12 Proposed Movie Sequels That Thankfully Never Happened
Some movies can benefit from a sequel. It’s a Wonderful Life is not one of them. Still, that tiny fact didn’t stop producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth from telling Variety that a sequel—It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story, focused on George Bailey’s not-so-wonderful grandson—was in the works for the 2015 holiday season. Paramount’s reaction to the news was swift and clear: “No project relating to It's A Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount,” the company said in a statement. “To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”
While unoriginal sequels have become commonplace, there are still some films that remain sacred, despite the sometimes decades of persistent rumors that a sequel is in the works. (We’re looking at you, Goonies.) Here are 12 other proposed movie sequels that fortunately never happened.
1. E.T. II: NOCTURNAL FEARS
Call it a case of ’80s greed. Just over a month after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial opened and stirred up an unexpected box office bonanza, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison came up with a concept for a follow-up film. Their idea? A ship full of evil, carnivorous aliens (their words) kidnap Elliott and his friends, and it’s up to E.T. to save them. (You can read Spielberg and Mathison’s full treatment here.)
Spielberg realized rather quickly that taking his iconic alien into darker territory was a bad idea. “Sequels can be very dangerous because they compromise your truth as an artist,” he recently said. “I think a sequel to E.T. would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity. People only remember the latest episode, while the pilot tarnishes.”
2. RETURN TO CASABLANCA
Rick’s final line in Casablanca—“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”— left the door open for a continuation of Rick and Ilsa’s love story (or at least more of Rick). Shortly after the film’s release, Warner Bros. began work on a sequel, Brazzaville, which only ever made it to the treatment phase. Small-screen versions in 1955 and 1983 were short-lived. And a few of the original film’s screenwriters (there were a handful of them) have tried their hardest to keep the story going, too. In 1980, Howard Koch wrote a treatment for Return to Casablanca, in which Ilsa’s young son searches for his father (spoiler alert: it’s not Victor)! In early 2013, another sequel treatment—this one by Murray Burnett, who wrote the play upon which the film is based—was discovered. This one reunites Rick and Ilsa just three years after the original film ends. Warner Bros. passed on the idea years ago, but the pages were intriguing enough to memorabilia collector Albert Tapper that he purchased them from Burnett’s widow. “It's a great collectible,” Tapper noted, “a typewritten original with a coffee cup stain on the cover.” Collectible? Yes. But a viable idea that will ever make its way to the silver screen? Probably not.
3. FORREST GUMP 2: GUMP & CO.
Six months after Tom Hanks took home a Best Actor Oscar for Forrest Gump, author Winston Groom released Gump & Co., a sequel to the novel upon which the film was based. Meta in a way that the original book had no right to be (the follow-up book starts out with Forrest telling the reader, “Don't never let nobody make a movie of your life's story”), Gump & Co. offers more of the same guy-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time shenanigans that the first book (and movie) did: Forrest invents New Coke, crashes the Exxon Valdez, and knocks down the Berlin Wall. Which, of course, set the Hollywood Hills alive with the sound of “sequel.” Eric Roth returned to pen the script, which he turned in the night before 9/11. “We sat down—Tom [Hanks] and Bob [Zemeckis] and I—looked at each other and said, we don’t think this is relevant anymore. The world had changed,” Roth told /Film in 2008. “Now time has obviously passed, but maybe some things should just be one thing and left as they are.”
4. THE BREAKFAST CLUB: 10 YEARS LATER
Though no sequel was ever made from a Brat Pack film, it wasn’t for lack of ideas or wanting. John Hughes expressed a strong desire to revisit several of his iconic characters, including the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal that made up The Breakfast Club. Hughes’ original idea was to catch up with the gang a decade after the original film, but he ended up losing interest in the project over time, telling the Hartford Courant in 1999, “There's no excuse that could ever put them in the same room ever again. There isn't anything in their lives after high school relevant to that day.”
5. FERRIS BUELLER 2: ANOTHER DAY OFF
As if a failed television series weren’t enough, revisiting Ferris Bueller on his 40th birthday was yet another thing on John Hughes’ to-do list. And there’s even a script, penned by Rick Rapier, which sees Ferris (now a motivational speaker) facing a midlife crisis as he approaches the big 4-0. So he enlists Cameron, now his business manager, to play hooky for a day and party like it’s 1986. Considering that it would be difficult to make a Ferris Bueller sequel without Matthew Broderick—who is now in his early 50s—and that it has been four years since Hughes’ untimely passing, seeing this long-gestating project come to fruition seems unlikely.
6. GLADIATOR 2: Christ Killer
We’re not sure which part is stranger: that when talks of a Gladiator sequel came about, studio executives approached musician Nick Cave to write it. That John Logan wrote a version of the script, too. Or that it never got made it all.
