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20th Century Fox

12 Movies That Were Shot, But Never Finished

20th Century Fox
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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The Princess Ride: Here's What a Princess Bride Theme Park Attraction Might Look Like
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Do you fight the urge to say “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” when introducing yourself? Have you spent the past 30 years mispronouncing the word “marriage”? If so, you may be a diehard fan of The Princess Bride. The cult film (and the book on which it’s based) has inspired board games, merchandise, and countless pop culture references. Now, two theme park designers from Universal have conceived the inconceivable. As Nerdist reports, Jon Plsek and Olivia West have designed the plans for a hypothetical attraction called “The Princess Ride.

Their idea follows the classic river boat ride structure and adds highlights from the movie around each corner. After watching Buttercup and Wesley’s love story unfold, riders are taken past the Cliffs of Insanity, through the Fire Swamp, and into the Pit of Despair. The climax unfolds at Prince Humperdinck’s castle and leads up to the two protagonists riding off into the sunset. The last thing the passengers see is Miracle Max and Valerie waving goodbye saying, “Hope ya had fun stormin’ the castle!”

The ride’s designers make a living turning stories into thrilling attractions. Plsek works as a concept artist for Universal Creative, the group behind Universal’s theme parks, and West works there as a concept writer. While The Princess Ride was just a fun side project for the pair, it isn’t hard to imagine their ride bringing Princess Bride fans to the parks in real life.

For more of Jon Plesk’s concept rides inspired by classics like Dr. Strangelove (1964) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), check out his website.

[h/t Nerdist]

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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter." She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


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"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: No team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


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Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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