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55 Unfortunately Unfinished Films

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This week, John Green looks at 55 films that never made it to the silver screen.

Don't miss an episode—subscribe here! Images and footage provided by our friends at Shutterstock. Here's a transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria Wiki: 

Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. I think my brother is about to get eaten by an anglerfish.

1. This is mental_floss on YouTube, and did you know that Martin Scorsese wanted The Clash to star in Gangs of New York before Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis came along?

So The Clash are like "Ugh, should I stay or should I go?" and then they went, or alternately, The Clash were like "I'm sorry Martin Scorsese, but London is calling." Those are both terrible jokes.

Anyway, that's the first of many tragically unfinished films that I'm going to tell you about today.

2. Both David Lynch and David Cronenberg were in consideration to make a Star Wars film, although they both claim they were only approached and nothing further.

3. And speaking of David Lynch films that were never made, Ronnie Rocket was going to be his follow up to Eraserhead. The film is about a three-foot tall man who runs on electricity. In a 2013 interview, Lynch said that he's still open to making the film actually but fears not being able to find the industrial-looking locations that he needs. He claimed, quote, "Cheap storm windows and graffiti have ruined the world for Ronnie Rocket."

4. There are a couple films that couldn't be completed because a star died halfway through the shooting process, like the 1962 movie Something's Got to Give which would have starred Marilyn Monroe.

5. Then there's the famously cursed adaptation of the great comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces, like when John Belushi was cast in 1982 and then died. The role was given to John Candy in 1994 and then he died. The same thing happened to Chris Farley in 1997. What is this?! And then, a few years later, Will Ferrell hoped to star in the film but it still looks like it's not going to get made. I-I-I-I … just don't die Will Ferrell. I need you in Anchor Man 5.

6. In 1989, Sergio Leone, the director of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, had secured 100 million dollars in financing for his war epic Leningrad, which he wanted to star Robert De Niro, but Leone died mere months before they were going to start production.

7. And then there's the Disney version of The Little Prince, which was written by none other than Orson Welles and storyboarded in the 1930s, but then never made.

8., 9., 10. There have been a few other Disney movies that weren't ever made, including an adaption of Roald Dahl's The Gremlins, a 2009 remake of Yellow Submarine, and Uncle Stiltskin, the story of Rumplestiltskin.

11., 12. Orson Welles also tried to adapt Heart of Darkness into a film before it was rejected by his studio, RKO, for being too costly. He then attempted to take on an adaption of The Smiler With a Knife starring Lucille Ball which RKO also rejected. The film he then made? Citizen Kane.

13. When Orson Welles died, by the way, he left behind 300,000 feet of his film for Don Quixote which, if you've ever actually read Don Quixote, is kind of hilarious … but also tragic. Like the book! He made several films for the sole purpose of financing Don Quixote and he spent, like, 30 years trying to shoot and complete the project in locations like Mexico and Spain and Italy, but then he died.

14. The 1990s saw the development of a Tim Burton-directed and Kevin Smith-written film titled Superman Lives starring none other than Nic Cage as Superman and also, presumably, Clark Kent. Luckily for our imaginations, photos of Cage as Superman have leaked online; unluckily, copyright law prevents us from showing them to you.

15., 16. The were a bunch of Spider-Man movies that were never made, like a fourth film in the Tobey Maguire series which started and stopped production, and also a 1991 film written and directed by James Cameron in which Spider-Man lives on an ocean liner and is 8 feet 6 inches tall and blue.

17., 18., 19., 20., 21., 22. Other abandoned superhero movies that made it into various stages of production and planning include Plastic ManThe FlashGreen ArrowDazzler, and Silver Surfer, which I would still like to see, but that's nothing compared to a 1965 Batman versus Godzilla movie that was never made. I mean, how can you not revive that project, Hollywood? You made the movie Battleship. Please, if not that, at least 1964's Godzilla versus Frankenstein. Here are some other A-number-1 ideas, Hollywood: Batman versus Duckie, Batman versus Boba Fett, and Batman versus Dwight Eisenhower.

23. Bradley Cooper was supposed to play Lucifer in an adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost but the special effects budget was too large for Legendary Pictures to handle. I mean, there are a lot of flying angels in that book, so production stopped in 2012.

