Every director has one great passion project, and famously for filmmaker Guillermo del Toro it’s the film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains Of Madness”.
The filmmaker has long struggled to get the Antarctica-set project going and at one point came incredibly close with Tom Cruise to star and James Cameron to produce. The trouble is, that version cost $150 million and would’ve carried an R-rating – too much of a risk for Universal Pictures who balked and scrapped it.
Six years on, del Toro has spoken with Collider about the collapse of the movie and admits his push to make something R-rated proved to be what ultimately caused the project to lose its footing:
“A lot of people think of directors like Caesar sitting on a chaise lounge like somebody feeding them grapes, and you say, ‘I would like to do Mountains of Madness now.’ And it’s not. You’re a blue collar guy working your way, putting numbers in front of studios, putting [together] stars, packages, whatever, and you have your stuff to move.
That’s why I tried to do a small movie and a big movie, because the small movies, you suffer with the budget, but you have complete freedom; you can do whatever you want. That gives you a line. We thought we had a very good, safe package. It was $150 [million], Tom Cruise and James Cameron producing, ILM doing the effects, here’s the art, this is the concept, because I really think big-scale horror would be great
But there was a difference of opinion; the studio didn’t think so. The R [rating] was what made it. If ‘Mountains’ had been PG-13, or I had said PG-13 … I’m too much of a Boy Scout, I should have lied, but I didn’t… It’s very difficult for a studio to take the step of doing an R-rated tentpole movie with a tough ending and no love story, set in period, from a writer, Lovecraft, who has a readership as big as any bestseller but cannot be quantified because his works are in the public domain.”
Lovecraft’s atmospheric 1931 story follows explorers in Antarctica who uncover the remains of highly evolved creatures neither plant or animal. Investigating a gigantic mountain range, they come upon an abandoned ancient city. Their explorations underground causes something to stir from its slumber.