George A. Romero's career as a director has spanned well over 40 years now, with 16 feature films to his credit (plus one O.J. Simpson documentary!). Though mostly known as the father of the modern day zombie movie, and of course the director of the three best zombie movies ever made, Romero has also strayed away from the undead to direct a handful of non-zombie flicks over the years, including films like Creepshow and Martin, and even the non-horror films Knightriders and There's Always Vanilla.
But what about the projects Romero was attached to that never quite got off the ground? The filmmaking business is a fickle one, and any director that has been in the game as long as Romero has is bound to have a handful of projects that died before they ever had a chance to live. Things just don't always work out as planned in Hollywood, and no exceptions to that rule were made throughout the career of this master of horror. Whether we're talking films that ended up being directed by someone else or projects that never ended up getting made, by anyone, Romero's career has been plagued by things that almost were.
Let's take a look at 10 of those projects, the ones that almost found a spot on George Romero's resume!
On June 8th, 1984, the New York Times reported that the movie rights to Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary had been sold ... to George Romero. The article went on to state that King sold the book to his Creepshow partner for "a handshake, a token payment of roughly $10,000, and a healthy share of profits from the movie."
While King's wishes to write the screenplay and have the film shot in Maine were fulfilled, Romero of course didn't end up in the director's chair. Though he worked on the project for a year and a half, things just didn't work out in the end, and Mary Lambert eventually took over.
Interesting to note, Tom Savini was also offered the chance to direct the film, but he turned it down!
Another film in a long list of Stephen King adaptations that Romero was going to direct is Salem's Lot, which was set to be a feature film, at the time Romero was attached to direct it. All systems were a go until Warner Brothers decided to turn the book into a mini-series, rather than a film, a change that was made after it was announced that a couple similar films were soon going to be hitting theaters (including Werner Herzog's Nosferatu).
Not keen on the idea of modifying his vision to fit on network television, Romero dropped out of the project, and Tobe Hooper ended up creating a pretty effective little mini-series, despite the restrictions that Romero had no desire to work under.
Other Stephen King adaptations that Romero was at one point or another attached to? The Stand and From A Buick 8.
Speaking of which...
X-FILES : THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD EPISODE
Would you believe me if I told you that there was once upon a time going to be a cross-over episode of the X-Files, based on Night of the Living Dead? After writing an episode for Season 5 of the show, Stephen King pitched the X-Files team on doing an episode that would essentially serve as a remake of Night of the Living Dead, which Romero was going to direct. Romero and King reportedly met with the X-Files staff, and the plan was for the episode to air during the show's seventh season.
Of course, it never happened, though that season did feature the episode Millenium, a cross-over with the series of the same name, which centered around re-animated corpses. In the episode, Mulder even uttered a line that was more or less directly lifted from Night of the Living Dead, as an homage to the original concept for the episode. So close, and yet so far!
Considering the Resident Evil game series was heavily inspired by Romero's brand of zombie films, it would seem only natural that he would be the go-to guy to direct the franchise's first foray into the movies. And in fact, he initially was. Though Romero at first had no interest in making a zombie movie based on an idea that wasn't his own, he eventually did write a script for the Resident Evil movie in 1999, at the request of Sony and Capcom. He was also attached to direct the film, but ultimately they decided to go in another direction, and Paul W.S. Anderson was brought on board.
In 1998, Romero actually did direct a 30 second live action commercial for the Resident Evil 2 video game in Japan (seen above), which never aired outside of Japan. It was in fact that commercial that sold Capcom on the idea of him writing and directing the Resident Evil movie, and that 30 seconds unfortunately remains the closest Romero will likely ever come to the franchise. And yes, that is the late Brad Renfro, as Leon Kennedy.
If you want to read Romero's Resident Evil script, it's not hard to find. Google is your friend!
GOOSEBUMPS : THE MOVIE
If you take a look at George Romero's IMDb page, you'll notice that the years between 1993 and 2000 seem to have mysteriously vanished from his filmography. But that's hardly because Romero took a break from the film business, between The Dark Half and Bruiser.
After directing The Dark Half, Romero penned the scripts for many big budget Hollywood films, which got stuck in development hell and never made their way out. One of those projects was the film adaptation of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books, a film that was derailed when Scholastic and Fox had a falling out.
It seems every year a Goosebumps film is teased, and the latest news bite is that Monsters vs Aliens director Rob Letterman will soon be helming the long awaited big screen adaptation. Only time will tell!
During that same period of time, Romero also wrote a script for The Mummy, which was given the green light by Universal Studios. A much smaller film than the one we ended up with in 1999, Romero's script was much more akin to the original Boris Karloff film, which he described as "creepier and way more romantic", than the mega budget Stephen Sommers film.
Because he was stuck in a deal with MGM at the time, to direct a film called Before I Wake, Romero's version of the Mummy was unable to be made by Universal. The sad irony is that Before I Wake also never got made, a project that killed two projects with one stone.
It was because of this drought between 1993 and 2000 that Romero decided he'd had enough with Hollywood and its fickle ways, and decided to return to making his own movies, on his own terms.
Chances are you've read a handful of articles about Diamond Dead throughout the years, if you've spent any of your internet time on the big horror news sites. Originally announced in 2004, Diamond Dead was going to be a zombie themed musical centering around an undead rock band, which would be directed by Romero. Asia Argento, Ridley Scott and Rocky Horror composer Richard Hartley were also attached to the project, which Romero compared to Phantom of the Paradise, and a website containing the script and musical excerpts was at one point even launched, to generate internet buzz for the film.
Diamond Dead has been one of those on-again, off-again films since it was announced in 2004, but Romero recently confirmed that it will likely never see the light of day. Insert sad face here.
Fresh off of directing Land of the Dead, The Hollywood Reporter in 2006 reported that Romero would be writing and directing a film called Solitary Isle, based on a short story written by Dark Water and The Ring scribe Koji Suzuki. The story is actually a part of a collection of seven stories from the book Dark Water, and it was the first story in the collection that Dark Water, the film, was based on.
Solitary Isle is about a group of explorers traveling to a supposedly uninhabited island, which they soon discover is in fact inhabited by a mysterious deadly force. Though the thought of Romero venturing out of the zombie sub-genre excited fans, the film never got off the ground, and Diary of the Dead ended up becoming Romero's next film.
DEEP RED REMAKE
At the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, it was announced that Romero would be directing a remake of his buddy Dario Argento's Deep Red....in 3D. Romero soon thereafter clarified that a deal had not been inked, and that he wouldn't touch the film with a ten foot pole unless Dario was on board with him doing so.
As it turned out, it was Dario's younger brother Claudio that wrote the screenplay and approached Romero about doing the film. When Romero found out that Claudio was looking to make the film behind his brother's back, Romero stayed true his word and backed out of the project.
CITY OF THE DEAD
Zombies....ole George just can't escape them!
While the title of this project sounds like yet another entry in Romero's ...of the Dead series of films, City was actually going to be a video game, based on those films. Originally announced in 2004, and with a planned release date sometime in 2006, City of the Dead was going to take place on a zombie infested island and feature the likeness and voice of frequent Romero collaborator Tom Savini. Footage from the gory game debuted at the 2005 E3 expo (check it out above!), but it was never seen or heard from again. According to reports, financial difficulties resulted in the death of the game.
The bummer of all this is that Hip Interactive had also planned on making games based directly on Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, two projects that died along with City of the Dead. If only!
Which of these failed projects would you bring back to life, if you had the chance? Leave a comment below and let us know!!