When a big name filmmaker is as busy as Guillermo del Toro, naturally there will be speculation aplenty surrounding his future work. With his latest film 'Pacific Rim' about to open, and showing potential to be his biggest commercial success to date, it seems feasible that this might just pave the way to a greenlight for his dream project: an adaptation of HP Lovecraft's 1931 novella 'At the Mountains of Madness.'
The classic tale of an Antarctic expedition which brings the protagonists face to face with the hideous, monumental Elder Things is one of the cornerstones of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, whose influence is prominent in horror fiction and Goth culture. Lovecraftian elements are also prominent in del Toro's films, perhaps most notably the huge, tentacled beasts briefly glimpsed in the 'Hellboy' films, and of course the giant Kaiju of 'Pacific Rim.' It's not too surprising, therefore, that del Toro would be keen to realise Lovecraft's tale on the big screen; it also makes the film's troubled history so frustrating for horror fans, for whom it's an exciting prospect indeed.
To briefly sum up the road to 'At the Mountains of Madness' thus far: the film was announced back in July 2010, after del Toro pulled out of directing 'The Hobbit.' The production was being set up at Universal, and - the real ace up del Toro's sleeve - James Cameron was aboard as producer, fresh from enjoying the biggest box office hit ever (again) with 'Avatar.' With 'At the Mountains of Madness' proposed as a 3D movie, Cameron's expertise here was expected to be vital.
As if that wasn't enough, del Toro didn't aim low for his leading man, casting none other than Tom Cruise. By Spring 2011, everything seemed set for what promised to be the biggest horror film event of the century - until Universal pulled the plug.
As Mike Fleming Jr. of Deadline reported at the time, "Universal has been balking over the $150 million budget and R rating…the film is more horror than action adventure and I'm told it would have to generate $500 million in worldwide grosses for the studio to earn its money back… which is a lot of performance pressure to place on an R-rated horror film."
For del Toro, the turnover between projects was swift: as he told us this week, "Friday afternoon 'Mountains' collapsed, and Monday afternoon I was green-lit on 'Pacific Rim'."
With 'Pacific Rim' underway, and no shortage of other del Toro projects on the drawing board - among them his next movie 'Crimson Peak,' and possible DC comics adaptation 'Justice League Dark' - 'At the Mountains of Madness' faded into the background somewhat.
However, the director told Indiewire recently "I'm going to try it one more time," also confirming Tom Cruise is still attached.
Now, there seems to be at least a spark of hope, as Legendary Pictures - the production house behind 'Pacific Rim,' hitherto associated with Warners - are moving over to Universal, the very studio with whom 'At the Mountains of Madness' was in development in the first place.
While absolutely nothing official has been said, del Toro was quoted by the Hollywood Reporter as saying "Thomas (Tull, Legendary CEO) is a big fan of the screenplay and the project. So it bodes well for that." Also boding well is Legendary's track record of making bold, adult-oriented films on big budgets, notably '300' and 'Watchmen.'
Once again - nothing is definitive here whatsoever. But it certainly is enough to give us pause that del Toro's dream project, potentially the biggest horror movie of our time, just may come to pass.