Guillermo Del Toro had a vision. He would create a new breed of horror film that played to the sensibilities of an indie crowd demanding a classy and unfiltered story while reflecting the polish of a 3D big budget studio event film with cutting edge technology and effects. He would accomplish this by adapting HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness with Tom Cruise and Ron Perlman attached to star with a lofty $150 million budget. It was a vision that he compared to Hitchcock’s when the legendary director developed The Birds.
Guillermo stepped away from The Hobbit films to chase this vision after that project was held up in legal limbo under the weight of MGM’s bankruptcy proceedings. The bitter irony is cameras are getting ready to roll on The Hobbit and At the Mountains of Madness has been closed for business.
An email to New Yorker’s Daniel Zalewski from Guillermo late Monday night reads simply, “Madness has gone dark. The ‘R’ did us in.” With those 9 words a vision was blindfolded and a gifted director remains without a film to direct.
It’s hard to blame Universal Studios for not wanting to take a chance on Guillermo’s vision. They’ve already invested heavily in Hasbro’s Battleship film and have the R-rated comedy Paul coming up. Both of those are big gambles for a studio that’s dropped many bombs the past several years including fanboy friendly but mass audience shunned Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Deadline suggests that Universal would need to make $500 million in worldwide box office business to recoup the production and marketing costs of At the Mountains of Madness. Would anyone in their right mind take that kind of gamble on an R-rated horror film that has creatures chasing explorers in the Arctic? Universal is having a hard enough time right now getting The Thing 2 into theaters and that also involves a monster chasing explorers in the snow.
The last 5 films Guillermo have directed grossed a combined total of $256.1 million. At the Mountains of Madness would need to perform at least ten times better at the box office than Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, or Blade 2.
I’m a big fan of Guillermo and have made quite a few people who hate subtitles and horror sit through The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. As much as I would have liked to see Guillermo bring At the Mountains of Madness to life, there’s no way Universal would have turned a profit if they green lit his R-rated vision.