Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro has made no secret over the years of his desire to do an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s influential horror story At the Mountains of Madness, but the dream project’s risky requirements seem to make it fall through the cracks every time del Toro gets close to reeling in a studio.
Universal backed away from it last year, amid buzz of difficulties with del Toro’s preferred budget and R-rating. However, now that Legendary Pictures are collaborating with Universal on the filmmaker’s Pacific Rim 2, del Toro is hopeful that he can bring the project over to Legendary – even if he has to tone it down to a PG-13. However, del Toro’s preference for At the Mountains of Madness, as it turns out, is to do two separate cuts in order to please both the studio and horror-lovers in the audience.
Speaking with Collider while promoting his FX series The Strain, del Toro was open about his ideas for At the Mountains of Madness, voicing his preference for a simultaneous theatrical release for PG-13 and unrated cuts. Obviously, what he’s aiming for with that idea is to prove to studios that an R-rated genre film can still be very successful at the box office, though I doubt Legendary and Universal will give del Toro the chance to teach them that particular lesson. The filmmaker stated about an unrated version:
“That’s actually exactly what I’m thinking. The way I’m thinking is, PG-13 goes a long way. It’s not that the novel is graphic, but people forget that there are crucial elements in the novel that are pretty horrific. Like the human autopsy, you know? I think that’s a dark moment. So what I would like to do is shoot it, as dark as it is, in an unrated cut and a PG-13 cut. Ideally they would be released simultaneously if that’s at all possible. We could release one [cut] in a certain format and the other in a different format with the hopes that we can offer more intense moments in one cut and equally intense moments but without graphic content in the other cut. Lovecraft was famous for suggestion, and a lot of the piece can suggest, but there are [certain moments] you need to show. Part of it is budget, part of it is rating. The one thing I’ll say is that at this stage for me, Mountains is not made. So I’d rather make it in a way that doesn’t compromise the content, or not do it. And, in the last few years, what has changed is that I’ve seen PG-13 films that are very intense. For me Life of Pi, the first 25 minutes of that movie were really very intense with the violence on the boat and the sinking. I came to think, “you know what? It is possible to go to places that are intense but still have a strong appeal for a rating.” That, I think, is the main thing that changed.”
However, that’s not to say that At the Mountains of Madness is a go yet. When asked about shooting it directly after Pacific Rim 2 (which we now know will come after a small black-and-white film), del Toro was less confident, saying:
“The only thing I know is that I have two studios that like the project very much, which is Universal and Legendary. Legendary came very close to financing and Universal came famously close to financing and we were very much getting there. So I think that there’s a chance we’re still keeping it alive. What normally happens is I have stacks and stacks of beautiful designs. I have 30, 40, 50 pieces of key art. I have maquettes. I have concept art. I have hundreds of storyboards. And of all the things that have gone undone so far, the one that I would most like to share with the world is Mountains.”
The idea of an unrated cut of At the Mountains of Madness definitely has my backing, and hopefully the studios will see the logic in giving a filmmaker as tremendously gifted and respected as del Toro carte blanche to do what he wants, especially if there’s the added caveat of a toned-down PG-13 version.
We’ll keep you posted as del Toro continues to fight to get this movie made.