Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long held that his passion project is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and while he still hopes the opportunity arises to make the film, he now has a different version in mind than the one he nearly got off the ground a decade ago.
Appearing on the Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast to discuss “It,” del Toro was asked about the multiyear deal he signed with Netflix in 2020 and whether he might finally make “At the Mountains of Madness” at the streamer. “Take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know?” del Toro replied. “I went through the cupboard and found ‘Monte Cristo’ and ‘Mountains of Madness.’ Those were a couple of the ones I presented first.”
After del Toro left “The Hobbit” in 2010, he set about adapting “At the Mountains of Madness” as an ambitious 3D affair with Tom Cruise starring and James Cameron producing. The story concerns a disastrous expedition to Antarctica that leads to a group of explorers discovering ancient creatures. But Universal pulled the plug over concerns about the budget and del Toro’s insistence that the film be rated R, and the filmmaker moved on to “Pacific Rim.”
Now, over a decade later, del Toro still aims to make the film but revealed on The Kingcast that he wouldn’t use his original script. “The thing with ‘Mountains’ is the screenplay I co-wrote 15 years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite,” del Toro said. “Not only to scale it down somehow, but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that made it somewhat able to go through the studio machinery. Blockbustery. And I think I don’t need to reconcile that anymore. I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out.”
Del Toro added that some of the big spectacle set pieces he designed for the film surfaced in other projects of his, so he doesn’t have that same itch to scratch. “Some of the big set pieces I designed, for example, I have no appetite for. I’ve already done this or that set piece, I feel like going in a weirder direction,” he explained before noting that the ending he originally hit upon is still the one he wants to use. “I know a few things will stay. I know the ending we have is one of the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings for me, so there’s about four horror set pieces that I love in the original script.”
The director, who is readying the release of his noir “Nightmare Alley” this month, said he still fields phone calls from producer Don Murphy asking when they’re making “At the Mountains of Madness,” but said he still has to find time to rewrite the screenplay first and is busy with other projects. “Right now I’m writing, developing two screenplays, one of which I think will be right away next and then I’m finishing ‘Pinocchio’ [and] producing ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ in Toronto,” del Toro said. “I’m settling down in the post-pandemic domino, because everything that I had spaced out for three years all of a sudden the deliveries came at the same time. But it is my hope [to make ‘At the Mountains of Madness’].”
“Nightmare Alley” will be released on Dec. 17 and del Toro’s animated ‘Pinocchio’ film will be released on Netflix sometime in 2022.