The Defective Detective
The Unmade Movie: Terry Gilliam developed his story, about a P.I. who must track a missing girl into a fantasy world inside her storybooks, in the 1990s with The Fisher King writer Richard LaGravenese. He's been trying to make it on and off ever since.
If They Made It Now: Gilliam never gives up but with each flop (and, if early word on The Zero Theorem is correct, he's about to have another) it looks increasingly unlikely he'll direct it. Still, we'd love to see it, possibly with Joseph Gordon-Levitt taking on the lead role once earmarked for his Looper co-star, Bruce Willis.
Smoke And Mirrors
The Unmade Movie: This original screenplay about real-life Victorian magician's Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin battle with an Algerian sorcerer was the hottest screenplay of the mid-90s. Frank Marshall was set to direct Sean Connery, until the notoriously finickity star demanded rewrites and Marshall left to fulfil his contractual obligation to make Congo .
If They Made It Now: Catherine Zeta Jones later picked up the rights with a view to hubby Michael Douglas starring as Robert-Houdin. Arguably, though, the moment has passed to make a period magic movie, what with The Prestige and The Illusionist .
The Unmade Movie: Hotshot German director Roland Emmerich arrived in Hollywood in the early 1990s hoping to cast Sylvester Stallone as the star of this sci-fi thriller about a threat to a subterranean train journey. Emmerich's mooted budget of $90 million scared off possible financiers, so he and producing partner Dean Devlin went to make Universal Soldier instead.
If They Made It Now: Emmerich and Devlin are back together working on the long-gestating sequel to Independence Day . Should it prove successful, there's a chance they might get another crack at Isobar , although these days it'd be more likely to star Dwayne Johnson than Stallone.
The Unmade Movie: Francis Ford Coppola's long-rumoured sci-fi epic would have dealt with the fall-out after a disaster hit New York City, but he abandoned the project after 9/11, feeling that the real-life tragedy had eclipsed his artistic vision.
If They Made It Now: Coppola announced last year he'd secured funding for a huge epic set in New York, so maybe this one is going to get made, after all.
The Other Side Of The Wind
The Unmade Movie: Orson Welles' most famous unfinished project was his Hollywood satire, starring fellow directors John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich and Dennis Hopper. He actually completed principal filming, only for monetary and legal woes to prevent him executing his ambitious editing strategy.
If They Made It Now: Bogdanovich continues efforts to complete the film to Welles' specifications, although with today's digital technology it might be interesting to make a modern version - Bogdanovich is now of the age where he might assume the central character originally played by Huston.
The Unmade Movie: What was Terrence Malick doing during his 20 year break from filmmaking between 1978 and 1998? One thing we do know is he wrote a screenplay adapted from Walker Percy's novel about an existentially troubled cinemagoer. Tim Robbins was attached to play the lead, circa 1994, but Malick moved on to The Thin Red Line .
If They Made It Now: Malick is reported to have vetoed any further attempts to make the New Orleans-set film on the grounds that Hurricane Katrina has changed the look of the city too much to recreate the ambience of the novel.
The Unmade Movie: Robert Zemeckis hoped to direct a computer-animated remake of the Beatles classic using the mo-cap technology he deployed in The Polar Express and Beowulf . However, when Disney closed down Zemeckis' studio, ImageMovers Digital, the project was shelved.
If They Made It Now: There's no reason Zemeckis can't get the gig off the ground elsewhere, given that his chosen cast - including Peter Serafinowicz as Paul McCartney - is still around.
The Unmade Movie: It doesn't sound particularly likely, but mega-producer Dino Di Laurentiis once agreed to finance art-house master Robert Bresson's planned adaptation of the Book of Genesis. According to the famously perfectionist director, it floundered due to the difficulty of getting the animals to perform on cue.
If They Made It Now: Given that Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming Russell Crowe movie, Noah , covers much of Genesis, that's probably the nearest we'll get. The chances of it being even remotely similar to the austere Bresson's conception are slim, mind.
The Unmade Movie: Martin Scorsese was planning an adaptation of Nick Tosches' biography of Dean Martin with Goodfellas screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, when HBO movie The Rat Pack beat them to the screen.
