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10 Movies Stuck in Development Hell

by Andrew Orillion
fact checked by Alex Hanton

For every successful project that gets made in Hollywood, there are dozens that seem destined for glory, only to end up languishing on the shelf for years. In Hollywood this is known as ‘Development Hell’, and there are few worse places. There are many reasons for a script or project to get stuck in Development Hell; rewrites don’t pan out, important people leave the project or the studios just lose interest. Sometimes there are no reasons and certain projects can just never catch a break. There are cases of films being rescued from Development Hell, but that will be another list.

This is a list of ten films which are currently stuck in the fiery pit of Development Hell. Some might see the light of day, others will never escape. Dare you enter?


Ender’s Game


Based on the science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game tells the story of Ender Wiggin. The story is set in a distant future where mankind in engaged in an intergalactic war with an alien race known as Buggers. Ender is one of many child soldiers trained to fight in this epic conflict. The book is considered one of the seminal works of modern science fiction, and received both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, the highest honors in science fiction writing.
What’s the hold up? Hopefully nothing.

After more than a decade of rewrites and creative disputes between Card and Hollywood, Ender’s Game might finally be coming to the big screen. In September, Card announced that the screenplay was finally finished, and Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Tsotsi) said he’ll direct. But, just because the movie has gotten this far, doesn’t mean it will actually get made. Ender’s Game will be an expensive undertaking and a tough sell to audiences not familiar with the source material. Until the cameras start rolling, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.


The Sandman

Sandmanvol3 Hardcover

The Sandman is a comic book series by Neil Gaiman chronicling the story of Dream of the Endless, and his six siblings. The series ran from 1989 to 1996, and won numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award in 1991.

What’s the holdup? Hollywood BS.

The Sandman adaptation is one of the best examples of Development Hell. This one has been kicking around Hollywood since the late 1990s, and, for one reason or another, just can’t get made. Roger Avery (Pulp Fiction), Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean), Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Flatliners) and many others have taken a crack at this one, with no success. Even the recent boom in comic-book-to-film adaptations hasn’t helped this project. Gaiman called the last screenplay that Warner Brothers sent him “…not only the worst Sandman script I’ve ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I’ve ever read.” Maybe it’s for the best that this one isn’t getting made.


A Confederacy of Dunces

Confederacy Of Dunces Cover

Another movie based on award winning source material, in this case the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Written by John Kennedy Toole, and published posthumously, A Confederacy of Dunces tells the story of Ignatius J. Reilly. Reilly is an educated, but lazy, man who still lives with his mother in New Orleans. Forced to leave home, Reilly has a series of misadventures involving colorful characters in and around New Orleans’ famous French Quarter.

What’s the holdup? The Fickle Finger of Fate.

John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farely were all considered for the lead role in various adaptations over the past 30 years. Sadly, all died before any headway was made. The latest attempt, with Will Farrell set to play Reilly, was called off after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Since then, nothing has surfaced about any attempt to restart the project, and Paramount (the owner of the film rights) has shown little interest.


Sequel to Roger Rabbit


Set in a world where cartoon characters and people co-exist, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was one of the biggest hits of 1988, bringing in over $300 million at the box office. Its smooth combination of live action and cell-animation was unparalleled at the time. A franchise seemed inevitable and profitable.

What’s the hold up? Spielberg left the project and no one else seemed interested. But, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

A second installment was planned as far back as 1990. In this case, it would have been a direct-to-video prequel. Originally called Toon Patrol (later retitled, Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?), the film would have seen Roger and a human character, named Richie, save the future Mrs. Jessica Rabbit from the Nazis, during World War II. The project stalled in the script stage when Steven Spielberg left to make Schindler’s List and co-found Dreamworks. The project was briefly resurrected in 1997, and the story changed to Roger’s rise to stardom on Broadway. In June of this year, Empire Magazine quoted Don Hahn, one the original film’s associate producers as saying, “Yeah, I couldn’t possibly comment. I deny completely, but yeah… if you’re a fan, pretty soon you’re going to be very, very, very happy.” But since then, nothing more has come out. The problem with this project is that animation has changed a great deal since 1988. 3D is king and traditional cel-based animation is dead as the dodo. Plus, I’m not sure there’s much public interest in the property anymore. Then again, we’re finally getting a Tron sequel, so who knows?


Arrested Development

Arrested Development

Arrested Development was a sitcom that aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006. The show focused on the misadventures of the Bluth family, as they attempted to regain control of their lives after the family patriarch was arrested by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although a critical darling, the show never caught on with the general public, and ratings remained low throughout its three seasons. The show has gone on to become a huge cult favorite.

What’s the hold-up? Lack of interest from Fox and some members of the cast.

There has been talk of an Arrested Development movie for years, pretty much since the show was canceled. While the show’s creator, Hurwitz, has begun working on a script and Ron Howard (who narrated the show and produced it) is slated to direct, this movie’s future is still very much up in the air. The hold-up with this one is indifference, from both the studio and some of the cast. All of the major players have moved on to other things. Michael Cera and Bateman are doing feature films, and Will Arnet, David Cross, Tony Hale, Jessica Walters and Jeffery Tambor have all moved on into other shows. Cross and Alia Shawkat have both expressed doubts the film will ever get made, or that there is much interest in a movie four years after the show’s cancellation. Like some of the other films on the list, this one may yet get made. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


Rendezvous With Rama

Rendez Vous Avec Rama David Fincher Rendez Vous Rate 2

Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clark, Rendezvous with Rama is an alien encounter story set in the 22nd century. The story involves a 50-kilometre-long, cylindrical alien starship that enters Earth’s solar system. The story is told from the perspective of a group of human explorers, who intercept the ship in an attempt to unlock its mysteries. Like Ender’s Game, Rama won both the Hugo and Nebula awards and is widely regarded as one of the cornerstones of modern science fiction.

