While visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has won the undying affection of fanboys and cinephiles alike with films like Hellboy and the Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, he is still haunted by the loss of his passion project, At The Mountains Of Madness.
Inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft novella, At The Mountains Of Madness would follow a pack of explorers who trek to a city hidden deep in Antarctica, but once they've uncovered it, find it holds bizarre creatures and unknown terrors. Devoted to bringing this story to the big screen, del Toro had been developing the script since 2002, but couldn't find a studio willing to provide the substantial budget he believed it required. Then Universal seemed to be the picture's savior, attaching James Cameron to produce and Tom Cruise to star…or not.
See, hot on the heels of reports that At The Mountains Of Madness had finally gotten the greenlight to go into production last year, del Toro himself stepped up to proclaim the project "dead." After the internet exploded in a wave of outcry and finger-pointing, del Toro silenced speculation by revealing the frustrating truth of At The Mountains Of Madness' demise: a fight over making it R rated. He insisted he and Universal's fight wasn't so much about the budget, but that the studio demanded he make the film a commercially appealing PG-13 affair. However, knowing how skittish the MPAA is, del Toro believed he couldn't stay true to his "intense" vision within the constraints of PG-13. And so At The Mountains Of Madness seemed a lost cause, and he moved on to Pacific Rim.
Last week, Del Toro and the Pacific Rim cast made a splash at Comic Con , and though the film won't hit theaters until next summer, the Lovecraft-loving filmmaker has already returned to talk about possibly resurrecting At The Mountains Of Madness. Speaking with Empire, he first described his anguish at the film's "collapse" as " soul-shattering" and "debilitating," detailing how the creatures and sets had been designed, the script developed, and the locations scouted before it all went belly up. Then, he gave a sign of hope, confessing:
"I think we may still make it. When I’m brave enough to go and see Prometheus, I’ll know. But for now, I don’t know. We are all nothing but human beings. I go to the theatre, I buy my ticket for Prometheus, and I go and see something else, because I’m afraid. I’m not a mental entity, I am also emotional, because the ideas are similar, from what I’ve heard, and I’ll see it next week, I promise!”
While del Toro fears Prometheus may have made his proposed At The Mountains Of Madness redundant, let's assume Universal is kicking themselves for not having faith in an R-rated sci-fi epic from an adored director. After all, Prometheus debuted strong on its opening weekend, earning $51 million and coming in second only to the kid-courting Madagasar 3. Now, just weeks later, it's already earned more than $298 million worldwide. Hopefully, it's box office and del Toro's viewing of Prometheus will encourage he and some daring studio to get At The Mountains Of Madness back off the shelf and into production.