If They Made It Now: Scorsese has a biopic of Dino's best mate Frank Sinatra on the cards, so presumably the research from his earlier project will simply carry over to the new one, albeit with less emphasis on Martin.
The Unmade Movie: Eh? Wasn't Alien 3 made? Well, yes, but its development is littered with ideas that never came to fruition. Most tantalising of all is Vincent Ward's bonkers notion of setting events aboard a wooden monastery.
If They Made It Now: Ward's idea of a religious order was combined with David Twohy's script set on a prison planet to form the final David Fincher-directed version. But one day, maybe, Ward's unique world-building might make for a fascinating, Ripley-less sci-fi film.
The Unmade Movie: John Waters wrote the screenplay to his proposed sequel to cult classic Pink Flamingos hoping to reunite the original cast. However star Divine - attempting to move into more serious roles - refused to reprise her iconic role as Babs Johnson, while the death of co-star Edith Massey in 1984 ended the project outright.
If They Made It Now: Waters is practically mainstream now, so this would be a very different beast to the days when the director opted for maximum outrage. Who knows? Maybe John Travolta (who played Divine's role in the musical remake of Hairspray ) might be tempted to drag up again?
The Unmade Movie: In 2008, it was announced that a dream team of directors - including James Cameron, David Fincher and Guillermo Del Toro - would be collaborating on a new compendium of animated shorts based on the cult magazine and its 1981 movie adaptation. It never happened.
If They Made It Now: Robert Rodriguez is still trying to get a version off the ground, although it's unclear whether he's looking at a solo gig or would involve his mates. Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino are probably waiting by the phones right now.
The Unmade Movie: Henri-Georges Clouzot, France's leading director of thrillers, had ambitious plans for his part-colour, part-black and white drama about a middle-aged hotelier's jealous love for his young wife. Then his key location (an artificial lake) was drained, the cast suffered heat exhaustion and the director had a heart attack.
If They Made It Now: Clouzot's footage found its way into 2009 documentary Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno , but there's mileage in a remake. We could see Sean Durkin ramping up the tension, and why not reunite him with the stars of Martha Marcy May Marlene , Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes.
Leningrad: The 900 Days
The Unmade Movie: Sergio Leone acquired funding to begin his dream project - a retelling of the siege of Leningrad from the viewpoint of an American trapped in the city - in 1989. He died two days before he was officially due to sign the contract.
If They Made It Now: Since the project was still in its infancy, only the broadest outline exists of Leone's intentions, but it sounds like a future Oscar-hog should anybody feel up to the challenge of Leone's vision.
The Unmade Movie: William Gibson's generation-defining cyberpunk novel was top of Hollywood's "must adapt" list for many years. Chris Cunningham - renowned for his weird music videos for the Aphex Twin - came closest, going as far as drafting a screenplay that drew a positive response from Gibson.
If They Made It Now: Cube director Vincenzo Natali is currently the favourite to get the film made, although it's a year since the most recent announcements regarding the project.
The Unmade Movie: It would have been one hell of a cast: Brando, Depp, John Hurt. But director Thom Eberhardt's Irish drama about a series of miracles faltered two weeks into shooting when it turned out the production company didn't actually have any money.
If They Made It Now: Jessica Chastain would be great casting for the central role originally played by Debra Winger, but the remake had better find a new location. The collapse of the original film virtually bankrupted the small town of Ballycotton, and Hollywood is now persona non grata.
The Unmade Movie: Robert Rodriguez spent several years trying to get a remake of the Jane Fonda sci-fi classic off the ground, only to flounder due to problems getting funding for his preferred star, Rose McGowan, and the director's unwillingness to shoot in Germany, the producers' favoured location.
If They Made It Now: Rodriguez has moved on, but Nicolas Winding Refn's name has been linked. With Ryan Gosling as Barbarella, presumably.
The Unmade Movie: Joseph Conrad's classic novel of corruption in the silver mining industry was set to become a David Lean epic starring Marlon Brando, Paul Scofield and Peter O'Toole. The director's death weeks before principal photography was due to start led to the project's collapse.
