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12 Movies That Were Shot, But Never Finished

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20th Century Fox

Sometimes movies stop production due to financial problems, script issues, or just plain bad luck. Here are 12 movies that were shot, but never completed, and remain unfinished and abandoned.

1. Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales

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In 1968, Richard Pryor and director Penelope Spheeris worked together on a subversive satire called Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals. While it's unclear what the film was about, it is believed that it followed a group of Black Panthers who kidnap a wealthy white man and put him on trial for all the racial crimes in American history. Spheeris had assembled a rough cut to screen for Pryor at his home, but Pryor's then-wife Shelley Bonis got into an argument with him about spending all of his time and money on the film. In a fit of rage, Pryor destroyed the negative.

According to the Richard Pryor biography Furious Cool, "Penelope spent days splicing the pieces of the film back together like a jigsaw puzzle. She reconstructed the forty-some minutes of film by arduously piecing together the mangled pieces, some only a few frames long. The result was so crumpled and patched together that the film danced all around as it ran through the projector gate."

Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales was thought to be lost until Spheeris found a brief clip in her archive and donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2005. It was screened during a tribute to the comedian, when it sparked Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee to sue Penelope Spheeris and Pryor's daughter Rain for allegedly stealing the original negative during the 1980s. The lawsuit is still pending.

2. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam's long-gestating The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was supposed to be a follow-up to his 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but the project never came together in production. After Gilliam secured $32 million for his version of Miguel Cervantes's The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, he experienced a long string of bad luck—choosing a filming location near a military base, a freak flash flood that destroyed a majority of its elaborate and expensive sets, and the lead Jean Rochefort's health problems all contributed to a production shut down after a few weeks of shooting in early 2000.

Lost in La Mancha documented Gilliam's process and frustrations while making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. The documentary was originally supposed to be a bonus feature for the film's home video release, but ended up becoming a full length feature itself, which was independently released in theaters in 2002.

Gilliam moved on to other projects such as Tideland, The Brothers Grimm, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus while also spending the last decade trying to re-launch The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (without success). He's currently still trying to finish the project and expects to start shooting in early 2015.

3. Kaleidoscope

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Towards the end of his career in 1968, Alfred Hitchcock was at a commercial and artistic low after the releases of Marnie and Torn Curtain. He wanted to re-invent himself as an experimental director, so he conceived Kaleidoscope, a very adult thriller that was full of murder, rape, necrophilia, bodybuilders, and serial killers. Not only was Kaleidoscope supposed to be a graphic murder mystery, it was also to incorporate many innovative and irreverent film techniques such as use of natural light, hand-held filming, and point-of-view camera work.

Unfortunately, Hitchcock couldn't find funding for his cinéma vérité art film, so he scrapped the project after an extensive pre-production process. About an hour of raw footage from Kaleidoscope exists, while Hitchcock recycled some of its elements for his penultimate film Frenzy in 1972.   

4. The Aryan Papers

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While Napoleon and A.I. Artificial Intelligence—which Steven Spielberg eventually made in 2001—are two of the most popular unfinished Stanley Kubrick films, The Aryan Papers was closest to getting off the ground. Kubrick wanted to make a movie about World War II and the Holocaust, but couldn't find the right story to tell until he read Louis Begley's "Wartime Lies" in 1991. The novel followed a Jewish boy and his aunt who survived the Nazi occupation of Europe when the pair acquired Aryan identity papers and pretended to be traveling as Polish Catholics.

Kubrick secured financing through Warner Bros, began to scout locations in the Czech Republic, and cast Jurassic Park's Joseph Mazzello to play the boy and Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege as his aunt. The project was ultimately scrapped when Warner Bros. realized that The Aryan Papers would come out one year after Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. So instead, Stanley Kubrick moved on to Eyes Wide Shut, which was his final film.

5. Nailed

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In 2008, before he was an Academy Award nominated writer and director for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, David O. Russell worked on a film project titled Nailed as his follow-up to 2004's I Heart Huckabees. Nailed followed a waitress, played by Jessica Biel, who survived a freak accident with a nail gun, but as a result spends the duration of the film shifting through multiple personalities. She then heads to Washington DC to campaign for victims of bizarre accidents, but gets romantically involved with a corrupt congressman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal).

Nailed was riddled with financial problems, which led to a number of production stoppages. Its financier David Bergstein and his production company Capitol Films were unable to pay actors and crew members after two weeks of shooting, and David O. Russell's reputation as a difficult director also contributed to Nailed's demise. James Caan reportedly walked off the film after the first day of shooting due to heated arguments with Russell over the proper way to choke on a cookie.

In 2010, Russell said of Nailed, "There was a lot that was going on that I liked, but it was kinda a stillbirth, you know? So when that happens, the whole thing gets kinda weird."

6. Who Killed Bambi?

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In 1978, Twentieth Century Fox wanted to make a movie starring The Sex Pistols after the British band's rise to fame. It was intended to be Hard Day's Night, but for punk music. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious wanted director Russ Meyer and screenwriter Roger Ebert—the masterminds behind their favorite movie, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—to make Who Killed Bambi? However, after one day of shooting in England, Fox shut down the production after studio executives read the script. Apparently, Princess Grace of Monaco (one of the Twentieth Century Fox board members) objected to yet another X-rated movie from Meyer, despite the commercial success of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Roger Ebert posted the entire screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? on his website.

