Del Toro and Cameron to explore Lovecraft's Mountains of Madness?

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Over at Deadline New York, Mike Fleming suggests that Guillermo Del Toro’s next directorial effort with be his long-in-gestation adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s novel At the Mountains of Madness, with – get this – James Cameron producing. If true, the news is certainly a welcome surprise; only last month, Del Toro was saying that the project was as frozen in limbo as the Old Ones trapped in the Antarctic ice of Lovecraft’s tale.
But is it true? Fleming is far from conclusive, writing:

I’m hearing he will next direct At The Mountains Of Madness, an adaptation of the HP Lovecraft tale that will be shot as a 3D film for Universal Pictures. The big surprise is that  Avatar director James Cameron will come aboard as a producer. Del Toro was non-committal when I asked him about the prospect of Mountains days ago as we discussed the Comic-Con reaction to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. But when del Toro announced at Comic-Con he’d cowrite and produce Haunted Mansion, he told the crowd he’d set his next film shortly, and that it would be scary. At the Mountains of Madness fits that bill…

The language is a bit hedged (“I’m hearing…”). Also, it contradicts Variety’s report that Del Toro would direct THE HAUNTED MANSION for Walt Disney Pictures, not merely produce and co-write. Still, we can hope? As tantalizing as is the prospect of  Del Toro-directed HAUNTED MANSION, far more awesome in the scope of its eldritch grandeur would be an arcane exploration of the vast subterranean citadel situated beneath the hoary Plateau of Leng, where the wind gibbers and fulminates with secrets no mere mortal mind dare grasp without fear of mental obliteration.
Let’s all lean back and give out an optimistically triumphant shout of “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

Cinefantastique Post-Mortem Podcast 1:24.1

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Following up on this week’s in-depth discussion of EYES WITHOUT A FACE, Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski launch into an informal chat about horror, fantasy, and science fiction films of 1960, including BLACK SUNDAY (which will become the subject of a future podcast in August). Also on the menu: another look at DESPICABLE ME and reaction to the news that writer-director Guillermo Del Toro will be helming a film based on Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion theme park attraction, reviving a franchise that has lain dormant since the disappointing 2003 version of THE HAUNTED MANSION, starring Eddie Murphy.


Ray Harryhausen Receives Accolades from BAFTA on his 90th Birthday!

Ray Harryhausen with the Medusa model from the 1981 CLASH OF THE TITANS
Ray Harryhausen with the Medusa model from the 1981 CLASH OF THE TITANS

Watch the Video of the BFI and BAFTA special achievement award presented to RAY HARRYHAUSEN on the occasion of the master animator’s 90th birthday:
This fabulous 42 minute minute video includes comments from:

  • James Cameron
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Guillermo Del Toro
  • Nick Park
  • Frank Darabont
  • John Landis (Host)

With guest speakers:

  • Sir Christopher Frayling
  • The Tortoise and the Hare Animators
  • Randy Cook
  • Colin Arthur (mask-maker)
  • Gary Raymond and John Cairney
  • Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren & Ken Ralston
  • Tony Dalton & Vanessa Harryhausen
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Peter Jackson

(Jackson shows his rare amateur film inspired by Harryhausen and presents a special BAFTA Award to Ray.)

