Fantasy Island’s Director Originally Wanted An R-Rating, But Test Screenings Changed Things

Portia Doubleday and Lucy Hale in Fantasy Island

At some point in the production of every horror movie, a choice must be made. Things can move in an R-rated direction, allowing for maximum on-screen carnage, and for characters to scream obscenities as they are being terrorized; or things can lean PG-13, resulting in the reins being pulled back on content in hopes of inviting a large audience to buy tickets. For most features, this is a decision that is made during the early phases of development, as it can have a major impact on the way things are orchestrated on set, but in the case of Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, that direction was apparently not finalized until after a first edit was presented to a test audience.

I learned this bit of behind-the-scenes trivia early last week when I had the opportunity to sit down with director Jeff Wadlow and talk with him about the making of the new feature film adaptation of the classic television show. I specifically asked about the rating of the movie and the conversations that led to Fantasy Island going for PG-13, and he explained that it was an element of the production that changed over time:

It was back in 2018 that the Blumhouse-developed take on Fantasy Island started to take shape, with Jeff Wadlow brought on to both co-write and direct, and apparently at this time the project was envisioned to have a different approach to violence and language that what we see in theaters now. As the filmmaker explained, at the very start of development he was thinking that he was going to be making an R-rated feature, but by the time it was ready to be internationally distributed it took on a bit of a different form.

Upfront I said, 'Jason Blum, the movie has to be rated R.' And it's not. That's great example of having to change and kind of go with the flow. I felt that it had to be R, and I thought I shot an R movie, but then when we showed it to an audience we were like, 'Well, it's not really that R.' And just a couple of trims and it was a PG-13.

When considering the base concept of Fantasy Island – and specifically Fantasy Island as a horror movie – it’s pretty easy to see the opportunity for R-rated shenanigans. Most adults who visit a mysterious resort where their deepest desires can be magically met aren’t going to think of things that are super appropriate for 13-year-olds. That ultimately holds true with film’s script, as the characters we meet are interested in torturing childhood bullies and living playboy lifestyles – but the trick is that the movie only goes so far in showcasing those experiences.

And apparently it wasn’t a huge deal for Jeff Wadlow to make the necessary edits to fit the new demands for the film following test screenings. While the filmmaker has dabbled in the R-rating realm before, having made Kick-Ass 2, both of his past horror titles, including CryWolf and Truth Or Dare, both ended up with PG-13 labels from the MPAA.

For those curious what a more adult-centric version of Fantasy Island may look like, Jeff Wadlow added that the “unrated” cut will be made available when the film makes its way to home video, but he also suggested that it’s not exactly a “director’s cut” given his apparently satisfaction with the feature that is now playing on the big screen. Said the director,

There'll be a slightly edgier cut that will be available later on. But the movie works, it's much more about character and emotion, and it doesn't matter if a movie's PG-13 or R – those things come through when you have great actors like we have in our film.

Starring Michael Pena, Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Ryan Hansen, Jimmy O. Yang, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, and Michael Rooker, Fantasy Island is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Up next: Lucy Hale, Michael Peña And Jeff Wadlow Talk Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.