9. What Makes Pistachio Nuts? (Harmony Korine)
Harmony Korine produced a string of provocative titles back in the late 90’s, including “Gummo” and the Werner Herzog-starring “julien donkey-boy.” Following “Julien donkey-boy,” Korine started writing a film called “What Makes a Pistaschio Nuts?”
It was to be the story of a pig named Pistachio and his boy companion. The boy would apply glue to his pig’s hooves, ride him up walls and throw Molotov cocktails. The film would have been set during a race war. Korine has said the film “would have been my masterpiece”
Given Harmony Korine’s reputation and the inclusion of a race war in his script, “What Makes Pistaschio Nuts?” would have likely made some waves. However, Korine lost the script when his laptop was destroyed in a house fire. He reportedly paid $15,000 to NASA in an attempt to recover the missing contents from the hard drive. They could only retrieve one sentence: “The finger is pointless. The speech is pointless.”
Given Harmony Korine’s quasi-surrealist habit of creating “perfect nonsense” (he once said that after completing “Gummo,” he pulled down his pants and threw his sister through a window), and the fact that he hasn’t tried to replicate the script for his “masterpiece,” it could also be possible that he made the whole thing up, and there never was a script for “What Makes Pistachio Nuts?” Still, one wonders what could have been.
10. Giraffes on Horseback Salad (Marx Brothers and Salvador Dali)
In 1937, Salvador Dali wrote a script for the Marx Brothers, whom he greatly admired and called “true surrealists.” That script was called “Giraffes on Horseback Salad,” and it was to feature Harpo catching dwarves with a butterfly net, giraffes in gas masks being set on fire, and Groucho answering many phones with multiple arms.
Dali and Harpo were good friends and professed a mutual admiration of each other—Dali once sent Harpo a harp with barbed wire for strings and spoons for turning knobs, which he adored—but their friendship was not enough to get the film off the ground. MGM deemed the project too surreal and production never started, but perhaps more damning is the fact that Groucho simply didn’t find it funny, flatly saying, “It wouldn’t play.”
For Dali, it may have been beside the point to actually get the film made. He seemed to revel in the fact that Hollywood did not want to produce some of his more radical ideas, which included a film starring a wheelbarrow. Once, when asked about what became of his first foray into film, Dali balked, “No one would dare to make Dali’s screenplay!”
11. A Sumptuous Ceremony (Luis Buñuel)
Together, Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere wrote some of the finest pieces of art cinema from the 20th century. From “Diary of a Chambermaid” to “The Phantom of Liberty,” the writer-director duo seemed made for each other. “A Sumptuous Ceremony” would have been a tribute to the founder of Surrealism, Andre Breton, who defined eroticism as “a sumptuous ceremony in an underground passage.” The concept for the screenplay is best summarized by Carriere himself:
“From the outset our watchwords were “terror” and “eroticism.” We imagined a young girl in a prison cell receiving a visit from a phantom bishop; a trap door led to an underground passageway and to a boat filled with explosives for blowing up the Louvre museum.”
Work on the script began, but it was never completed due to Bunuel’s declining health. Bunuel’s last film was “That Obscure Object of Desire,” released in 1977. He died in 1982, after spending the last few years of his life “being old,” as he says in his autobiography.
12. Don Quixote (Orson Welles)
Orson Welles began working on an adaptation of Cervantes’ novel in the mid 50’s, and although he never completely abandoned it, it remained unfinished upon his death. Originally a television project, Welles decided to give it the full cinematic treatment. He cast Spanish actor Fransisco Reiguera as Don Quixote and Akim Tamiroff as Sancho Panza.
Welles’s initial attempt to film the classic novel failed, reportedly going over budget. He continued to shoot sections of the film on and off for years. At one point, financial restrictions forced Welles to re-imagine the story for the present day, depicting Quixote and Pancho baffled at modern inventions such as airplanes, cars, movies themselves, and so on.
Although Welles completed much of the principal photography for “Don Quixote,” he was unable to complete the film because the very concept of the project kept changing.
13. A Confederacy of Dunces (Harold Ramis, various)
John Kennedy Toole’s novel “A Confederacy of Dunces,” won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981. In 1982, Harold Ramis was to direct an adaptation of the novel starring John Belushi. When Belushi suddenly died, the Harold Ramis project was abandoned. John Waters wanted to direct an adaptation starring Divine, then Divine died. Both John Candy and Chris Farley were once attached to the project at one point, but they both tragically passed before serious work could begin.