LAWRENCE FRENCH: In your earlier films, although you didn’t have star names, you always had excellent British character actors, such as Douglas Wilmer, Laurence Naismith and Patrick Troughton. In fact, all those actors appeared in Sir Laurence Olivier’s film version of Richard III. Did you see Richard III when in came out in 1955?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Oh yes, although that was many years ago. And as you say, we always had very talented actors, even if they were not what today you would call stars. But they were all very competent actors: Douglas Wilmer was brilliant as King Pelias in Jason and later we used him in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad as the Grand Vizier. Laurence Naismith was also in Jason, and we used him again in The Valley of Gwangi.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What led you to stop making movies after Clash of the Titans?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: I had enough of spending my time in a dark room after everybody else went home. I spent most of my life in a dark room, painted black, which can be depressing if you are aware of it, although I was never aware of it. I also felt that tastes had changed. After Clash of the Titans, we were going to do a follow-up and I helped Charles develop a script with Beverly Cross called Force of the Trojans, although a lot of the effects work would have been farmed out to someone else. But even though Clash had made a lot of money for MGM, they didn’t want to back it. They felt costume pictures weren’t suitable and the pictures the studios wanted you to make all had to have explosions in them every five minutes. So I’m grateful that I got in on the tail end of the great days of Hollywood.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: So once MGM passed on making Force of the Trojans, you finally decided to retire?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, pretty much. I was able to spend most of my time doing the things I had always wanted to do for a long time. I began making bronze figures of some of the characters used in my films, and doing many other things, including getting re-acquainted with my family. Unfortunately, when you devote too much time to a film, you have very little time to see your family.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Now that all your fairy tales and early films are out on DVD, are there any animation scenes that got cut which might be included on future DVD releases—such as the Ghoul fight from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: There’s not a great deal and once I finish a picture it’s out of my hands. I don’t recall the Ghoul sequence having been cut that much. It couldn’t have been that important, because I’ve looked at the picture on DVD and it didn’t bother me. I did have a sequence we cut from Jason and the Argonauts during the skeleton fight. After Jason cuts off one of the skeletons heads, the skeleton got down on his hands and knees to look for his head, but it slowed the whole pace of the scene down, so we decided to cut it out. Unfortunately, I never kept that footage. I should have saved it, but once you finish a film, you are so glad to be done, you don’t think about those kinds of things.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What are you thoughts about the current state of the movie business compared to Hollywood in the forties when you were first starting out?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Well, today everyone is saturated with all sorts of entertainments, where in the good old days you looked forward to going to the movies on Saturday night and it was a big event in your life. The people who made pictures in the forties, the big studios and producers had great imagination. When you look back at some of those pictures, you see that they knew how to make the average person see things bigger than life for two hours. It was a relief or an escape that we all loved. But today, you are bombarded with so many different things: DVD’s, Television, the Internet, and everything else, so I think people become rather jaded. That means you have to go over the top, in the sense of showing more, to make it bloodier and more ghastly in order to top all previous productions. Where that will eventually lead, I have no idea. At the rate some of today’s horror films are going, only people who work in the slaughterhouse would care to see them. I think also, that today, the fantastic image is so overdone it no longer amazes you and they tend to do overly violent things. It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes—you have to disguise the fact that there’s nothing really there in the story with smoke, loud noises, 8-frame cuts and zoom-in and zoom-outs—all the techniques that cover up the fact that there’s no story. In some of today’s movies, you don’t even know what you’re watching. I saw The Matrix and I didn’t know what the picture was all about. When I see a picture I want to know what I’m looking at. When characters are introduced I want to know who they are and what relation they have to the hero. But today there are no more heroes. There are only anti-heroes. So it’s a different world. Everything is so negative I don’t even feel like I’m part of the film business anymore.

Guillermo Del Toro to repossess to Disney's Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion 2003Variety reports that Walt Disney Pictures is planning to reboot its stillborn THE HAUNTED MANSION franchise with a new 3-D film, to be developed and directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Disney and Del Toro announced the venture at Comic Con, emphasizing that this version of THE HAUNTED MANSION would be a genuinely scary haunted house movie, not a spoof.

“After all, Disney himself was the father of some really chilling moments and characters — think Chernabog from ‘Fantasia,’ or Maleficent as the Dragon, or the Evil Queen in ‘Snow White,'” he said. “We will make the ‘Haunted Mansion’ the most haunted place on Earth,” he said. “We are not making it a comedy. We will make it scary and fun at the same time. For me, the ‘Mansion’ needs to be the haunted house movie for this generation.”

Disney’s  first attempt to launch a franchise based on their famous theme park attraction died a quick death, thanks to the abysmally unfunny THE HAUNTED MANSION (2003), starring Eddie Murphy, which failed to ignite interest in a follow-up, despite a worldwide gross of $182-million. Disney is hoping to recreate the success of their PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies.
Since stepping away from the director’s chair on THE HOBBIT project (two prequels to Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS films), Del Toro has been talking about several projects in various stages of development, leading to speculation about which would in fact be his next directorial effort. At Comic-Con last week, he indicated that he was finalizing a deal on an unnamed project.