24. Francis Ford Coppola spent almost 20 years planning a science fiction film titled Megalopolis. He even had 30 hours of footage filmed, specifically sequences of New York pre- and post-9/11. A major part of the film's plot involved rebuilding New York, so after 9/11, Coppola stated, "I feel as though history has come to my doorstep." But then production got too expensive and stopped later in 2001, so … so much for history at your doorstep, dude.

25. Before David Lynch adapted Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to make the film in the 1970s starring some people you might have heard of, like Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dali. He also wanted Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack. Again, finances made the film impossible, which makes sense because apparently Dali insisted to be paid 100,000 dollars per hour. Ridley Scott was later hired to make Dune but had to drop out so we got David Lynch, which, you know, not so bad.

26. Mel Gibson was preparing to make an adaption of Fahrenheit 451 in 2006 but you may remember that there were other things going on in Mel Gibson's life in 2006 so, yeah, no.

27. In 1971, Stanley Kubrick wrote to a colleague, "It's impossible to tell you what I'm going to do except to say that I expect to make the best movie ever made." We'll never know if he was right because Napoleon never went into production. The budget was around 5.2 million dollars, which is like 33 million dollars in today's terms, and the Romanian Army had even agreed to be in the battle scenes because, you know, this was pre-CGI, but Kubrick couldn't get the money together. He continued to work on the movie until his death in 1999, collecting one of the world's largest and most comprehensive archives about Napoleon inside of his own house, and the saga isn't over yet because Steven Spielberg hopes to make a miniseries from Kubrick's script.

28. Ridley Scott planned to adapt Cormac McCarthy's violent novel Blood Meridian but later stated, "I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel," which, by the way, is what many hundreds of movie producers have said about my book, Looking for Alaska, in the last ten years.

29. David Fincher worked for a long time on a remake of the film Heavy Metal but he couldn't get it made because it was impossible to get a studio to sign on to an R-rated cartoon. Even after famous directors agreed to join the project like James Cameron, Zack Snyder, who directed 300, and Gore Verbinski, who directed Pirates of the Caribbean, Fincher still couldn't get the project going.

30. Peter Jackson hired Neill Blomkamp to direct a movie based on the Halo video game series, but the movie stopped production in 2006, and then Jackson and his partner felt really bad for Blomkamp so they helped him get 30 million dollars for his passion project which would become the Oscar-nominated District 9. Moral of the story? Get Peter Jackson to feel bad for you because then he'll find you 30 million dollars.

31. In the 1960s, John Lennon desperately wanted to play the role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Paul McCartney would be Frodo, Ringo Starr would be Sam, and George Harrison would be Gandalf and no, I am not making this up. Stanley Kubrick was approached to direct the movie but J. R. R. Tolkien owned the movie rights to his book and wouldn't allow the project to happen. You monster! I'm just going to put this out there right now: If the boys from One Direction want to star in a movie version of An Abundance of Katherines, I'm in.

32. You guys remember when I compared One Direction to the Beatles? Sometimes movies do get made but then they're lost, which is what happened to Quentin Tarantino's 1987 film My Best Friend's Birthday. Only 36 out of 70 minutes of the film survived due to an unfortunate fire.

33. What?! They're both boy bands! Alright, another example of an apparently lost film is Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales, one of Richard Pryor's first movies. For years, it was rumored that Pryor's wife destroyed the film's negatives, never to be seen again, but then in 2005, a Director's Guild film retrospective apparently featured clips from the movie, so is it gone forever? We still don't know.

34. One of the biggest mysteries to film fans is The Day the Clown Cried from 1972. Jerry Lewis directed and starred in his first serious film about a clown entertaining children in a Nazi concentration camp. The film was finished but Lewis never allowed it to be released for still unknown reasons.

35. In 1977, the great Roger Ebert wrote a screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? which would have been similar to the Beatles' films but starred the Sex Pistols. Two days into filming, production stopped due to financial problems but Ebert posted the screenplay on his blog in 2010.

36. Before Martin Scorsese made the Oscar-nominated film The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan wanted to make a Howard Hughes biopic starring Jim Carrey. After the fact, the director said, "Luckily, I managed to find another wealthy, quirky character who is orphaned at a young age." That character was, of course, Batman.

37., 38.  Sylvester Stallone has been trying to direct a movie about Edgar Allan Poe for like, forever; he envisions Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead role, but if they can't pull that together, might I suggest that they revive the unfilmed script Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula. I mean, imagine the possibilities, and also the GIFs, and further, the GIFs.