If They Made It Now: Colin Firth starred in a BBC mini-series in 1996, but we still fancy the idea of a big-screen version. Given that Ridley Scott borrowed the story's title for the name of the ship in Alien , he'd be a great choice of director, perhaps with long-time collaborator Russell Crowe in a starring role.
The Unmade Movie: Audrey Hepburn as Peter. Laurence Olivier as Captain Hook. George Cukor directing. Rights owned by… oh. A bust-up between Disney (who owned the animation rights) and Great Ormond St Hospital (who owned all other rights after they were donated by J.M. Barrie) scuppered this proposed 1964 live-action version. Even Cukor sided with the hospital.
If They Made It Now: We don't need another version of Peter Pan . However, there'd be plenty of mileage in a dramatisation of the court case, with Tom Hanks reprising his role as Disney from Saving Mr Banks , and maybe David Strathairn as Cukor. Downside: no way would the Disney studio green-light it.
The Toon Platoon
The Unmade Movie: A sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit was always on the cards, but to date it has been scuppered by escalating costs, the difficulty of marketing traditional animation in the CG era and storytelling issues. The most interesting draft was this prequel set in WWII, with Roger parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue future wife Jessica from the Nazis.
If They Made It Now: Rewrite the story to remove Roger, and there's no reason why the story couldn't work as a stand-alone animated adventure. It'd be tricky to nail the tone - a kids' film about war - but in Pixar we trust. How about it, guys?
Singing Out Loud
The Unmade Movie: A filmmaking dream team (director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman and composer Steven Sondheim) were set to collaborate on this original film musical - a meta-comedy about the making of a musical - in the 1990s, until Reiner lost interest.
If They Made It Now: Sondheim wrote several songs (two of which have since been released) so the material is certainly there. Baz Luhrmann, are you listening? Stop thinking about Alexander The Great and make this instead.
Alexander The Great
The Unmade Movie: Baz Luhrmann announced plans to make a biopic of the Macedonian king after Moulin Rouge - with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role - only to see Oliver Stone's much-derided rival project beat him into cinemas.
If They Made It Now: Luhrmann was reportedly thrown into depression by his failure to film Alexander's story, so maybe this one is best left alone.
The Vega Brothers
The Unmade Movie: Pulp Fiction 's John Travolta as Vincent. Reservoir Dogs ' Michael Madsen as Vic (aka Mr Blonde). Yes, they're brothers, and Quentin Tarantino hoped to make a spin-off.
If They Made It Now: Tarantino has vetoed the idea on the grounds that the film would have to be a prequel - given both characters died in their original outings - and the actors have aged too much. But why not recast? Given their shared musical heritage, Zac Efron might make a good, suitably leftfield choice to assume Travolta's role.
The Unmade Movie: Orson Welles just couldn't catch a break. His adaptation of Charles Williams' Dead Calm - starring the director alongside Jeanne Moreau and Laurence Harvey - might have been his most commercial film in years. But his struggle to find funding meant he only filmed sporadically over several years, before Harvey's death left the film incomplete.
If They Made It Now: Check the source novel's title - Philip Noyce already resurrected the story of a couple bringing a psycho aboard their boat in his 1989 version starring Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill and Billy Zane.
Batman: Year One
The Unmade Movie: Frank Miller's hit graphic novel about Bruce Wayne's early career behind the mask was mooted as a franchise reboot in the early Noughties, with Darren Aronofsky set to direct Miller's screenplay. Both moved on, by which time the project morphed into Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins .
If They Made It Now: They already did - DC released an animated version in 2011 with ex- O.C. star Benjamin McKenzie as Bruce Wayne and Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon.
The Unmade Movie: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's cult novel - a comic fantasy about an angel and demon living on Earth - has been in development hell for years. It probably didn't help that the writers' preferred director is Terry Gilliam, no stranger to stalled projects. Funding, inevitably, has been a series of false starts.
If They Made It Now: The latest rumour is that Gilliam's old Python colleague Terry Jones is trying to mount an adaptation for TV. That makes sense, although these days Jones is no more bankable than Gilliam, sadly.
The Unmade Movie: Robert Graves' hit novel about sex and politics in Ancient Rome was still in the best-seller charts when Josef von Sternberg began filming an adaptation starring Charles Laughton as Claudius. However, when co-star Merle Oberon was injured in a car accident, the film was abandoned.
