If director Guillermo del Toro has a single passion project—although he seems to have many—it’s his movie adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness. He’s been working on it for 15 years, to no avail, but it turns out that might have inadvertently worked in the Academy Award-winning director’s favor.
First, a little backstory: del Toro and screenwriter Matthew Robbins wrote an At the Mountains of Madness screenplay back in 2006, only for Warner Bros. to realize it had no desire to release a faithful adaptation of any Lovecraft stories, which usually swap heroes and romance for monsters, mounting dread, and insanity. However, Universal Pictures nabbed the rights to distribute the movie and hired Tom Cruise to be the lead... only for Universal to realize it also had no desire to release a faithful adaptation of a Lovecraft story, but rather a PG-13 action blockbuster version of it, which del Toro refused to do.
But on Fangoria’s Stephen King podcast the Kingcast, hosts Eric Vespe and Scott Wampler recently had a chance to check up on the project, which they very much did. Del Toro’s responses were very interesting:
“The Kingcast: With the ongoing relationship you have with Netflix, do you think there’s any chance that you might you loop back around to At the Mountains of Madness at some point?
Guillermo del Toro: Well, listen that was… take a wild guess which were the
first projects I presented, you know? [laughs] I went through the cupboards and found [The Count of] Monte Cristo, [At the] Mountains of Madness. Those were a couple of the ones I presented first. The thing with Mountains is, the screenplay I co-wrote 15 years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite. Not only to scale it down somehow but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that made it somewhat be able to go through the studio machinery. You know?
The Kingcast: Yeah, blockbuster-y.
Del Toro: Blockbuster-y. And I think I don’t need to reconcile that anymore. I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it. You know, where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out. Some of the big set pieces I designed, for example, I have no appetite for. Like, I’ve already done this or that
giant set piece. I feel like going into a weirder direction. I know a few things will stay. I know the ending we have is one of the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings, for me.”
Directors can rail against streaming services all they want for forcing (allowing) people to watch movies at home, but these services are all so hungry for content—especially Netflix and Amazon Prime Video—that they’ve allowed all sorts of projects that wouldn’t be made in the normal studio system, or at least not without copious notes designed to give the film the broadest appeal possible, which inevitably makes it less unique. We could have had another horror movie turned into a crappy action flick, like Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. Instead, we might get an adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous works directed by a man who wants to do it as much (horrific) justice as possible.
I know which movie I’d prefer. And if you want to hear the rest of del Toro’s interview, head over to the Kingcast—it’s definitely worth a listen.
Correction 12/1/2020, 10:45 a.m. ET: A previous version of this post misstated the title of the project in its headline and opening.
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