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It’s hard to imagine that people say no to a filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro, but before landing his Best Director Oscar for “The Shape of Water” there had been a handful of projects that slipped through his fingers. The most notable failed attempt was a live-action adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft‘s “At The Mountains of Madness.” Lovecraft’s tale mixes the science fiction and horror genres which would later have a direct influence on films like “Alien,” John Carpenter‘s “The Thing,” and more recently “Prometheus.”
More than a decade later, del Toro shared a bit update with IndieWire about the lost project. During a new interview, del Toro mentioned that he spoke with stop-motion visionary Phil Tippett, who was behind a lot of creature shots from the original “Star Wars” trilogy and “RoboCop” to potentially help revive “At The Mountains of Madness” as a stop-motion production instead of live-action. That’s a possible compromise since del Toro’s live-action film might be too pricey for suitors, especially since the director wanted to make his version as dark and grotesque as possible.
“I said it would be ideal to do ‘Mountains of Madness’ as stop-motion,” del Toro told IndieWire about switching mediums. “You watch the animation in a more rapturous way than live action. It’s almost a hypnotic act, and the relationship to the story becomes more intimate in that way.”
“At The Mountains of Madness” follows an expedition in the Antarctic in 1930 as the group uncovers an ancient civilization of non-humans called The Elder Things that predates humanity. Corpses of these creatures of a bygone era start reanimating on their own, leading to horrific consequences for the team of explorers.
It’s unclear if there is any real active development the project, last year the filmmaker revealed that he attempted a new pitch to Netflix, where he’s found creative partners for both film and television projects.
One incarnation of del Toro’s “Madness” was at Universal Pictures, with mega-star Tom Cruise (“Top Gun: Maverick“) attached to lead the film. However, the studio and director fought over the budget, including del Toro’s stipulation for an R-rated film. Obviously, that scared the studio about recouping expenses at the box office, and the project eventually fell apart. Now, after tackling the stop-motion medium with “Pinocchio,” it’s possible that del Toro feels like there may be an alternative route to making “At The Mountains of Madness.”
If that’s the case A del Toro-Tippet collaboration could be a great combo for the project. Tippett’s “Mad God,” a grim, genre hybrid stop-motion film that took nearly 30 years to complete, hit limited theaters and Shudder earlier this year. If this partnership indeed happens, del Toro’s vision of Lovecraft’s story would be in good hands with Tippett. So, who knows? Del Toro may have a way to make “At The Mountains of Madness” after all. Check out early test footage from del Toro’s scrapped live-action version here.