Universal has been balking over the $150 million budget and R rating on At the Mountain of Madness, the adaptation of the HP Lovecraft tale that revolves around the discovery of thawing alien beings in Antarctica. This despite the fact that del Toro had Tom Cruise ready to star in the film, with James Cameron producing with Don Murphy and Susan Montford, and Cameron god-fathering the 3D process. Del Toro and his team have delivered a stunning visual presentation that met the studio's budget specifications, but I'm told the studio is still wary about the R rating and price. It's just a very hard decision. The film is more horror than action adventure and I'm told it would have to generate $500 million in worldwide grosses for the studio to earn its money back. That means it would have to be a Lord of the Rings or Inception kind of achievement, which is a lot of performance pressure to place on an R-rated horror film.... I've heard that del Toro has asked for an answer by end of business today from Universal, or he is moving on.
Del Toro's been waiting for a greenlight on this project for years. I suspect that if he's still carrying a torch for it, he thinks it'll be pretty goddamn good.
Also, Universal? Mark Harris' piece from GQ, "The Day the Movies Died"? Totally worth reading at this point. And I know, I know: Unlike a lot of other studios, you've taken some risks in the past with original genre films that haven't paid off, at least not financially—Scott Pilgrim, Serenity—and kudos for doing that, but still. Don't stop trying, alright? Leave that to everybody else. If Deadline's right, you've got an hour to make del Toro happy—and in the process, make what could very well be a hell of a movie. You should probably do it.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!