If They Made It Now: Graves' novel eventually found its way on TV screens in the superb 1976 BBC adaptation. Jim Sheridan was poised to make a new film version in 2008, until rights passed to HBO and BBC2, where a Rome -style series looks the best bet. Ben Whishaw would be a tremendous Claudius.
The Unmade Movie: David Lynch wrote his screenplay about a teenage dwarf with the ability to control electricity in the 1970s, and tried to get it made after just about every one of his films up to Twin Peaks only to find that financiers deemed it too weird.
If They Made It Now: Lynch hasn't directed a film since 2006's Inland Empire , but nor has he ever really given up on Ronnie Rocket . It's the sort of project so unique that it wouldn't matter when it was made, so long as somehow it does get made.
The Catcher In The Rye
The Unmade Movie: Possibly the most famous 'unmade' movie, in that just about everybody - from Billy Wilder to Steven Spielberg - tried and failed to convince J.D. Salinger to let them adapt his era-defining novel of teenage discontent. Arguably, animator Ralph Bakshi came closest: he wrote Salinger a letter explaining why he should be given the rights, only for the author to reply with a polite but firm, "No."
If They Made It Now: Salinger's estate still maintains a fierce 'zero tolerance' policy to protect the late author's wishes, but it hasn't stopped directors like Wes Anderson (in Rushmore ) and Burr Steers (in Igby Goes Down ) making Rye -lite homages.
The Aryan Papers
The Unmade Movie: Stanley Kubrick's interest in the Holocaust led to efforts to adapt Wartime Lies , a novel about a Jewish aunt and nephew in hiding from the Nazis. Johanna ter Steege and Joseph Mazzello were in the running to play the leads, until again the release of a similarly-themed film - in this case Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List - convinced him there was no need for the film.
If They Made It Now: Natalie Portman is the right age to play the aunt - how about reuniting her with Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky?
The Unmade Movie: Paul Verhoeven hoped to reunite with his Total Recall star Arnold Schwarzenegger on a typical bloody, satirical view of religious war in the Middle Ages. Sets were actually built before the collapse of production company Carolco torpedoed the project.
If They Made It Now: Arnie's too old, Verhoeven hasn't had an American hit since 2000's Hollow Man and really, Kingdom Of Heaven has stolen the idea's thunder. Still, Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson would be ideal Arnie-surrogates when they stop being fast and furious.
A Day At The U.N.
The Unmade Movie: No less a talent than Billy Wilder was set to collaborate on the Marx Brothers' mooted comeback - set within the United Nations -at the beginning of the 1960s. The death of Chico Marx put an end to the brothers' dreams.
If They Made It Now: Sacrilege to even think it, of course, but how about Robert Downey Jr as Groucho, John C. Reilly as Chico and Will Ferrell as Harpo?
The Unmade Movie: The lauded video game cycle about super-soldiers battling alien foes The Covenant and The Flood was touted in the mid-Noughties as the film to finally crack the game-to-movie adaptation curse. Alex Garland drafted the screenplay for executive producer Peter Jackson, who plucked protégé Neill Blomkamp from obscurity to direct. Arguments over money derailed the plan and Jackson and Blomkamp made District 9 instead.
If They Made It Now: Blomkamp still reckons there's a chance of him taking the reins, but since elements of Halo found their way into Elysium , it might be better for him to let go.
The Unmade Movie: Jonathan Franzen's 2001 novel about a dysfunctional family was the hot project in the years after its release. David Hare drafted a screenplay, which Stephen Daldry and Robert Zemeckis circled at various stages. And then…
If They Made It Now: In a sign of the times, producer Scott Rudin pitched the project to HBO as a TV series. Noah Baumbach directed the 2012 pilot with Ewan McGregor, Dianne Wiest and Chris Cooper amongst the cast. However, HBO didn't take up the option to green-light a full series.
The Day The Clown Cried
The Unmade Movie: Jerry Lewis entered the 1970s with an idea that would seal his reputation as an auteur - a drama about a Jewish clown forced to lead children into the gas chambers at Auschwitz. What happens next has entered into 'unmade movie' legend: the funding dried up, and Lewis grabbed the existing footage where he still holds it under lock and key.