In July, the rocker finally set the record straight on WTF with Marc Maron. Basically, it was all true!
Cave explained that it was his good friend Russell Crowe who approached him about the project. Cave had one question: “‘Hey Russell, didn't you die in Gladiator 1?’ ‘Yeah, you sort that out,’” Cave recalled of their original conversation. So he came up with an idea for Maximum: “He goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there’s this one god, there’s this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity and so the many gods are dying so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and his followers… I wanted to call it Christ Killer and in the end you find out that the main guy was his son so he has to kill his son and he was tricked by the gods. He becomes this eternal warrior and it ends with this 20-minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild. It was a stone cold masterpiece.”
Cave also recalled Crowe’s reaction: “Don’t like it, mate.”
“I enjoyed writing it very much because I knew on every level that it was never going to get made,” Cave said. “Let’s call it a popcorn dropper.”
7. ELF 2
In 2005, Will Ferrell nabbed the number 18 spot on Forbes’ Top 100 Celebrities list after banking $40 million in one year alone. But Ferrell made it clear that he wasn’t in Hollywood simply for the hefty paychecks when he turned down $29 million to make Elf 2. “Twenty-nine million [dollars] does seem [like] a lot of money for a guy to wear tights, but it's what the marketplace will bear,” Ferrell told The Guardian in 2006. He went on to note the decision to say no to a sequel—or such a massive payday—“wasn't difficult at all. I remember asking myself: Could I withstand the criticism when it’s bad and they say, ‘He did the sequel for the money'? I decided I wouldn't be able to. I didn't want to wander into an area that could erase all the good work I've done.” He also said no to Old School Dos. “But you watch,” Ferrell noted. “I'll do some sequel in the future that’s crap.”
David Fincher made his feelings on a sequel to Se7en clear when asked whether he would be involved in Ei8ht by an audience member at an event for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at New York City’s Lincoln Center. “I would be less interested in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes,” he stated. “I keep trying to get out from under my own shadow… I don’t want to do the same shit over and over.” Neither Brad Pitt nor Morgan Freeman were interested either. But the studio already had a script, about a psychic working with the FBI to help track a serial killer, and they weren’t ready to drop it into the shredder just yet. So they did a little tinkering and turned the film into Solace, which bears the same premise but nothing to do with Se7en. It will arrive in theaters next year with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell.
9. THE MATRIX 4
Anything is possible in The Matrix—numbers four and five. On January 24, 2011, entertainment writers went wild after learning that Keanu Reeves had confirmed that there would be at least two more entries in The Matrix franchise during a speech he was giving at the London International School of Performing Arts. There was just one problem: Keanu Reeves was never at the London International School of Performing Arts. The whole sequel excitement—which many publications around the globe picked up and ran with—was just a hoax. Reeves’ reps told The Playlist that “none of it is true… he did not speak nor get an award from the London International School of Performing Arts.” Oops.
10. THE GODFATHER 4
You can’t blame Paramount executives from toying with the idea of adding yet another Godfather film to the franchise, if only to make up for the bad taste left in audiences' mouths following the third installment. But it’s also not possible without Francis Ford Coppola. When asked about a long-rumored sequel in 2012, Andy Garcia agreed that “It’s in Francis’ hands.” And Francis made his feelings about the mythical project clear when he told TMZ, the media’s favorite arbiter of truth, that when it comes to The Godfather films, “There should have only been one.” You don’t have to agree with Coppola, but the man has spoken.
11. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 2
It’s safe to say that Disney executives would be thrilled if Tim Burton ever decided to follow through on his original plans to produce a sequel to his dual-holiday, stop-motion classic. But Burton has stated his reconsideration of this plan on numerous occasions, after the studio proposed the idea for a CGI continuation in 2001. “I was always very protective of [Nightmare], not to do sequels or things of that kind,” Burton told MTV in 2006. “You know, 'Jack visits Thanksgiving world' or other kinds of things, just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it. Because it’s not a mass-market kind of thing, it was important to kind of keep that purity of it. I try to respect people and keep the purity of the project as much as possible.”
12.OFFICE SPACE 2: STILL RENTING
Mike Judge has a habit of making movies that flop at the box office but find new—and profitable—life on home video. He did it with Extract in 2009, Idiocracy in 2006 and, of course, Office Space in 1999. But Judge has been very vocal about the challenges which working with a studio created on Office Space, recalling to the A.V. Club in 2009 that “It was very satisfying to make, but I had to fight for every decision: [the studio] didn’t like the music, they didn’t like the cast, or much of anything. So when it didn’t do well at the box office, it was kind of like, ‘Well, you know, they were right.’ So to have it become more and more popular and make more and more money over these years has been really vindicating.” It must have been particularly vindicating when the studio later approached him with the idea of making a sequel, which he promptly turned down.