We’ve been looking at the stories behind Peter Jackson’s unproduced films, from his Nightmare On Elm Street sequel to the long-awaited Tintin 2.
It’s been more than five years since Peter Jackson’s most recent narrative feature, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, was released in cinemas. As anyone who’s watched the comprehensive making-of documentaries about those films will know, the run-on production of Jackson’s Middle Earth prequel trilogy was considerably more fraught than that of his Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Indeed, Guillermo del Toro departed the Hobbit movies (which were, at that point, intended as a double bill) due to creative differences, and Jackson’s decision to take the reins put a lot of other projects on hold. Given that the behind-the-scenes pressure of those films apparently did not let up, no one could blame Jackson for taking a break from blockbusters after such an epic undertaking.
He’s made documentaries in the shape of 2018’s They Shall Not Grow Old and the upcoming Beatles film Get Back, but looking back, we’d be interested to see any of his as-yet unmade projects, dating from his earliest days of filming independently in New Zealand to the heights of his Hollywood career, mark his return to narrative features. Some of these are less likely than others – it would be insanity to release a legacyquel to A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 in this economy – but they’re interesting, nonetheless.
What we’ve found is that there are various details about these unrealised films and we’ve put together a thorough (but not exhaustive – we’ve left out Neill Blomkamp’s HALO adaptation, which Jackson was set to produce, because we feel like that’s a story for another time) rundown of the Peter Jackson films that haven’t yet come to screens.
Bad Taste 2
A long time before Jackson was anywhere near Oscar contention, he made his feature debut with the indie sci-fi splatterfest Bad Taste, a low-budget horror-comedy which sees a small New Zealand paramilitary force fend off aliens who want to harvest humans for their outer-space food franchise. The 1987 film was controversially censored, (one home video release proudly proclaimed the film was “BANNED IN QUEENSLAND”) but reviewers took it to their hearts and its cult of fans demanded more.
Jackson was initially reluctant to go straight into making a sequel to his first film, but over time he came up with a story that involved an alien invasion of Wellington, as well as Santa Claus and a giant weta (the wingless insect, not the effects studio). He wrote in 1992 that the temptation to make Bad Taste 2 was growing on him. We can’t fathom how he resisted making the film just to have a Ghostbusters II poster with an alien flipping two fingers up instead of one…
Speaking of low-budget exploitation flicks, it was around the same time as Jackson mulled over his Bad Taste sequel that he co-wrote Warrior Season with Costa Botes. Inspired by the filmmaker’s newfound love of Jackie Chan action films like Project A and Police Story, the script was a kung-fu western, set during the New Zealand gold rush of the 1870s.
Warrior Season is referenced in 1995’s Forgotten Silver, Jackson and Botes’ extraordinary ode to New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie, (whose contribution to cinema and technology is as monumental as it is made-up) but in truth, we know very little about this one except that the director was eyeing Timothy Dalton (pictured above, looking shifty and period-appropriate) to play the villain of the piece. But heck, it’s a Peter Jackson kung-fu western – if it had made it, that would be enough for us!
As mentioned, Jackson was branching out by the early 1990s, but before Heavenly Creatures, there was Blubberhead, a fantasy epic that was described as the missing link between Bad Taste and The Lord Of The Rings. Co-written with Danny Mulheron, Blubberhead was billed as a Monty Python-flavoured “action-packed rollercoaster ride” that Jackson wanted to make as a stop-motion-animated feature.
We mention it because it was pivotal in Jackson’s subsequent Hollywood career for two reasons. First, while pre-visualising for the animated feature, Jackson hired Randall Cook, later an instrumental figure at Weta Digital (the effects studio, not the wingless insect) and one of the animation maestros who provided visual effects on both Heavenly Creatures and the Rings trilogy. But the script for Blubberhead also got Jackson in front of executives at New Line Cinema…
A Nightmare On Elm Street 6 – The Dream Lover
Jackson saw Blubberhead as a film that could appeal to both adults and children but didn’t persuade backers. Although New Line refused to fund the film, they were impressed by the filmmaker and gave him and Mulheron their first major studio assignment. The studio was let down by the all-time-low box-office returns for A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, but not so let down that they didn’t commission several competing scripts for a sixth instalment, enabling them to weigh up their options for the continuation of the franchise.
