Hasitha Fernando with ten absurd film sequels which almost happened…
Hollywood truly is a strange place. For every bona fide film spewed forth from its creative bowels, there is an equally absurd sequel that ‘almost’ happened. And the best part is, some of these abysmal ideas get green lit in the first place, even reaching their early pre-production stages before being shelved for good. So, let us clear away the cobwebs that obscure and dive into Hollywood’s murky past to have a look at 10 absurd film sequels which nearly happened.
E.T. 2: NOCTURNAL FEARS
Hot on the heels of their success with the blockbuster hit E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, director Steven Spielberg and co-writer Melissa Mathison penned a nine-page treatment which would have served as a framework of sorts for a potential sequel, mere days after the original films release. Titled Nocturnal Fears, the story would have seen Elliot and friends encounter E.T’s less family friendly cousins. This vicious group of carnivorous albinos from outer space would abduct and violently interrogate the little kids, in an effort to establish the whereabouts of their pudgy little alien companion. Eventually E.T. does show up to rescue Elliot & co. from their grim fate, but once again takes off to space without explanation just as suddenly as he had appeared.
Thankfully all notions of pursuing said project further was scuttled by the head honcho himself, as Spielberg wisely chose not to steer his timeless children’s classic into darker territories. “I think a sequel to E.T. would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity,” admitted Spielberg during a dialogue at the American Film Institute a few years back. Quite strangely the origin of E.T.’s premise can be traced back to one of Spielberg’s previously unproduced sci-fi horror films from the late 1970’s called Night Skies, which was a loose retelling of the famous Kelly-Hopkinsville UFO encounter of 1955 involving a family terrorized by aliens.
FORREST GUMP 2: GUMP & CO.
Even though Forrest Gump was released over two decades ago it’s legacy still continues to endure, with much of its success owed to Tom Hank’s memorable take on the titular character. Forrest Gump follows the story of a young man with intellectual disability who simply happens to be ‘at-the-right -place-at-the-right-time’ inevitably becoming part of many historically important events in the process. In 1995 a few months following Forrest Gump’s successful award-winning streak at the Oscars, Winston Groom the author of the original novel released its sequel Gump & Co.
Veteran screenwriter Eric Roth who garnered the Oscar for adapting Groom’s first book took a crack at translating his second effort as well, turning in his final draft on September 10th 2001. The very next day the entire world came to a shocking standstill with the brutal 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many film productions came to a grinding halt in the wake of this tragedy and Gump & Co. was one of them which didn’t progress past the initial scripting stages. In an interview with /Film in 2008 Roth had this to say about the project, “I turned in the script the night before 9/11. And we sat down-Tom [Hanks] and Robert [Zemeckis] and I- looked at each other and said, we don’t think this is relevant anymore. Now time has obviously passed, but maybe some things should be just one thing and left as they are.” Truer words were never spoken.
GLADIATOR 2: CHRIST KILLER
Ever since Ridley Scott’s swords and sandals epic was released 20 years ago rumors of a potential sequel have been floating around from time to time. During the film’s 20th Anniversary celebrations this year, one of its producers even confirmed that the long gestating project was yet ‘very much alive’ and that Ridley Scott was still heavily involved in its creative process. But out of the strange and unusual rumors swirling around this project the most controversial development undoubtedly concerns the involvement of Australian musician Nick Cave and the subsequent script he churned up for it.
Cave’s weirdly off-kilter plot centers around a dead Maximus lost in purgatory who is tasked with killing off Christ at the behest of ye olde Greek gods, who feel threatened by this new messiah’s sudden rise in popularity as a religious figure. Granted, Cave is no slouch in the screenwriting department, having crafted some damn fine scripts over the years, but holy shit if this isn’t a whole new level of weird.
JURASSIC PARK 4
Way back in the mid 2000’s Steven Spielberg was very interested in making a sequel to Jurassic Park 3 and this was discussed for over a decade in varying stages of development with nothing solid materializing… or so we thought. During this time period of prolonged stasis, a script started circulating around the internet but its contents were so far-fetched that no one in their right minds even believed it was real. Turns out this script was an official project penned by writer John Sayles that got hijacked from Spielberg’s emails. Sayles is a well-recognized scribe who’s put his unique stamp on several cult-favorite creature features like Piranha and The Howling, so the studio reaching out to someone of his caliber was a bit of a no-brainer.
