With the number of remakes, reboots, and re-imagined movies coming out of Hollywood lately, the industry seems intent on taking everything old and making it new again. And while that's hardly just a recent trend, you might be surprised at some of the films from the last few decades that started out as very different projects, only to have their scripts, characters, and other elements find new life on their way through the development cycle.
From Beverly Hills Cop to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the list of projects that began as something else entirely includes more than a few classic films, as well as some cult classics with notable origins.
1. Die Hard
We have Arnold Schwarzenegger to thank for Bruce Willis' debut as tough NYPD cop John McClane: the former Moonlighting star was only cast in the role after the Governator turned it down. The film—now considered one of the greatest action movies of all time—was originally intended to be a sequel to Schwarzenegger's testosterone-fueled Commando, and a script was commissioned based on Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, about an NYPD detective fighting German terrorists who take over a skyscraper. However, the disappointing box-office performance of Schwarzenegger's first attempt at a sequel, Conan the Destroyer, led him to drop out of Commando 2. The script was then repurposed into a standalone action film, and the rest is Hollywood history.
This violent, post-apocalyptic 1989 film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a mercenary with the musical moniker “Gibson Rickenbacker” began its production cycle as a sequel to 1987's live-action He-Man adventure Masters of the Universe. After studio Cannon Films was forced to cancel its deal with toy company Mattel for the He-Man license (as well as a deal with Marvel for a live-action Spider-Man movie), it was left with more than $2 million in costumes and sets for the project. In an effort to recoup its expenses, the studio repurposed the props and sets for a new film, and cast up-and-coming actor Van Damme as the lead. This is the reason that the movie is still occasionally labeled Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg in television listings.
3. Beverly Hills Cop
In its original incarnation, the movie that would become Beverly Hills Cop was a far more serious, action-heavy film set to star Sylvester Stallone as a Pittsburgh detective transplanted to the West Coast. After Stallone's suggested script changes met with resistance from the studio, the Rocky star was replaced by Eddie Murphy, who injected the film with much of its trademark humor due to some heavily ad-libbed comedy. Stallone later used many of the elements he had suggested for Beverly Hills Cop in his 1986 movie Cobra.
4. Die Hard With A Vengeance
If the relationship between John McClane (Bruce Willis) and Zeus Carver (Sam Jackson) feels a little familiar, that's because the third film in the Die Hard franchise began as the fourth film in the Lethal Weapon franchise, which famously stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as odd-couple cops who are always too crazy or too old, respectively, to be dealing with these types of adventures. The project was initially titled Simon Says before getting a rewrite and being repurposed into the first example of what was to become a buddy-cop theme in subsequent Die Hard films.
This upcoming film starring Anthony Hopkins began life as a standalone script that was snatched up by New Line Cinema with an eye toward making it the sequel to David Fincher's 1995 thriller Se7en. Penned by Ocean's Eleven screenwriter Ted Griffin, the Solace script follows a doctor with psychic powers who becomes involved with the investigation of a serial killer. New Line Cinema hoped to bring back Morgan Freeman as Detective William Somerset in the lead role, and call the film Ei8ht. After meeting resistance from Fincher, the project was abandoned, only to find new life years later as a standalone film—just as it was originally intended. Now back to its first title, Solace, the movie is scheduled to hit theaters in 2014.
6. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
One of the most surprising examples of one script becoming the primary source material for another, 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured an underlying narrative borrowed from the storyline for Cloverleaf, the planned third installment of Jack Nicholson's Chinatown trilogy. Nicholson's dark, crime-noir franchise was initially conceived as a three-part story that followed hardboiled detective J.J. Gittes (Nicholson) as he investigates various mysteries in and around Los Angeles during the early 20th century. The storyline for the final chapter, Cloverleaf, would find Gittes caught up in a plot to raze a portion of the city and replace the trolley-car system with a freeway—a storyline that also happens to be the central narrative of Roger Rabbit. Screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman have made no secret of the connection between their script for Roger Rabbit and the Chinatown trilogy, and named the evil company in their film “Cloverleaf Industries” as a nod to the series. Unlike Roger Rabbit, however, Cloverleaf never made it to the screen, as plans for the film were scrapped after the poor performance of the second film in the series, The Two Jakes.