As first reported by Deadline, Guillermo del Toro’s long-in-the-making H.P. Lovecraft adaptation At The Mountains Of Madness has imploded at Universal, with the studio balking at the last second over what was perceived to be a risky venture—despite the backing of James Cameron, a starring role for Tom Cruise, and the fact that it had way more than the standard percentage of Guillermo del Toro required to make a movie these days. Fortunately for del Toro, he managed to find something else to keep him busy, namely the Legendary Pictures monster movie Pacific Rim, a film set in a near future where humans will fight off impending apocalypse from “malevolent creatures.” Production on Pacific Rim is already underway, with an eye on a summer 2013 release date.
Still, news of another confirmed del Toro film is probably cold comfort to Lovecraft fans wondering what happened to Mountains, which del Toro has long championed as his personal passion project. Today Deadline has the answer—sort of. As del Toro reveals, he’s “as puzzled as most people are” about why Universal, once so excited about the film, suddenly cooled, although he does believe that not getting a definitive commitment from Cruise had something to do with it. He’s also aware that the film’s proposed R-rating (in order to accommodate its “intensity”) likely caused them to worry about box-office gross, but he remains steadfast that it had to be done that way—so much so that he says he’s refused offers at other studios to make it at (albeit with a lower budget) as a PG-13.
The interview is well worth reading, as del Toro candidly shares his frustrations with the MPAA and the fact that “marketers and accountants seem to be running things, and less and less of the decisions are in the hands of filmmakers,” leading to situations just like this one where an R-rated film that’s not based on a sequel or comic book can be seen as a real shot in the dark. Del Toro does offer a pale glimmer of hope for Mountains, saying that it’s possible Universal will eventually allow him to shop it elsewhere, and that Cruise is still behind his plans to make it “if the time and the opportunity present itself.” But in light of the never-ending barrage of remakes, reboots, sequels, toy and video game adaptations, and other uncreative non-gambles, seeing a studio pass on an idea like this—even with that caliber of talent involved—suggests those opportunities are definitely getting fewer and further between.