7. The Works

New York Institute of Technology developed The Works in 1976 and it would've been the first 3D computer animated feature film ever—had it been completed. Graphics Researcher Lance Williams helmed The Works, whose production team consisted exclusively of programmers and computer engineers without the aid of a proper director or editor. The Works was ultimately scrapped in 1986 when the technology couldn't keep up with the film's high ambitions. Instead, Pixar's Toy Story ended up being the first 3D computer animated film when it was released in 1995.

8. Something’s Got to Give

In June 1962, George Cukor directed the screwball comedy Something's Got to Give for Twentieth Century Fox. Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, and Cyd Charisse starred in this remake of the 1940 comedy My Favorite Wife. After a few weeks into shooting, Fox halted production. The film was already behind schedule and over budget, both because of Marilyn Monroe's frequent illnesses, such as a severe sinus infection, fever, and bronchitis. She was subsequently fired from Something's Got to Give and the film was re-worked and re-cast as Move Over, Darling a year and a half later. Only 37 minutes of footage of Something's Got to Give exists.

Marilyn Monroe died in August, 1962, a few weeks after she was fired from Something's Got to Give.

9. My Best Friend's Birthday

Before Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, he co-wrote and directed a comedy called My Best Friend's Birthday. Tarantino worked on the project with his video store co-worker Craig Hamann on and off between 1984 and 1987. It followed Clarence, played by Tarantino, who tries to surprise his best friend on his birthday, only to have his attempts backfire. The black & white amateurish film was partially lost in a fire at the lab where the 16mm negative was developed. Only 36 minutes of My Best Friend's Birthday's 70 minute running time survived.

The screenplay of My Best Friend's Birthday is now available online.

10. The Other Side Of The Wind

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Orson Welles' final film The Other Side of the Wind started production in 1969 and ran infrequently through 1976. The film, which incorporated elements of found footage, was about an aged director, played by John Huston, at the end of his career and his heated rivalry with a younger director, played by Peter Bogdanovich.

The Other Side of the Wind's production experienced a plague of problems and obstacles, including Welles' problems with the IRS and the Ayatollah Khomeini's government seizing footage during the Iranian Revolution in 1979 (the Shah of Iran's brother-in-law partially funded the film).

Legal rights to the footage and the Welles estate contributed to The Other Side of the Wind's completion problems, but Peter Bogdanovich and producer Frank Marshall are committed to finishing it for Orson Welles. "The problem is that a lot of different people own parts of it or claim to own parts of it. And so the chain of title is difficult to establish," Bogdanovich told The Playlist. "But it keeps inching forward and we keep getting closer and closer and things fall apart again. It's just a very, very difficult situation. I think it will get done some time, but not in the near future.”

11. Dark Blood

With only 11 days of shooting to go, director George Sluizer halted production on Dark Blood in 1993 after the untimely death of River Phoenix from a drug overdose. Phoenix played a character named Boy, a widower who lived in the desert near a nuclear testing facility. Dark Blood's film rights reverted to its insurance company, and Sluizer set on a 14-year quest to obtain footage and re-assemble the film to the best of his ability. The unfinished Dark Blood eventually screened during the Netherlands Film Festival in 2012 and the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in 2013.

12. The Day the Clown Cried

Jerry Lewis' notorious and unfinished The Day the Clown Cried remains one of the most sought-after films in cinema history. The Day the Clown Cried was a European production about an ex-clown, played by Jerry Lewis, imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

The production suffered financial problems with producer Nathan Wachsberger unable to secure funds, so Lewis continued shooting with his own money. Once a rough cut was produced, Jerry Lewis was unable to work on the film due to a legal dispute with Wachsberger and its co-screenwriter Joan O'Brien over its rights. It is believed that there are only two copies of The Day the Clown Cried: one under lock and key in Jerry Lewis' personal archive and the other at Stockholm Studios, where it was made. Only brief behind-the-scenes footage exists.

During a Q&A in Los Angeles in 2013, Lewis said of the film, "I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all, and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad."

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars
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Winning an Oscar is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you’re Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are, Colin Firth.

1. ANGELINA JOLIE

After Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world wrinkle their noses, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage with the rest of Marcheline’s belongings when she died in 2007, but it hasn’t yet surfaced. “I didn’t actually lose it,” Jolie said, “but nobody knows where it is at the moment.”

2. WHOOPI GOLDBERG

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. “Oscar will never leave my house again,” Goldberg said.

3. OLYMPIA DUKAKIS

When Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. “For $78,” they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.

4. MARLON BRANDO

“I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.” He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. “The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don’t know where it is now.”

5. JEFF BRIDGES

Jeff Bridges had just won his Oscar in 2010 for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the next year’s ceremony, where he was up for another one. He lost to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. “It’s been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now,” the actor admitted. “I’m hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven’t won a spare! But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better.” Which brings us to ...

6. COLIN FIRTH

Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed the British actor as he said those words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."

7. MATT DAMON

When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn’t sure where his award went. “I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it,” Damon said in 2007.

8. MARGARET O'BRIEN

In 1945, seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O’Briens’ maid took the award home to polish, as she had done before, but never came back to work. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O’Brien’s mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There’s a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O’Brien. “I’ll never give it to anyone to polish again,” she said.

9. BING CROSBY

For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944’s Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school’s library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a three-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. “I wanted to make people laugh,” the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.

10. HATTIE MCDANIEL

Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

An earlier version of this post ran in 2013.

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