His version of Jurassic Park 4 would have centered around Swiss corporate villainy, soldiers of fortune, drug traffickers and… a pack of hybridized Deinonychus spliced with human and dog DNA bred for military purposes. And that ain’t even the best part of Sayles’ outlandish premise. The best part incorporates the afore mentioned weaponized dinosaurs getting parachuted out of airplanes to thwart a hostage situation during the film’s epic action finale. ‘Crazy’ doesn’t even come close to describing some of the concepts they were playing around with here, and although Sayle’s effort didn’t advance beyond the initial scripting stage, it’s quite apparent that some of the ideas from his unfilmed screenplay did find its way into the current Jurassic World series, albeit in a more acceptable watered-down fashion, and thank God for that.
The late 90’s was a weird time for all Batman fans the world over. After Tim Burton’s darker, gothic heavy approach to the character Warner Bros. decided to clip his wings (no pun intended) and take the caped crusader in a vastly different direction. Director Joel Schumacher ditched the grim tone of the franchise’s previous outings in favor of a campier, over-the-top take on the property. As a result, we were blessed with a neon-fueled, hyper stylized Gotham replete with its titular character donning a nippled Bat-suit. Despite the mixed response by critics Batman Forever turned out to be a massive success for Warner Bros. who immediately decided to fast-track the development of its sequel-Batman & Robin. The studio further impressed by the film’s dailies immediately hired Schumacher to reprise his director’s duties for a third film, eyeing a mid-1999 release date.
Things didn’t quite pan out as planned as Batman & Robin unexpectedly became a critical and commercial failure when it debuted. The scrapped project titled Batman Unchained (a.k.a. Batman Triumphant) would have seen the villainous duo of Harley Quinn and Scarecrow team up to take down Bats, driving him crazy and having him committed to Arkham Asylum. But where Mark Protosevich’s script deviates the most is with Harley Quinn’s character, who instead of being a renowned psychiatrist, would have been a toymaker whose father was the late Crown Prince of Crime from Burton’s original. Pop-icon Madonna was rumored to play Harley Quinn, while Nicolas Cage was apparently eyed for the role of Scarecrow. Yep, those were strange times indeed.
The release of 1992’s Death of Superman comic-book story arc, not only revived the Superman comics but also renewed studio interest over said property, which was put on ice for nearly two decades following the disastrous debut of Superman IV: Quest for Peace. Tim Burton, who was the chief creative force that brought to life the uber-successful Batman film of 1989 for Warner Bros., was eyed to revamp this new take on the Big Blue Boy scout. After multiple writer’s took unsuccessful stabs at the property Kevin Smith of Clerks fame decided to have a crack at it. The studio impressed with Smith’s pitch officially signed him on to pen the film’s script, but little did he know of the problems that lay ahead. Biggest of which was in the form of producer Jon Peters, who had a penchant for bizarre creative impulses. Peters’ had three strange requirements that Smith needed to fulfill in his story. Firstly, Superman should not wear his signature blue spandex suit, secondly, he should not fly and finally the film’s finale must conclude with Supes squaring off against a giant spider!
urprisingly Smith was able to amalgamate these absurd requests into his script, but Burton unfortunately wasn’t a big fan, and so with the assistance of writer Wesley Strick, Burton crafted a new story focusing primarily on Superman’s otherworldly origins. Academy award winner Nicolas Cage was cast to bring to life a more angst-ridden iteration of Supes who was at odds with his place in the world and where he belongs to. Production even went so far as to have costume fittings for Cage, but Warner Bros. got cold feet, being at the receiving end of multiple box-office duds at the time, and decided to scuttle the project.
SE7EN 2: EI8HT
Ever since this stylish yet bleak neo-noir crime thriller debuted in 1995, very few films have been able to achieve the pop-culture status that it has over the years. Due to the astounding critical and commercial success it earned at the time of its release, one would assume that New Line would have fast-tracked the development of a potential sequel, but that isn’t what happened. The studio took over a decade for to decide what to do with the property and in 2002 announced the official development of a sequel to the film, tentatively titled Ei8ht. I know, how utterly original right? It turns out the way forward, as decided by producers, was not to craft an ‘actual’ sequel to the original but rather to retool a pre-existing script to suit their requirements. The script in question was a murder mystery cum thriller titled Solace, penned by Ocean’s Eleven scribe Ted Griffin which explored a psychic police detective chasing down a-you guessed it- psychic killer!