What’s the hold-up? Morgan Freeman left the project.

This is another one that’s been kicking around Hollywood for decades without much success. In the early 2000s, actor Morgan Freeman expressed his interest in bringing the book to the big screen, and tried to secure funding. Director David Fincher (Seven, The Social Network) was attached to the project, and, in 2007, it looked like the project was moving forward. Then, it all fell apart. In 2008, Freeman was involved in a serious car accident and was forced to drop the project. The funding dried up without Freeman’s support, and Fincher moved on to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Unfortunately, this one appears to be truly and irreversibly dead, with no script and little interest from anyone in Hollywood.


World War Z

Zombies World War Z

Max Brooks’ pseudo epistolary novel tells the story of mankind’s struggle against a worldwide zombie apocalypse, through firsthand accounts related to a journalist. A best seller in 2006, the book was surprisingly well received by critics and a bidding war soon erupted over the film rights.

What’s the hold-up? No one can agree on a script.

J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon Five) was the first to take a crack at this one. His script was lauded by those who read it, prompting one critic to say “This isn’t just a good adaptation of a difficult book … it’s a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as ‘Best Picture’ material.” The movie was set for a 2009 release, but stalled during the rewrite process. A director is attached and Brad Pitt is set to star in the lead role, but whether or not this film becomes a reality is far from certain.


Sin City 2


Released in 2005, Sin City was based on a series of noir comic books written by Frank Miller. Directed by Robert Rodriquez, the movie was shot almost entirely on a “digital backlot” and greatly influenced the adaptation of another Frank Miller work, 300. It also helped revive the career of actor, Mickey Rourke, who played Marv. The film was a critical success and a modest hit at the box office taking in $75 million, domestically. Financial difficulties, rights issues and a crowded development slate held up the film.

According to Miller, a prequel based on A Dame to Kill For was planned for 2007. Miller and Rodriquez worked on a script, and a number of performers were attached at different stages. In 2009, the film seemed to be on track and was scheduled to start shooting. Later that same year, it was reported that the Weinstein Company, which produced the first Sin City, lost the film rights to the sequel. The company denied this rumor, but has since fallen on hard times and may end up getting sold, putting the film rights on shaky ground. In October, it was reported that Rodriquez is still interested in doing Sin City 2, but it won’t be until after Spy Kids 4, and then, only if the script is good. But with Spy Kids 4 not slated for release until August 2011, and Rodriquez set to follow that with a remake of Barbarella, Sin City 2 won’t see the light of day until at least 2013. By then it’s unlikely that most moviegoers, and thus studios, will care. Again, it might happen, but don’t get your hopes up.




Based on the novel by Steve Alten, Meg is about a modern-day Megalodon shark, unleashed upon the world’s oceans. The book was a bestseller and spawned three sequels: Trench, Meg: Primal Waters and Meg: Hell’s Aquarium.

What’s the hold-up? Hollywood BS.

This one has been mired in Development Hell since the book was first published, in 1997. In 2008, New Line Cinema was planning to make the movie, with either Jan De Bont or Guillermo Del Toro set to direct. For whatever reason, probably related to the merger of New Line Cinema with Warner Bros., the project was shelved, and the film rights reverted back to Alten. As of now, there are no plans to move forward with the project, and Alten has said he’s looking for a new deal. Given the success of Jaws, you would think this would be a no-brainer. But that’s Hollywood for you.



Halo Movie

One of the most successful video games of all time, HALO: Combat Evolved was released for the X-Box in 2001. The main trilogy centers on the exploits of Master Chief, a cybernetically-enhanced human super-soldier, as he battles a theocratic alliance of alien races called the Covenant. The term “Halo” refers to Halo megastructures: large, habitable ringed structures, similar to the Orbitals in Larry Niven’s Ringworld. To date, the series has grossed over $1.7 billion dollars.

What’s the hold-up? Budgetary concerns; Peter Jackson is busy with other projects.

A film adaptation of HALO has been in the works since 2005. 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios decided to partner to produce the film. Peter Jackson, fresh from his success with The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, was slated to executive produce with Neil Blomkamp and Guillermo Del Toro as directors. Everything seemed to be in place. However, that’s as far as the project has gotten. The biggest roadblock seems to be the budget. Jackson wanted a large up-front deal. Combine that with a movie that will likely cost several hundred millions of dollars to make, and even two of the richest studios in town can’t make it happen. In 2006, 20th Century Fox threatened to bail on the project and Universal made it clear it won’t give Jackson the up-front deal he wants. Since then, nothing has happened. Bloomkamp declared the movie dead, and with Jackson busy with several other projects, including The Hobbit, Tintin and a remake of The Dam Busters, I’m inclined to think he’s right. If a HALO movie does move forward, don’t expect it until at least 2012 or later.


Three Star Wars sequels


This one is kind of a cheat, but I wanted to throw it in since there was recent news on this one. To the Star Wars faithful, it is known that Lucas intended the series to be nine films long. But, after the tepid response to the prequels, there was doubt as to whether this was going to happen.

On Friday, October 22, IESB reported that Lucas is moving ahead with plans for three sequels. But don’t start camping out just yet. According to sources, the first sequel won’t be released until around 2015, after the first six films have been re-released in 3D in theaters, and released on Blu-ray.

fact checked by Alex Hanton