If They Made It Now: Lewis is too fiercely protective of his film for the footage to be released, and given the controversial subject matter it's doubtful anybody would want to remake it. The next best thing probably already exists in Roberto Benigni's Holocaust drama Life Is Beautiful , although Lewis denies the two films are alike.
A Confederacy Of Dunces
The Unmade Movie: John Kennedy Toole's comic novel, considered one of the finest in American literature, was nearly brought to the screen in 2005, with Steven Soderbergh producing, David Gordon Green directing and Will Ferrell slated to star as slobbish Ignatius Reilly. But the story's New Orleans setting is central, and Hurricane Katrina effectively ended their plans.
If They Made It Now: Now that Soderbergh has retired, the project has lost its biggest cheerleader, although there have been rumours that The Muppets director James Bobin hopes to revive the adaptation with Zach Galifianakis in the lead.
The Unmade Movie: Alfred Hitchcock nurtured hopes of filming J.M. Barrie's play, about a woman with a mysterious habit of disappearing for weeks or decades without aging, for years but when he tried in the 1960s Universal vetoed it for not being commercial enough. Hitchcock later joked it was written into his contract he could make anything as long it wasn't Mary Rose .
If They Made It Now: The play is probably too weird to be a mainstream hit, but with its Scottish setting, female protagonist and unusual story, it'd be a perfect art-house project for Lynne Ramsay.
The Unmade Movie: As late as the end of 2009, a fourth Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire Spider-man movie was on the cards, possibly seeing the transformation of Dylan Baker's Dr Curt Connors into the Lizard. Alas, with a Summer 2011 release date looming and no workable script, Raimi pulled out.
If They Made It Now: They did make it, sort of. Just not with Raimi, Maguire and Baker, and as the first part of a 'rebooted' franchise rather than the continuation of the trilogy.
Rendezvous With Rama
The Unmade Movie: Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi novel about a first encounter with an alien ship is a favourite of Morgan Freeman, who began efforts to adapt it in the early 2000s. Despite David Fincher being attached as director, nothing further has yet come of the project.
If They Made It Now: "We are going to make that movie," Freeman declared in 2012, but admitted he hadn't found the right script yet. With Fincher tied up directing Gone Girl , though, it might be a while.
The Restraint Of Beasts
The Unmade Movie: My Summer Of Love director Pawe Pawlikowski had started filming his take on Magnus Mills' black comedy about a gang of construction workers - starring Rhys Ifans, Ben Whishaw and Eddie Marsan - when production was halted so the director could tend to his dying wife.
If They Made It Now: It's too long now to finish the project with the original cast, and out of respect it's doubtful they would want to. If a new version is ever considered, though, the material is perfect for Ben Wheatley and his repertory company - how about Michael Smiley, Richard Glover and Steve Oram for the leads?
The Unmade Movie: Maverick Alejandro Jodorowsky hoped to bring his mind-expanding, counter-cultural style to a bigger audience with a lavish adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel. Jodorowsky assembled a crack squad of collaborators, including H.R. Giger for the set design, only for the director's vision to prove prohibitively expensive to film.
If They Made It Now: Dune has been adapted twice, by David Lynch for the big screen and in a Sci-fi Channel mini-series for the small screen. Meanwhile, much of the aesthetic of Jodorowsky's version was drip-fed into Alien , which shared many of his collaborators. Still, should an innovative and reckless director fancy trying a remake to Jodorowsky's blueprint - Darren Aronofsky, maybe? - we'd pay to see it.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
The Unmade Movie: Literature's most famous windmill-battling Spaniard had defeated several directors, including Orson Welles, when Terry Gilliam set out to make his tongue-in-cheek adaptation with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp. Then disaster struck: fighter jets flying overheard ruined the sound, a flash flood ruined the set and a hernia ruined Rochefort's ability to ride a horse. The film was abandoned.
If They Made It Now: Gilliam has repeatedly attempted to reshoot the film, with Robert Duvall the most likely replacement for Rochefort as Quixote. Yet Gilliam's long-term problems getting funding for his ambitious films have thwarted efforts to date.