A few years before Wes Craven made his New Nightmare, Jackson and Mulheron drafted The Dream Lover, a fantastical meta-story about Freddy Krueger’s declining scariness with the new generation of kids, who are even taking sleeping pills to recreationally torment the once fearsome killer. However, when Freddy turns the tables and captures one of their fathers, it’s down to some intrepid teens to lead a rescue mission into the dream world. New Line didn’t go for this soft reboot, and the sixth Elm Street film, 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, was instead helmed by the great Rachel Talalay.
The Dam Busters
After breaking through with Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, Jackson found global success with his adaptations of The Lord Of The Rings and his labour-of-love King Kong remake. Originating around that time, it’s been almost 15 years since Jackson’s name was first attached to a remake of 1955’s The Dam Busters, chronicling the true story of Operation Chastise and the Allies’ use of the bouncing bomb on several German dams.
With a script penned by Stephen Fry, the film has been ready to film since 2009, but was initially delayed by Jackson’s decision to make The Hobbit after del Toro departed, and it has been parked ever since. The three returns to Middle Earth mark the director’s most recent narrative films to date, but Jackson remains determined to get the film made, saying in 2014: “There is only a limited span I can abide, of people driving me nuts asking me when I’m going to do that project.
“So, I’ll have to do it. I want to, actually, it’s one of the truly great true stories of the Second World War, a wonderful, wonderful story.”
Jackson added a note of urgency on the aforementioned remake in late 2018, telling The Telegraph: “We are clinging on to the rights for The Dam Busters and we have them for another year or two.” If the rights lapse, this project will be in a similar situation to Temeraire, which was based on the Naomi Novik novel that Jackson first optioned in 2006.
Comprising nine novels, the alternate-history fantasy series imagines the Napoleonic wars being fought by aviators astride an air force of dragons. It’s exactly the sort of spectacle you’d hope for from the filmmaker who brought us The Lord Of The Rings, but Jackson got to do his dragon movies with Smaug in the latter two entries of the Hobbit trilogy instead. In 2016, Novik announced that Jackson’s option had lapsed and there are no current plans to adapt the series.
Tintin And The Temple Of The Sun (aka Tintin 2)
Last but certainly not least, where’s our Tintin sequel?! Released in 2011, The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn was Steven Spielberg’s first film since Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull and, as many of us argued at the time, it was a more worthy successor to the Indy franchise too. Jackson and Spielberg co-produced the performance-capture animated film, with the agreement that Jackson would direct the sequel.
Screenwriter Anthony Horowitz was reportedly working on the script for the second film, which would adapt Hergé’s volumes The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners Of The Sun, with the latter of those also giving the sequel its working title. However, Horowitz later clarified that his script was being saved for the third film.
Like The Dambusters, Tintin 2 was waylaid by Jackson’s return to Middle Earth, but as befits the tremendous appetite created by the first film, it’s a project that hasn’t gone away in the last decade. Jackson has never said he’s not going to do it, but Spielberg has kept saying that it’s going to happen. We also have the new working title, Tintin And The Temple Of The Sun straight from the mouth of Teesside Tinhead himself, Jamie Bell, who’s expected to reprise his role alongside co-stars Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.
While he’s unlikely to do a Sam Raimi and make a Drag Me To Hell-style throwback to his roots in splatter, (like Bad Taste 2) it feels as if Jackson could well come back to narrative blockbusters with a big, effects-driven adventure flick in the vein of the previous Tintin film. Goodness knows we’ve been promised it for long enough, so let’s hope the 2020s finally see the sequel come to fruition.
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