It’s sometimes easy to point out a lack of creativity on Hollywood’s part when it comes to the movies that usually get produced — especially given the the current climate, in which studios are increasingly relying on huge tentpole films to pay off on massive financial gambles. But even if Hollywood plays it safe now more than ever, that doesn’t mean studios don’t pursue wacky ideas from time time, even if they don’t ultimately go anywhere.
If you look into the history of Hollywood films that weren’t produced, there’s no shortage of strange and fascinating films that almost made it to production before being shut down for one reason or another. Many films have seen years of director changes and rewrites before ultimately falling through the cracks. Only the lucky few finally make it to the big screen, leaving behind a number of “what ifs” in their wake. And some of the best films never made are also among the strangest.
Here are five of the craziest films that Hollywood almost made.
5. Revenge of the Jedi (Directed by David Cronenberg or David Lynch)
At a time when Return of the Jedi was still being referred to as Revenge of the Jedi, Star Wars creator George Lucas had two names in mind during the director search: David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, The Fly) and David Lynch (Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead).
For Cronenberg, the inquiry didn’t make it very far: The writer-director wasn’t interested in directing someone else’s material. ”I got a phone call. I was in my kitchen and it was one of the producers. He said, ‘What would you think of doing Star Wars?’” Cronenberg said in an interview with MTV. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t usually do other people’s material.’ And then there was a kind of click. … I blew it right away.”
As for Lynch, he more or less had the keys to the car but decided against signing on. At the time, Lynch had just become one of the biggest names in Hollywood with his films Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. Because Lynch had established a commercial style with The Elephant Man while also making a name for himself among industry players with Eraserhead (director Stanley Kubrick reportedly told Lynch during the filming of The Elephant Man that Eraserhead was his favorite movie), Lucas saw in Lynch a visionary who would be able to put his unique stamp on Return of the Jedi.
But, as with any visionary director, control was a sticking point — and Lynch ultimately passed because of it. “I went to meet George Lucas, who had offered me the third Star Wars to direct, and I’ve never even really liked science fiction. I like elements of it, but it needs to be combined with other genres. And, obviously, Star Wars was totally George’s thing,” he explained in the book Lynch on Lynch. Of course, Lynch would later go on to make the sci-fi film Dune, which turned out to be one of the worst outings of Lynch’s otherwise strong career.