39-55. And we return to the salon to finish up with some movie sequels which were in various stages of planning and production before they were canceled, like E.T. 2: Nocturnal FearsAirplane IIIGladiator 2Mrs. Doubtfire 2Elf 2: Buddy Saves ChristmasChinatown, which was supposed to be the start of a trilogy, The Breakfast Club sequel, Forrest Gump 2: Gump and Co.Brazzaville, the sequel to CasablancaBasic Instinct 3, directed by—who else?—Sharon Stone, Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?—Mark, that one isn't real, is it? Seriously Dude, Where's My Car? How did that not get made? We just gotta put that one on Kickstarter and it'll get done like that. Then there's Kill Bill: Volume 3Twister 3DGremlins 3DThe Matrix 4Napoleon Dynamite 2, and Beetlejuice 2: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.

Thanks for watching mental_floss here on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people. Every week, we endeavor to answer one of your mind-blowing questions. This week's question comes from James Whiteford who asks, "Can sharks really smell blood a mile away?" Yes. In fact, according to National Geographic, great white sharks can smell blood from 3 miles away and that, my friends, is why you don't swim in the ocean—well, and also because it contains a lot of mussel sperm, as you'll no doubt remember from that video. You can submit your mind-blowing questions and comments. Also, let us know which of these films you would most like to have seen. I know already, it's Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?

Thank you for watching and as we say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.

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© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
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10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite
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© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that last year Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. Here are 10 sweet facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. DEB IS BASED ON JERUSHA HESS.

Jared Hess’ wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.’” 

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. “The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me,” she told Rolling Stone. “Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before.”

2. NAPOLEON'S FAMOUS DANCE SCENE MANIFESTED FROM THE SHORT FILM.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.” 

Heder told The Huffington Post he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt “pressure” to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. FANS STILL FLOCK TO PRESTON, IDAHO TO TOUR THE MOVIE’S LOCATIONS.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. IDAHO ADOPTED A RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE FILMMAKERS.

Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. NAPOLEON WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF NERD. 

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told The Huffington Post. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. THE TITLE SEQUENCE FEATURED SEVERAL DIFFERENT SETS OF HANDS.

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. THE MOVIE MESSED UP NETFLIX’S ALGORITHMS.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. NAPOLEON ACCIDENTLY GOT A BAD PERM.

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LAFAWNDUH’S REAL-LIFE FAMILY STARRED IN THE MOVIE.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A SHORT-LIVED ANIMATED SERIES ACTED AS A SEQUEL.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

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James Cameron is Making a Documentary to Reassess the Accuracy of Titanic
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20th Century Fox

While making the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, James Cameron was a stickler for the details. The writer-director wanted his homage to the tragic ocean liner to be as historically accurate as possible, so he organized dives to the site, solicited experts to analyze his script, and modeled the set off photographs and plans from the Titanic's builders. He even recreated the ocean liner’s original furnishings, right down to the light fixtures. Now, 20 years after the film’s release, E! News reports that Cameron will scrutinize the film’s authenticity in an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

Titanic: 20th Anniversary is slated to air in December 2017. It will feature Cameron and a team of experts who, together, will evaluate the film's accuracy using new historical and scientific insights about the ship's fateful sinking on April 15, 1912.

"When I wrote the film, and when I set out to direct it, I wanted every detail to be as accurate as I could make it, and every harrowing moment of the ship's final hours accounted for," Cameron said in a statement. "I was creating a living history; I had to get it right out of respect for the many who died and for their legacy. But did I really get it right? Now, with National Geographic and with the latest research, science, and technology, I'm going to reassess."

It's not the first time Cameron has revisited his Oscar-winning epic; in 2012, the director made some tweaks to the film for its 3-D re-release after receiving some criticism from renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen," Cameron explained. “And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in." So he changed it.

In the case of Titanic: 20th Anniversary, Cameron and his team will give viewers an updated interpretation of the Titanic’s sinking, and reexamine the wreck using new underwater footage, computer-generated simulation, and research. They’ll also scrutinize some of the film’s most famous scenes, and provide biographical context about the filming process.

We’re sure fans, historians, and, of course, Kate and Leo, will approve.

[h/t Mashable]

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