Now any person with half a brain will immediately tell you that the above premise is absolutely nothing like the dark crime drama crafted by writer Andrew Kevin Walker, but the powers that be apparently saw a connection and voila! However, by a queer quirk of fate Ei8ht ended up being scrapped by the studio and a few years later Solace was released as a standalone film in 2015 starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell. The tepid response that film received makes one heave a sigh of relief for what could have been, if Hollywood didn’t pull the plug.
FERRIS BUELLER: ANOTHER DAY OFF
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the quintessential 80’s teen-comedy, period. It’s true that writer-director John Hughes’ was responsible for similar coming-of-age classics like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink from that era, but the fact of the matter is that Ferris Bueller will always remain his most beloved effort. Filled with memorable characters, instantly quotable one-liners and fourth-wall breaking shenanigans, the film became a critical and box-office success while also launching the 20’s something Matthew Broderick into super-stardom. Looking at the lack of original content in the modern era its certainly is a surprise as to ‘why’ Hollywood didn’t fast-track a sequel to this successful film, but the biggest doubt everyone probably had was whether Hughes and co. would be able to catch lightening in a bottle twice.
This singular doubt was perhaps the reason why neither Hughes nor Broderick seriously committed to exploring the possibility of a sequel in the first place. But according to actor Jefferey Jones, Hughes actually did have an outline planned out for the titular character, with the story taking place in Hawaii. All further plans were abandoned however, when Broderick showed no interest in reprising his iconic role. In 2011 a supposed Ferris Bueller sequel script penned by Arizona based screenwriter Rick Rapier went viral reigniting interest in the project. It would have seen a 40-year-old Ferris experiencing a midlife crisis, attempting to engage in similar bouts of mischief like in the original. Despite public interest over Rapier’s script Hughes’ demise two years prior certainly must have halted things from proceeding further, and ten years later it’s hard to imagine things ever falling into place for a potential sequel… even in the near or far flung future.
ROGER RABBIT 2: THE TOON PLATOON
Originally released in 1988 Roger Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit was an innovative groundbreaking piece of filmmaking which combined live-action elements with animation to bring to life a plethora of colorful characters. It struck a chord with audiences of the era becoming the second highest grossing film of the year, and garnered six Academy award nominations going on to win three. In 1989 Spielberg entertained the possibility of a potential sequel and as a result sitcom writer Nat Mauldin was hired to draft a screenplay tentatively titled Roger Rabbit 2: The Toon Platoon.
Mauldin’s prequel story would have focused on the titular characters early years, set in the backdrop of World War II as Roger embarked on a journey to find his mother as well as attempting to rescue his wife-to-be Jessica from the evil clutches of Nazi Germans later on. Shenanigans similar in tone to the original involving toons would have been rampant in this proposed sequel as well, only this time they would have been in the military, fighting in the trenches of Nazi occupied Europe! Yep, the premise is as bonkers as it sounds, and it’s not a surprise Spielberg didn’t warm up to the material following his Schindler’s List directing gig. Several script rewrites and dissatisfying tests footage efforts later the project was abandoned, as fears of the film’s budget ballooning out of control didn’t sit well with Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Sometimes it’s best to leave certain universally loved classics like Who Framed Roger Rabbit alone, instead of ruining their reputation with pedestrian follow-ups.
CASABLANCA 2: RETURN TO CASABLANCA
Casablanca is a seminal classic from the Hollywood’s Golden era, of that there is no doubt. Highly regarded as one of the greatest film’s ever produced with multiple Academy awards to its name, it too had its own fair share of proposed sequels and spin-off movies which nearly happened, over the years. Although the closest Casablanca ever came to a potential sequel is with the tentatively titled Brazzaville, it is concerning Return to Casablanca that the most interesting developments took place.
Sometime in the 80’s Casablanca writer Howard Koch penned a treatment for the sequel. The story would have followed the journey of Richard, the illegitimate child of Rick and Ilsa from the original as he goes about trying to locate his biological father somewhere in the middle-east. Koch’s intention was to include the surviving cast members from the first film into it but unfortunately this didn’t materialize as Ingrid Bergman passed away in 1982 and Koch breathed his last 1995. In 2012, Koch’s treatment was rediscovered by Cass Warner, granddaughter of Warner Bros. co-founder and taking an instant liking to it, she approached the studio with a view of producing it for them. WB wisely declined then and hopefully these sentiments will never falter with the passage of time.
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.