Seven iconic directors. Seven projects that will never see the light of day.
1. Steven Spielberg
“After E.T. came out, I started work on a movie called The Poet. It’s about a man who receives the Nobel Prize in literature for writing the words ‘I want to throw a car at the Devil’ on an index card. We cast the late, great Orson Welles as the Nobel winner, which I found incredibly exciting.
“Unfortunately, halfway through filming, Orson took an unbreakable oath that the only words he would say on film would be curse words. I tried to rewrite the script so that Orson’s character only spoke in strings of four-letter profanities, but unfortunately he passed away before I could perfect a revised screenplay. I often look back on that movie and wonder what could have been.”
2. Terrence Malick
“In 1978, I began work on what I thought would be my greatest project: a six-hour drama called Hot Tub Boy. It was about a 9-year-old boy who sits in a hot tub for a hundred years. Every 20 minutes throughout the six-hour movie, he picks up a phone at the side of the hot tub and says, ‘I am the Hot Tub Boy.’ Then he hangs up. We never learn who he’s talking to on the phone.
“I worked on that screenplay year after year, but I started second-guessing myself, and I couldn’t decide whether the boy should say, “I am the Hot Tub Boy” or “I am a Hot Tub Boy.” I went back and forth on this question for 20 years and never figured it out. Eventually, I gave up on the project altogether. In 1998, I made The Thin Red Line, my first film in two decades. It’s trash compared to Hot Tub Boy.”
3. Sofia Coppola
“I’ve always wanted to make a historical drama where Nelson Mandela lifts weights on the beach while he watches a cruise ship sink a couple miles offshore.”
4. Martin Scorsese
“Ever since I was in film school I’ve dreamed of doing an adaptation of King Lear set entirely in a midsize sedan. All of the play’s characters would be crammed into the same tiny car for the whole film, but I think that would only heighten the drama of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. There would not be a lot of room for the actors to move around, and I think that’s great.”
5. Quentin Tarantino
“For years I’ve been working on a movie titled Astronaut Jail. It’s a movie about a jail exclusively for astronauts, and they have to wear their spacesuits all the time, even when they’re doing bench presses in the prison yard, which they do for almost the entire movie. It’s probably the best idea for a movie I’ve ever had, but right now the only line I have written is: ‘Every day, I thank God that I was sent to Astronaut Jail, the jail for astronauts.’
“I can’t seem to get past that one line. Maybe that’s all that needs to be said.”
6. Peter Jackson
“I would like to do a movie where an honest man gets hit by a car.”
7. Spike Lee
“When I was in film school, I wrote the screenplay for a movie called Two Types Of Wine. It’s about a father and son who stand on the shore of the ocean and stare at the waves. One day, the father and son see two incredibly long arms emerge from the ocean. The arms are over 50 feet long and stretch toward the sky. One of the arms is holding a bottle of red wine. The other arm is holding a bottle of white wine. The father turns to his son and says, ‘Sorry son, but I’m going to go be with the two types of wine,’ and walks straight into the ocean. The son silently waves goodbye.
“I’ve done the math, and the special effects required to animate the arms that hold the wine with the necessary level of detail would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. As a result, no studio has been brave enough to finance Two Types Of Wine, but I keep trying. If I don’t make that movie before I die, then my entire life will have meant absolutely nothing.”