More Big Budget Movie Productions Biting the Dust?

I previously wrote about Hollywood's cold feet as budgets skyrocketed on some highly anticipated productions, such as The Lone Ranger remake starring Johnny Depp and the ambitious production of Stephen King's The Dark Tower by director Ron Howard, forcing those projects to temporarily shut down and trim their costs or seek funding elsewhere.  Now, a few other high profile movies are in trouble before filming has even begun, and it's all because film studios are becoming squeamish about investing hundreds of millions of dollars in this economy.  Deadline Hollywood reports that Legendary Pictures is pushing back its heavily hyped version of John Milton's Paradise Lost because the estimated cost to make it has skyrocketed beyond the $120 million mark, and it also writes that Warner Bros. has nixed Arthur and Lancelot because the estimated $130 million budget was deemed too high a risk.  Universal Pictures also turned around its greenlight of the adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness.

It's understandable that Warner Bros. is nervous about Arthur and Lancelot, since movies based on the mythic story of the Knights of the Round Table have been hit or miss.  Would the contemporary retelling of the King Arthur saga attract an audience as did the cult classic Excalibur or the Disney favorite The Sword in the Stone, or would it fizzle like First Knight and countless others?  The story continues to be told to death, with the BBC's Merlin and Starz's dramatic re-imagining of Camelot, just to name two of the most recent.  Arthur and Lancelot would have been directed by David Dobkin who previously gave us Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus, and The Change-Up, and would have starred TV actors Kit Harington of Game of Thrones and Joel Kinneman of The Killing in the leads, both unproven as film stars -- not exactly the kind of names that can guarantee the success of a multi-million-dollar tentpole picture.

Yet even big names cannot quelch the trepidation of producers facing shaky economic times.  At the Mountains of Madness would have been helmed by Guillermo del Toro and possibly starred Tom Cruise, while Paradise Lost was set to have been directed by Alex Proyas and to have featured Bradley Cooper, Camilla Belle, Dominic Purcell, Rufus Sewell, Casey Affleck, Djimon Hounsou, and others.

The good news is that the latter epic hasn't been completely shut down, but merely postponed until the numbers-crunchers can figure out a way to minimize the budget.  The scheduled January production start will not happen, but maybe they can get their act together to begin filming in a few months.  The promising and eagerly awaited Paradise Lost may not be utterly lost but only "Paradise Delayed."  I hope they can find a way to make it happen.


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