Every filmmaker has a dream project that seems to stall in development for long periods. For Guillermo del Toro, that has been his long-gestating adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s famed novella “At the Mountains of Madness”.
For more than a decade the Oscar-winning filmmaker struggled to get the Antarctica-set project going, at one point coming incredibly close with Tom Cruise to star and James Cameron to produce.
That version however was budgeted at $150 million and would have carried an R-rating – too much of a risk at the time, especially in the wake of the for Universal Pictures who balked and scrapped it. Del Toro has, in the years since, said his commitment to making the movie will remain as long as he’s alive.
Things have changed since the last attempt. For starters, del Toro won Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars for “The Shape of Water”. Then there has been an explosion of outlets willing to spend big for more auteur-driven content and caring little about either ratings or mass appeal.
Finally, filmmaking technology has improved with things like “The Mandalorian”-style ScreenCast tech allowing for blockbuster visions to be achieved at lower budgets.
During an appearance on The Kingcast, the filmmaker revealed he hasn’t given up hope for ‘Mountains’ yet and even pitched Netflix on the project. However, he says the script needs work now that he feels like he doesn’t have to make ‘blockbuster’ compromises like he used to:
“The thing with Mountains is the screenplay I co-wrote fifteen years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite. Not only to scale it down somehow but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that would make it go through the studio machinery.
I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it. You know, where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out. Some of the big set pieces I designed, for example, I have no appetite for. Like, I’ve already done this or that giant set piece. I feel like going into a weirder direction.”
The original novel is noted not just for its effective otherworldliness, but also its ending and Del Toro plans very much to follow through on that:
“I know the ending we have is one the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings, for me. There’s about four horror set pieces that I love in the original script. So, you know, it would be my hope. I certainly get a phone call every six months from Don Murphy going ‘Are we doing this or what? Are you doing this next or what?’ and I say ‘I have to take the time to rewrite it.'”
He also indicates that should it be revived, he likely won’t bring back Tom Cruise and says: “If I can, I would go for mostly unknowns and make the journey the star.”