Something's Got To Give
The Unmade Movie: The already troubled production of George Cukor's comedy about a man whose first wife returns after being presumed dead, was abandoned completely with less than half the film in the can when star Marilyn Monroe died.
If They Made It Now: Surely only respect for Monroe has kept enterprising producers from remaking this? Our fantasy casting: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and they may as well be directed by their Silver Linings Playbook boss, David O. Russell.
The Unmade Movie: Following the success of L.A. Confidential , James Ellroy's novel was in development with Nick Nolte and John Cusack set to star. The project fell apart, as did a later attempt to be directed by Joe Carnahan and starring George Clooney, possibly because one of the novel's key characters was killed off in the film version of L.A. Confidential .
If They Made It Now: " White Jazz is dead," reckoned James Ellroy in 2009, although there are no shortage of actors capable of playing anti-hero Dave Klein (Tom Hardy, perhaps?) and a generation of great TV directors from the likes of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire who could master the nuances of Ellroy's prose.
The Unmade Movie: Neil Gaiman's acclaimed comic series about the Lord of Dreams spent much of the 1990s in development hell, caught between Roger Avary's Gaiman-approved screenplay and the dumbed-down efforts favoured by the studio.
If They Made It Now: James Mangold pitched a TV version to HBO in 2010, which might - following the channel's success with fantasy after Game Of Thrones - be the best place to explore Gaiman's world. Casting-wise, Benedict Cumberbatch would be perfect.
Heart Of Darkness
The Unmade Movie: Orson Welles mooted an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novella as his debut film. However, although test footage was shot, Welles' ambitious plan to shoot the entire film from the PoV of lead character Marlowe proved unworkable and he made Citizen Kane instead.
If They Made It Now: Any plans to film this must overcome the twin spectres of Apocalypse Now (based loosely on the Conrad) and the novella's troubling racism. However, Marlowe is a perfect fit for Michael Fassbender, so it's the sort of difficult project that would suit Steve McQueen after 12 Years A Slave .
The Unmade Movie: Kevin Smith on script duties. Tim Burton directing. Nic Cage to star. What could go wrong? Creative differences, budget problems ($30 million spent before anything had been shot) and the pre-millennial jitters over the viability of superhero movies put paid to the film.
If They Made It Now: Given we are already two reboots on in bringing Superman to the big screen, never say never… but realistically, this is destined to be one of modern Hollywood's great 'what ifs'.
To The White Sea
The Unmade Movie: The Coen brothers' adaptation of James Dickey's novel - set to star Brad Pitt circa 2002 - would have been a largely dialogue-free, hallucinatory odyssey about an American pilot marooned in WWII Japan. It would have marked a real change of direction but deemed too expensive by the money-men.
If They Made It Now: The Coens confirmed in 2011 that they'd given up hope of getting funding, but it's exactly the kind of project that True Grit 's mega-rich but leftfield producer Megan Ellison would like. Maybe they should ask her?
The Unmade Movie: Stanley Kubrick spent so long meticulously filing years of research for his long-planned biopic of the French leader that he was beaten to screens by the Rod Steiger film, Waterloo . The latter's commercial failure convinced Kubrick to shelve his plans, although much of the period detail ended up in Barry Lyndon .
If They Made It Now: Actually, Steven Spielberg is circling the project, having recently announced his intention to mount a television mini-series using Kubrick's plans. For the lead, it needs to be somebody short and charismatic - how about the 5'5'' Daniel Radcliffe?
At The Mountains Of Madness
The Unmade Movie: H.P. Lovecraft's sci-fi / horror novella about an expedition discovering creepy creatures and insane goings-on in the Himalayas is Guillermo Del Toro's dream project. He's being trying to get it made for years, only for the gap between cost and tone (it's pretty bleak, all things considered) prevented studios from giving him the green-light.
If They Made It Now: Many industry pundits considered Pacific Rim to be del Toro's attempt to prove he could have a hit with a non-franchise creature feature. Is $101 million at the U.S. box office good enough? Probably not. How about $407 million worldwide? Now, perhaps, you're talking.