If a movie is going to get pulled, it’s usually down to a problem in pre-production. It’s why Pixar’s salamander film Newt never hit screens, Sam Raimi was never able to gift us Spider-man 4 and, most tragic of all, why we never saw Nicholas Cage play a long-haired Superman in a feature film.
However, occasionally, just occasionally, it’s a completed flick that’s pulled narrowly before release. Sometimes it reaches the cinema months or years later. Other times it never gets screened at all. But no matter where the movie ends up, you can be sure of one thing: there’s an intriguing story behind it.
Just take the following examples…
Originally slated for a 27th September 2019 release, this Hillary-Swank-starring satirical horror flick look set to portray a battle between wealthy “globalists” and “normal people” apparently harbouring right-wing views.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s premise caused quite the stir, but distributor Universal continued to advertise The Hunt, releasing a blood-heavy trailer in July. However, the studio decided to pull all marketing for the movie following two US mass-shootings in El Paso and Dayton, massacres in which over 30 people lost their lives.
Then, five days later, the film was cancelled altogether after it was attacked by US President Donald Trump, who appeared to suggest the film was made to “inflame and cause chaos”, tactfully adding “Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level”.
Why was Trump taking such an interest in a relatively small film (with a modest Hollywood budget of $18 million)? We can’t say for sure. But we will tell you that Fox News condemned The Hunt extensively just before Trump tweeted his own criticism. Totally coincidently, of course.
City of Lies
Who shot Biggie? That’s the question posed by this Johnny Depp drama centred on the murder investigations of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. However, audiences might never see the answer it puts forward – although first slated for a 7th September 2018 opening, City of Lies hasn’t yet enjoyed a wide release and is currently only available on Blu-ray in Italy.
The reason why isn’t completely clear, with the studio itself not commenting on the cancellation. However, we can say the film faced a difficult production process where Depp was sued by a location manager Gregg “Rocky” Brooks, who alleged that Depp verbally abused him before punching him twice. Depp, however, has claimed Brooks sustained his injuries due to “self-defence/defence of others.”
Status: Released in December 2014, three months after originally planned
Just in case you’re thinking of ways to annoy North Korea, here’s one helpfully provided by Seth Rogen and James Franco circa 2014: star in a film depicting an assassination attempt on a bunga bunga version of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, apparently a drug-fuelled Katy Perry fan battling a plethora daddy issues.
After – shock! – the despot and his government threatened action against the US if the movie was released, filmmakers Sony moved the opening of the film from October to December. In this time aspects of The Interview were reportedly re-edited, including Kim’s explosive death scene.
However, in November that year, Sony faced a massive hack by Guardians of Peace, a group connected to North Korea (although the government denied their part in the cyber attack). And despite threats more hacks would follow if The Interview was put in cinemas, Sony decided to release the film anyway.
So, was the wait for the movie worth it? Was this not only a victory for free speech but great cinema? In short: no. In a bit longer: receiving a mixed response, The Interview was labelled “a terror attack against comedy” and even “the lamest act of war ever”.
The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)
Status: released in November 2011 after a five-month battle with the BBFC
No, we’re not going to post the trailer here. And yes, it’s even more gruesome than the original. A follow up to film-cum-nihilism-recruitment-video of 2009, the story follows Martin Lomax, a man inspired by the first film to stitch together twelve strangers rectum-to-mouth. Which is very meta, but, more importantly, absolutely bloody horrible.
And we’re not alone in thinking that. The Human Centipede 2 was deemed so horrific that the poor folks at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) refused to give the film a rating, declaring it was potentially in breach of the Obscene Publications Act.
Although initially concerned the BBFC had given away spoilers in its verdict, director Tom Six agree to make 32 cuts to the film and The Human Centipede 2 finally received an 18 rating five months after it was first submitted.
Suffice to say, even with the edits, it’s still not a film to watch with your gran.
Status: unreleased, but bootleg copies can be watched online
Although many might hope 2015’s Fantastic Four film was never released, here we’re referring to the 1993 movie that never hit the big screen. And nobody seems to know exactly why.
While some allege the Marvel film was only made so director Bernd Eichinger could keep the rights of the superhero characters, others (including Eichinger himself) have said the film was pulled as Marvel bosses were worried about a negative reaction.
Unfortunately for them, bootlegged versions of The Fantastic Four made their way on the internet anyway. And, we’ll put it this way: from what we’ve seen, it looks like those Marvel executives did cinemagoers a huge favour.
Status: released in April 2003, eight months after originally planned
This real-time Colin Farrell thriller set mostly in – you guessed it – a phone booth, was a box office hit when it was finally released in April 2003. However, it was originally slated to reach cinemas six months earlier.
The reason? Like The Hunt (see above), the events of the film mirrored horrific mass-shootings that took place close to the film’s release. In the case of Phone Booth, the plot – which saw Farrell trapped by a sniper played Kiefer Sunderland – was seen as resembling the Beltway sniper attacks.
Empires of the Deep
While the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water demonstrated there can be such thing as a meaningful story between aquatic creatures and humans, other films have shown the exact opposite. Speaking of which: 3D US-Chinese flick Empires of the Deep, an aqua-adventure story that cost a reported $130million to make – only to look like a Syfy Channel TV movie.
At least that’s what we can gather from the trailer (see above) that appeared in 2012 featuring some very iffy CGI fish, questionable outfits and a cheesy deep-voiced narrator that gives up halfway through.
Seven years, four directors and ten scriptwriters later, the film itself still hasn’t sailed onto our screens. And despite assurances from its main financier, Chinese oligarch Jon Jiang, we’ve got a sinking feeling Empires’ release date will never surface.
Status: Released in 2012, nine years after originally planned
Hilary Duff. Christopher Lloyd. Charlie Sheen voicing an anthropomorphic dog detective. In 2003, the year of the film’s intended release, Food Fight sounded like it had a lot going for it. In reality, however, its ‘Toy Story in a supermarket’ plot was brought to life with nightmare-inducing animation, several double entendres about inter-species sex and Nazi overtones not suitable for a general audience, let alone kids.
But that’s not the reason this film got delayed. Despite investors pumping in money, the film’s visual effects shots (i.e. the entire movie) were continuously delayed. Finally, in 2011 the movie was auctioned off for $2.5 million – one-twentieth of its production cost – and released the following year. That still doesn’t, of course, mean you should ever ever watch it.
Status: Released in the UK in 1993, 26 years after originally planned
You probably know Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was based on 1967 Italian movie Django. In fact, Franco Nero, who played the titular character in the original spaghetti western enjoyed a cameo appearance in Unchained.
However, most people don’t know the original Django was pulled from UK cinemas shortly before its release. Although it reached US cinemas, the BBFC refused to classify Django due to its “excessive and nauseating violence”, despite most of the gore taking place off-screen. For instance, although (Spoiler!) Django’s hands are crushed at one point, the viewer never actually sees the injury.
Despite this, the ban stayed in place until 1993. Passing the film uncut with an 18 certificate, the BBFC said: “Although two decades ago the feature may have seemed mindless violence, in the age of Terminator 2 and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the feature has an almost naive and innocent quality to it […] One could say that the feature is almost bloodless.”