Over twenty years after the fact, filmmaker Richard Stanley looks to finally get his shot at a new screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ iconic tale of genetic engineering gone mad – “The Island of Dr. Moreau”.
Stanley was all slated to direct the 1996 screen adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer and David Thewlis. He developed the project for years, and then three days into production was fired (by fax no less) and was replaced by John Frankenheimer who reportedly quickly alienated the cast and crew.
That kicked off a series of catastrophic debacles which turned it into what is still one of the most troubled productions in Hollywood history. Daily script re-writes, studio infighting, and harsh filming conditions in Cairns, Australia were bad enough.
On top of that though came countless problems caused by Brando and Kilmer who were going through their own issues right before production (Brando’s daughter committed suicide, Kilmer was going through a divorce) and their famed egos which raged on-set and led to outright hostility between each other and the rest of the crew.
Now, plans are underway for Stanley to helm a new adaptation, thanks in part to filmmaker David Gregory who was behind the 2014 documentary “Lost Soul” about the film’s challenging production. Stanley tells Birth Movies Death:
“At this stage, I can’t say exactly by who, and how long it will take, but the project does live again, largely thanks to David. We’re currently scripting and designing the thing. It’s going to be an all-new screenplay and an all-new cast of beast-people; the original creatures are copyrighted by Warner Bros. [parent company of New Line, which produced and released the ’96 film]. I wasn’t particularly happy with them anyway.
The final designs of the creatures in the Frankenheimer version were disappointing, and I think there’s huge room for improvement. That’s something I’ve been talking about with the project’s backers at some length because that was also their concern, to reinvent the mousetrap in terms of the beast-people.
This time around, they seem to understand the film a bit better, and realize that the creatures are the stars of the movie, not the humans. That was the essential mistake made in the New Line version. They didn’t realize just how much mileage they could get out of those characters if they actually foregrounded them.”
Stanley says they haven’t decided what form it will take but he’s pushing for an event series adaptation as that would allow him greater creative freedom and to deliver an R-rated version:
“I believe that going for the multiplex, it would have its teeth pulled and its nails cut again [New Line’s Moreau was PG-13], and going to television, we could be pretty unrestrained in the way we approach the material. There are a lot of scenes I’ve always wanted to do, including those with the sexually charged dolphin people [laughs], that have fallen out along the way, which I would like to get back into it.”
Stanley hasn’t helmed a feature since the incident on the 1996 film and is aware there will be attention paid this time:
“There will be a built-in expectation as to what the f–k will happen this time [laughs]. Considering that the last one is legendary as one of the worst location shoots of all time, up there with Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, it’s difficult to imagine what else could happen. But I’m ready for it, and I’m praying that this time around, it will come out right, and a definitive Moreau can finally reach the screen.”
No word as to when this project might head into production.