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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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15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride
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It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man Cary Elwes was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film, which was released 30 years ago today.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes' stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it," he said.

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for, at least tap him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

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Attention Aspiring Filmmakers: Martin Scorsese Is Teaching an Online Class
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MasterClass

Since launching his career 50 years ago, Martin Scorsese has inspired countless fans to get into the moviemaking business. Now aspiring directors looking for a place to start can receive guidance from the legendary director himself. Beginning early next year, Martin Scorsese will lead his own filmmaking course through the online education platform MasterClass.

MasterClass is best known for offering classes taught by instructors who have already risen to the top of their respective fields. An architecture course from Frank Gehry, a music composition course from Hans Zimmer, and a tennis course from Serena Williams are just a few of the listings in the catalog. The company has also recruited several famous filmmakers in the past, including Aaron Sorkin and Werner Herzog, but Scorsese—the iconic director behind such classics as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and Goodfellas (1990) is in a league of his own.

Scorsese’s MasterClass includes more than 20 video lessons that pupils will be able to watch at their desired pace. They will also have the chance to upload their own videos and receive feedback from classmates, with Scorsese answering select questions.

"I was excited by this project because it gave me a chance to pass down my own inspirations and experiences and practices and evolutions,” the Oscar-winning director said in a release. “It was so important for me to have people that passed down their own knowledge when I was young, and MasterClass has given me an opportunity to try it myself.”

Prospective students can pre-enroll for $90 today to receive unlimited access to the course when it goes live in 2018.

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