You may notice a pattern. “A Confederacy of Dunces” has resisted adaptation since the beginning. Steven Soderbergh, who was once attached as producer to a David Gordon Green-directed adaptation, once said in an interview, “I think it’s cursed. I’m not prone to superstition, but that project has got bad mojo on it.”
“It’s a mystery,” said Will Farrell. “It’s the film everybody wants to make, but nobody wants to finance.”
14. The Day the Clown Cried (Jerry Lewis)
Unlike many of the films featured on this list, Jerry Lewis’s infamous “The Day the Clown Cried” was actually shot and completed. The full script, based on a novel, is available online and some clips of Lewis mugging in full makeup can be seen on youtube. However, it has never been released. Why? Lewis himself explains:
“No one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work.”
The film, set in Nazi Germany, is about a washed up clown named Helmut Doork, who after drunkenly mocking Hitler in a bar is arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in a concentration camp. While entertaining Jewish children in the camp, the Nazis decide to use his talents to lure children into the gas chamber.
Helmut is told that if he does this, his case will be reviewed and he may be set free. The film reportedly ends as Helmut, overcome with guilt, finally joins the children in the chamber. He goes on entertaining them as their laughter echoes off the walls.
Comedian Harry Shearer, one of the few people to have actually seen the film comments on the film: “This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. ‘Oh My God!’ — that’s all you can say.”
15. Crusade (Paul Verhoeven)
A prime example of how bad timing can ruin the chances of getting a film made, Paul Verhoeven’s “Crusade” was set to shoot with a massive budget of $150,000,000 and would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was to be set in the middle ages in Palestine, with the invading Europeans portrayed as villains.
Carolco pictures, the studio which was to produce the film, had to choose between two big-budget projects: “Cuthroat Island” and “Crusade.” They chose to produce “Cutthroat Island,” putting “Crusade” on hold. In the meantime, Verhoeven made “Showgirls,” which flopped and won seven Golden Raspberry awards, including Worst Picture. “Cutthroat Island” also flopped, driving Carolco into bankruptcy and destroying any chance of “Crusade” getting made.
16. Double V Vega (Quentin Tarantino)
Quentin Tarantino has a tendency to link together his separate screenplays with related references, names and places. The continuous universe suggested in his films has been dubbed by some as the “Tarantinoverse,” and it includes nearly all of his films as they share common motifs, names, brands, events and so on.
Tarantino once conceived a follow-up to both “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” a crossover film about the Vega brothers which would have been titled, “Double V Vega.” It would have been a prequel to both films, featuring Micheal Madsen as the sadistic Vic Vega from “Reservoir Dogs” and John Travolta as Vincent Vega from “Pulp Fiction.” The tentative script was to explore the relationship between the brothers during their time in Amsterdam.
Tarantino was so hot to do the project that at one point, he wanted the two actors to (improbably) portray the twin brothers of the titular characters, who would be seeking revenge on their killers. Madsen and Travolta’s aging, however, has rendered the chance of this movie getting made highly unlikely, if not simply impossible. Alas, “Double V Vega” falls into the bin of dozens of other unrealized QT projects, right between “Killer Crow” and “Kill Bill Vol. 3”
17. To the White Sea (Coen Bros.)
The Coen brothers enjoyed a hefty amount of success with “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Their next planned project would have been an adaptation of the James Dickey novel, “To the White Sea.”
“To the White Sea” is about how a WWII pilot (who would have been played by Brad Pitt in the film version) is shot down over Tokyo during a firebombing, then forced to traverse a war-torn landscape in search of freedom, committing acts of brutal violence in order to survive. The script, available to the public, features sparse dialog, as the English-speaking character is forced to communicate with rudimentary sign language.
The Coens wanted to shoot the film in Tokyo, and it would have cost $80 million to produce. Studios did not want to risk such a large budget on such an experimental and violent project, so “To the White Sea” was abandoned. It looks like it will stay that way, as the Coens have expressed no interest in reviving the project. Joel Coen has since commented, “Yeah, don’t set a movie in Tokyo during the firebombing unless you have lots of money to pay for it. That was the lesson we took away from that.”