look at the “flash forwards” in “The Terminator” or the nonlinear storytelling in “Batman Begins”). Also, the Rabbit’s Foot is the MacGuffin, which is just the device to get the plot moving. I felt that Ethan Hunt had a close connection to his protege and was actually choked up when she died. Also, there were true emotions between him and his wife, which added a layer of depth missing in the previous installments. I like how they continued to some degree that storyline in “Ghost Protocol.”

        1. Ted S.

          I haven’t read that script yet, is that the one where he has Doctor Octopus as the villain and he wanted Arnold for the part? I just remember he really want Leo Di Caprio to play Peter Parker. I’m just glad Cannon Pictures went bankrupt before they could make their version of Spiderman. And they hired Albert Pyan to direct it, yikes!

          Oh I understood that Rabbit Foot’s the MacGuffin, I just didn’t care for it. The reason why I wanted to see Fincher’s or Carnahan’s version is because it sounded like it has better storyline and it was going to be more “realistic” take on the genre. Who knows maybe we’ll see that version for the fifth film, Fincher’s schedule is kind of open now that Disney axed his 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake.

          I thought Ghost Protocol was great too.

          1. Yeah, I believe the Governator was lined up to play Doc Ock, which actually makes sense (though I loved Alfred Molina’s performance and think he is a much better choice). I would love to see Fincher directing an “M:I” film. I really enjoy his directorial style and I think he could add some grit to the series.

  8. I remember the Arnold/I am Legend story. Relieved it didn’t happen to be honest. Well, the Arnold part. Would have loved to have seen Ridley Scott take on the story, but have Will Smith stay as the lead. Surely they could have worked that out!

    Intrigued about the Greengrass take on Watchmen, though I really enjoyed Snyder’s version.

    Another one for the list is Tim Burton’s take on Supes with Nic Cage as the man of steel – http://io9.com/5364772/the-nic-cagetim-burton-superman-that-never-was/gallery/1

    1. Ted S.

      I wasn’t too thrill about Arnold being cast in I Am Legend back in the 90s either but would love to have seen Scott’s vision of the film. The script was closer to the novel and I don’t think Arnold could’ve pull some of the more dramatic scenes, but it also includes more action than the version with Will Smith.

      I actually wrote a behind stories on Tim Burton’s Superman, which featured on IMDB Hitlist a couple of years back. You can read it here: https://flixchatter.net/2010/07/20/a-flix-odyssey-%E2%80%93-from-vision-to-film-superman-returns/

    1. Ted S.

      Ha ha you’re probably right but when they announced the project, Arnold was still considered a box office draw so I’m sure it would’ve been a huge hit at the time.

  9. Wow Paul Greengrass with Watchmen? It certainly would have been very, very different from Zack Snyder’s version. Watchmen was a huge mess but it actually appealed to a small core of fans.

    And Ridley Scott directing I Am Legend would have been neat. Probably more hard-hitting action and no CGI vampires…

    1. Ted S.

      I’m sure Watchmen would’ve been a much better film than Snyder’s version had Greengrass directed it. Just don’t waste time reading Sam Hamm’s script, it’s awful. I think Greengrass was going to use a new script for his version, but I can’t remember.

      Oh yeah, Scott’s take on I Am Legend had a lot of action in it since it was written for Arnold. But it’s also truer to the novel, give the script a read if you can find it online, minus the one liners meant for Arnold, I thought the script was great.

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