Del Toro discusses Don't Be Afraid of the Dark at Comic-Con

The 1973 TV version of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
The 1973 TV version of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

Reuters has posted a Q&A interview with Guillermo Del Toro, who discusses upcoming projects, including DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK and FRANKENSTEIN. The former is a remake of a 1973 tele-film starring Kim Darby, written by Nigel McKeand, and directed by John Newland (ONE STEP BEYOND); working with with Matthew Robbins (MIMIC), Del Toro co-wrote the new screenplay, which was directed by Troy Nixie, with Guy Pearce (MEMENTO) and Katie Holmes (BATMAN BEGINS) in the leads . Del Toro says it took twenty years to get the project to the screen, but it is one he wanted to do since he became a professional filmmaker, based on his experience of being terrified by the original, which he calls “one of the scariest movies” he saw as a child.
Says Del Toro of his remake:

“We are returning to a really classical gothic horror film with very, very interesting creatures. We are not going for the hardcore, borderline porn and gore of a teen movie. There are no teen protagonists. It’s closer to a fairytale gone horribly wrong. And the creatures are quite interesting and very faithful to the original creatures in the 1973 movie.”

Del Toro had nothing to say about his proposed FRANKENSTEIN, except that we should expect an announcement soon because he is finalizing a deal during Comic-Con. On the subject of remakes, he notes that it is a cliche to suggest Hollywood has run out of ideas; after all, some of the best horror films have been re-do’s of previously filmed material. What separates the good remakes from the bad?

“I believe a remake needs to be driven by a filmmaker’s passion to tell the story and not a studio’s marketing department. That is, I think, a huge difference. If you have a filmmaker who’s very passionate to tell a story — case in point, I am absolutely insanely passionate about redoing Frankenstein, the book — then there is a valid intent.”

Del Toro on his future projects

The best news today is not that Peter Jackson will be directing THE HOBBIT. It’s that Guillermo Del Toro, having left THE HOBBIT, can now focus his attention on the myriad other projects he has in development. He discusses them at length in this interview with, given during the Saturn Awards. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that, at this point in time, we don’t know what his next directorial effort will be; Del Toro talks about several, but all of them seem to be further down the line – what he will do after his next one, whatever that turns out to be.
The rundown goes something like this:

  • AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS – the proposed adaptation of Lovecraft’s spectacular novella, a wonderful combo of horror and science-fiction – is probably not going to happen.
  • HELLBOY 3 is not going to be his next film, but it might be after the next one.
  • FRAKENSTEIN does not have a completed script yet, but there is a storyline. Del Toro is excited about the sculpture designs for the monster, who will be played by Doug Jones (Abe in HELLBOY).
  • Del Toro plans to announce a project at Comic Con that he will write, produce and possibly direct.
  • His next directorial project will be one of  that have more fully developed scripts, including one he started 15 years ago!

CYBERSURFING: WANTED – 1 Director For “The Hobbit”, Will Pay Handsomely

guillermo del toroThe blogosphere, twitter feeds and various interwebs exploded this week with the news that Guillermo Del Toro, who was set to direct THE HOBBIT (the prequel to THE LORD OF THE RINGS films), would be stepping down due to scheduling conflicts brought on by studio delays. Yet the madness didn’t stop there. As fans of any major franchise tend to do, speculation began to run rampant as to who would take his place. Lists and charts popped up here and there, ranking various directors by number, popularity, sexiness (ok, that one was made up…probably…).
However, while lists can be a fun distraction for film fans, for others they tend to be a deceptive beast. They are made to start conversation and compare ideas but end up creating a “false hope” in some fans and, in the end, whatever director is chosen will ultimately fall short of the expectations of those die-hard few who were 100% sure that would get the job. It is fun to speculate and wish, just as long its understood that these lists are exactly that…wish lists.
Here are a few pointers on surviving the speculation madness:
• While Del Toro is an excellent director and a great choice, it is not a written rule that to direct a good movie about hobbits, one needs to look like them.
“Peter Jackson is the PERFECT choice to direct this movie!” – Well, ok…duh. However, the man has said many times he doesn’t want to. Anyone who spends a decade making what truly amounts to a 9-hour smash hit deserves a LONG vacation. If he decides to, he will. Until then, keep your pants on…someone good will be found.
• Most lists feature big-name directors in the top spots, those who have a track record of making epic movies. Fans tend to think that only the current best in the business directors should be able to get their hands on THE HOBBIT. Should I remind people that, prior to the release of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, Peter Jackson was relegated to cult-status. Sure, he had paid his dues and had an ever-increasing list of successes, but the number of naysayers prior to the 1st film’s release was too many to count. The director may well be an unknown, but this is no reason to fret – Neil Blomkamp was a virtual unknown until the Jackson-produced DISTICT 9 hit theaters.
• Finally, to take a line from THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE: Don’t Panic. Though the delay in production is disappointing, this movie WILL be made. You don’t shelve a film with a built-in fan base somewhere in the hundreds of millions.
Links to various lists can be found below. Read them and enjoy. Just don’t be surprised if most of those wishes don’t come true!
Television Without Pity:

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Guillermo Del Toro departs Hobbit over delays due to MGM's financial crisis

Guillermo Del ToroMy friends over at The One Ring Net posted this shocking news at their site today:

Guillermo Del Toro announced today that he is no longer directing the two movies based on J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, but will continue to co-write the screenplays. Out of respect to the legions of loyal Tolkien fans, both Guillermo and Peter Jackson wanted to break the news to The One Ring first. They are both committed to protecting The Hobbit and will do everything in their power to ensure the films are everything that the fans want them to be.
“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming “The Hobbit,” I am faced with the hardest decision of my life”, says Guillermo. “After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director”.
“We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave the Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone’s control – has compromised his commitment to other long term projects”, says Executive Producer Peter Jackson. “The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn’t feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I’ve ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him. Guillermo’s strong vision is engrained into the scripts and designs of these two films, which are extremely fortunate to be blessed with his creative DNA”.
“Guillermo is co-writing the Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished” says Jackson. “New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work”.
The Hobbit is planned as two motion pictures, co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM. They are scheduled for release in Dec 2012 and Dec 2013.

The Hobbit Scripts Finished

Director Peter Jackson
Director Peter Jackson

Moviefone have been talking with Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE LOVELY BONES), who is producing the two HOBBIT movies, and he’s cleared up a lot of the rumours surrounding the delay in production. Jackson says that scripts for both parts of THE HOBBIT have now been handed to the studio and that he believes shooting will start at the end of the year.

Jackson states that,

“We’ve just delivered the script. Literally last week, we delivered the second of the two screenplays — the first draft. So the studio’s got both scripts now, which is a milestone; and if anything was holding it up, it was us doing the screenplays, because we’d just been writing as fast as we can, but it took us this long to get them finished…And we’re now in the process of budgeting the films, and then hopefully we’ll get to a budget the studio are happy with, and they’ll greenlight the movies and we’ll announce the shooting dates. I’d be pretty optimistic that we’ll be shooting before the end of the year. I would imagine October, November, we’d be shooting by”.

He goes on to add,

“Well, it’s not really been delayed, because we’ve never announced the date,” Jackson told the site. “I mean it’s sort of interesting because the studio [MGM] has never greenlit The Hobbit, so therefore The Hobbit has never been officially announced as a ‘go’ project, nor have we ever announced a date…But I would imagine that if we get a green light within the next month or two, we would be hopefully making some casting announcements by, I guess, the middle of the year”.

So it seems, unsurprisingly given the LOTR films’ popularity,  that the fans and media have jumped the gun somewhat on this one. However everything Jackson says here is extremely encouraging and it’s good to hear news straight from the horses mouth for once. Here’s hoping that MGM’s financial troubles won’t get in the way of THE HOBBIT’s green light and Jackson’s projected shooting date will go ahead as planned.

Time quizzes Del Toro on vampires

Time magazine has posted an interview with Guillermo Del Toro, in which the filmmaker discusses his first novel, a vampire story co-written with Chuck Hogan and titled The Strain. Del Toro talks about his preference for old-fashioned vampires (i.e., re-animated corpses rather than “beautiful people of the night”), his love of folklore and fairy tales, and what about LORD OF THE RINGS made him want to direct THE HOBBIT.

You’ve said that you were never a huge fan of fantasy and fantasy fiction. What was it about the Lord of the Rings films that made you think The Hobbit was something you wanted to direct?
The scene that hooked me was the moment where the Ringwraiths are right above the hobbits, who are hiding under the roots of a tree. You see the bugs, the insects crawling out and dropping onto the Hobbits. There’s such great atmosphere. I think that’s the key for me. When [other] directors were rendering fantasy movies, they had all this shiny armor and shiny castles. And Peter came from a horror aesthetic. He rendered that fantasy world in the way that either a historian or a Hammer film fan would do it. They were very texturally rich and dark. And that’s what hooked me into the trilogy.