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13 Hitchcock Films That Were Never Made

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Even legendary directors like Alfred Hitchcock don't always get their way. Over the course of his illustrious career, Hitchcock had to abandon quite a few projects due to budgetary concerns, issues with stars, the whims of studio heads or, in some cases, his own instincts that the film wasn't going to turn out the way he had envisioned it.

On what would have been The Master of Suspense's 117th birthday, let's take a look at a few of the legendary auteur's unproduced projects, including the one that studio execs hated so much, they made Hitch sign a contract promising he wouldn't make it.

1. NUMBER 13

This silent 1922 feature for Gainsborough Pictures was set to be Hitchcock's directorial debut. The film was to star Clare Greet and Ernest Thesiger in a script written by "a woman working at the studio who had worked with (Charlie) Chaplin." Hitchcock only filmed a few scenes before the budget fell through, and the script is now lost. The film of the few completed scenes is also lost, possibly because the studio melted it down to recycle the film's silver nitrate. Don't worry too much about missing out on this one, though; Hitchcock later admitted, "It wasn't very good, really."

2. NO BAIL FOR THE JUDGE

Hitchcock spent the early part of 1959 preparing to adapt Henry Cecil's novel of the same name into a film starring Audrey Hepburn. On May 19th of that year, though, Hepburn dropped out of the project, with some sources saying she was reluctant to do a film so soon after delivering a child, and others claiming she refused the part when she found out her character was involved in a rape scene. The project died when Hepburn backed out, and although Hitchcock was privately livid, he regrouped nicely by making Psycho instead.

3. THE BLIND MAN

In 1960 Hitchcock and legendary screenwriter Ernest Lehman began to work on a script called The Blind Man about a blind pianist who regains his sight after receiving an eye transplant from a murder victim. Hitchcock envisioned Jimmy Stewart in the lead role, and one of the film's main scenes was to be set in Disneyland. That's where the trouble started; Walt Disney had seen Psycho and truly hated it. Disney reportedly wouldn't let Hitchcock shoot in his park, so the project died.

4. HAMLET

In the late 1940s, Hitchcock hit on an odd idea: He wanted to produce a modernized version of Hamlet set in England with Cary Grant in the title role. According to Hitchcock, the project "would be presented as a psychological melodrama." The idea hit the rocks after Hitchcock's studio, Transatlantic, announced the project and a professor who had written a modernized version of Shakespeare's tale threatened a lawsuit.

5. FLAMINGO FEATHER

In 1956, Hitchcock bought a story called Flamingo Feather from South African author and diplomat Laurens van der Post. The plot involved a Russian scheme to train South Africans for nefarious Communist purposes. When Hitchcock went to South Africa to scout shooting locations, though, the project quickly fell apart. The director wanted Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly as the leads, which would be pricey, and he felt he needed 50,000 African extras. Hitchcock didn't love the look of the country's terrain, and it became apparent that even in South Africa it would be tough to get together 50,000 extras when most of the country's population worked long hours at farming jobs. Hitchcock later said, "It was all so confusing that I dropped the whole idea."

6. MARY ROSE

Toward the end of his career, Hitchcock frequently mentioned an unproduced 1964 film called Mary Rose whenever he was asked about his professional regrets. In Hitchcock's amazing book-length interview with François Truffaut, he describes the project as "a little like a science fiction story" and details the plot, which involves a woman who hears celestial voices and mysteriously vanishes at odd intervals.

Hitchcock put a lot of thought into this project—he even explained to Truffaut exactly how he would light certain scenes and tried to talk the French director into making the film—but the ghostly supernatural elements of the film were a non-starter for studio execs. Hitchcock revealed in another late-career interview, "Do you know, it's written specifically into my present contract that I cannot do Mary Rose?" Hitch could allegedly make any film he wanted as long as he kept the budget under $3 million—and didn't make Mary Rose.

7. R.R.R.R.

In 1965, Hitchcock hired the Italian writing duo Age and Scarpelli—perhaps best known in America for their screenplay for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—to pen a script about an Italian immigrant to America who rises in the hotel world, then sends for his Sicilian family. Unbeknownst to the hotelier, his relatives are a pack of thieves. Eventually the sticky-fingered family tries to swipe a valuable coin collection from the hotel; the title comes from numismatic jargon. Hitchcock told Truffaut, "I dropped the project because it seemed to be shapeless. Aside from that, you know that Italians are very slipshod in matters of story construction. They just ramble on."

8. THE THREE HOSTAGES

The Three Hostages is another of the unsuccessful projects at which Hitchcock took a crack after making Marnie. The film was an adaptation of John Buchan's 1924 novel of the same name in which a government plans to crack down on a criminal gang on a certain date. The gang catches wind of the plan and kidnaps three children to regain some leverage against the government.

Hitchcock announced the project, but he ended up eventually abandoning it over difficulties in obtaining the screen rights and concerns over the script's reliance on hypnotism as a plot device. He later said, "I feel you cannot put hypnotism on the screen and expect it to hold water. It is a condition too remote from the audience's own experiences."

9. KALEIDOSCOPE/FRENZY

In 1969, Hitchcock planned to make a triumphant comeback after a string of films that received middling commercial and critical reactions by making Kaleidoscope (also referred to as Frenzy), a grisly tale of a serial rapist and murderer. The film was set to feature a handsome young killer who lured women to their death; Hitchcock considered it a prequel to his 1943 tour de force Shadow of a Doubt. The script included some elements—including necrophilia and the use of acid baths to dispose of bodies—that Hitchcock had pulled from newspaper reports about notorious British criminals.

Hitchcock actually shot an hour or so of silent test footage, but Universal nixed the film as it didn't think audiences would warm to a sex- and murder-filled flick that featured a serial killer as its protagonist. Hitchcock was irritated about having to abandon the project, but he revived a few plot points and one of the working titles when he made 1972's Frenzy, a serial killer tale that may have been the director's last great film in spite of a decidedly mediocre cast.

10. THE SHORT NIGHT

Hitchcock's final project before his death in 1980 was The Short Night, an espionage picture based on a Ronald Kirkbride novel and set in Finland. Hitchcock made it as far as considering Walter Matthau, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Catherine Deneuve, and Liv Ullmann for the lead roles, but Universal squashed the project in 1979 due to the director's failing health.

11. GREENMANTLE

Hitchcock had such great luck with his adaptation of John Buchan's novel The Thirty-Nine Steps that when it came time to direct a follow-up, he decided to go back to the well with an adaptation of Buchan's novel Greenmantle. Hitchcock wanted to pair Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the lead roles, but Buchan's estate wanted too much money for the screen rights. Hitchcock eventually realized his dream pairing of Grant and Bergman with the 1946 classic Notorious.

12. THE BRAMBLE BUSH

Hitchcock spent part of 1951 adapting David Duncan's novel into a screenplay. The story involved a Communist agitator on the run from the authorities who steals another man's passport, only to learn that the man is wanted for murder. Hitchcock eventually decided "it wasn't any good," and he abandoned the idea to work on a project to which Warner Bros. had just purchased the rights: the Broadway hit Dial M for Murder.

13. THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE

Hitchcock always wanted to do a movie with Gary Cooper. He offered Cooper the lead role in Foreign Correspondent only to have the star turn it down because it was a thriller; Joel McCrea ended up memorably playing the part instead. In 1959, though, Hitchcock had another shot when MGM optioned the rights to the novel The Wreck of the Mary Deare for a Hitchcock-Cooper collaboration.

Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman spent weeks working on the script, but they eventually decided that the story really became a snooze of a courtroom drama and shifted their focus to the early planning for North by Northwest instead.

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Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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