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Guillermo del Toro's big wins for Best Director and Best Picture at the Oscars has a lot of people thinking about what the now-award-winning director will do next. And a popular sentiment seems to point back to one, daunting project that del Toro had tried to set up with Universal. No, it's not Hellboy III, it's the adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains Of Madness, which almost got off the ground with Tom Cruise as a lead, but was shut down quickly because of a big price tag and an R-rating required to make Lovecraft's hellish vision a reality.
But when you win Best Director and Best Picture with a movie that also had an R-rating, and was well received by critics and audiences, you've kind of earned yourself some clout to do whatever the hell you want on your next picture. With that in mind, here are the biggest reasons that At The Mountains of Madness should be Guillermo del Toro's next project.
Successful R-rated Tentpoles Are A Reality
When At The Mountains of Madness was originally proposed, a high-priced / R-rated film was seen as a surefire sign of disaster. When discussing the film's failure to launch with Collider a couple years back, Guillermo del Toro explained the big sticking point Universal lead with in their decision to cancel the film:
We thought we had a very good, safe package. It was $150 [million], Tom Cruise and James Cameron producing, ILM doing the effects, here's the art, this is the concept, because I really think big-scale horror would be great ... but there was a difference of opinion; the studio didn't think so. The R [rating] was what made it. If Mountains had been PG-13, or I had said PG-13 ... I'm too much of a Boy Scout, I should have lied, but I didn't.
So instead of At The Mountains of Madness, we got Pacific Rim from del Toro's bright and bold imagination. But now that films like Deadpool, Get Out, and IT have all made huge stacks of money in their own time, there's more of a case that can be made for a non PG-13 At The Mountains of Madness making a huge splash at the box office. Quite frankly, the lesson of those success stories above is that if the project has the right ingredients and/or marketing push behind it, even if it's rated R, it can be successful.
All Of The Ingredients Still Are There
Guillermo del Toro has always been known as a genre stalwart, with his chops at creating sci-fi and horror-laden stories displayed constantly at full tilt. To have that talent collaborating with Tom Cruise's amazing work ethic as a producer and actor, as well as James Cameron's influence as a friend and producer, At The Mountains of Madness is a package that's hard to say no to with the right director. And as it happens, Academy Award winner del Toro is the perfect man for the job, as he lives and breathes Lovecraft's work. Not to mention, when Cruise was asked to write a segment describing the film in del Toro's book Cabinet of Curiosities, the Mission: Impossible star made the following proclamation:
I wouldn't say At The Mountains of Madness didn't work out ... it's just going to work out when it's supposed to. ... As I told him at the time, it's not over, it's just on pause for now. I'm still determined to work with him, and one day it will happen.
When Tom Cruise wants a damned movie to happen, and the director is a newly minted Oscar winner, you try telling him it's never going to happen. Cruise still has enough clout that this could happen with his blessing, and with a script by del Toro and Crimson Peak collaborator Matthew Robbins already completed, it wouldn't take a lot of work to put this baby back in the oven and bake it to completion.
It Opens The Door Further For Genre Films To Compete
2017 showed that audiences do, indeed, flock to horror films. But for the most part, you would still have problems making a horror film with a $150 million budget, and At The Mountains of Madness needs a massive budget to fully realize Guillermo del Toro's interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft's vision. Just reading how he explained the project in the "Unfinished Projects" section of Cabinet of Curiosities, you can see how his approach to the film is both singular to himself, yet accessible to audiences, as he described it thusly:
In terms of imagination and the creation of worlds, it's one of the most compelling projects. But I also think it's a very commercial horror film.
Even if the film manages to fall short of its profitability margin, the fact that a studio gave a major horror film a chance would open doors for more lush product to be created in that, and other, genres that have been relegated to the bargain bin of budgets. Also, at least with Guillermo del Toro directing, you know that every penny of that budget is going to wind up on the screen, and this film could find itself being a high-water mark for other motivated creators to hurdle over in similarly artistic style.
This May Be The Last Chance This Movie Gets
Guillermo del Toro's fandom for H.P. Lovecraft drives his love for the prospect of At The Mountains of Madness winding up on the big screen. But, as most directors will tell you, no amount of love will save a project if the market is against it. What looked like a lost film, in a pile of ideas that del Toro already had to say goodbye to, has a second chance at life. If this movie is ever going to happen, now seems to be the ideal time to pitch the project yet again, with a script already in place and Tom Cruise excited as ever. But even the fact that Cruise's star seems to be a bit tarnished at the box office, at least as far as Universal is concerned (thanks to The Mummy), could give folks pause. So the quicker At The Mountains of Madness is put into the works, the better.
The conditions are right for a sea change in the world of horror, and if anyone could lead the charge, it's certainly Guillermo del Toro. At The Mountains of Madness, whether it be a success or a failure, would help the director exorcise this previously lost project out of his mind, freeing up room for the next big idea. But more importantly, it would help bring H.P. Lovecraft's work to light, as only a true fan of the author's work could ever do. After The Shape of Water's big success, a nice, blank check is being handed to del Toro, and he should cash it in the name of the Elder Gods and the madness they bring.