Was Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness Ever Alive?

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Guillermo Del Toro and James Cameron departed from At The Mountains Of Madness, which they were trying to get NBC Universal to fund, in mid-March scarcely 12 hours after del Toro announced a start date in June 2011. A surprise after working so hard to get the film up? Well, reading between the lines, one can see that Universal was probably always on the fence and del Toro may never really have been near the green light. Consider that he announced the attachment of one star name after another – Perlman, Cruise, McAvoy and others, and often a name actor could not confirm even hearing about the “attachment” when asked by the press. Similar announcements without corroboration were the $150 million budget that Universal was supposed to ante up, and a projected R rating.

Well, since it was del Toro who announced the start date, perhaps what really happened was Universal just got tired of him making public announcements about things that hadn’t been agreed upon. Maybe they just finally said “ya know what, Guillermo, make the movie somewhere else.” In the film business, sometimes the only way a director gets a project funded is by building public perceptions strong enough so that the chosen producer feels they have no choice but to fund. The pre-announcements by del Toro are all calculated to raise interest in the film, and expectations of the Universal budget. Coming – as they all did – before any ink dried on any paper and before there even was paper to put ink on, it seems that generating such a buzz was intended to entice – cajole, persuade, embarrass – NBC-Universal into funding the film.

Whatever the bargaining ploy by del Toro, it clearly didn’t work. Universal pulled the plug on its involvement and Guillermo and Cameron had to drop it.

Since that time, del Toro has implied that Universal is still interested, saying things like he hopes that they will let another studio do it. This statement again seems just a last stab at getting Universal to fear that someone else will take it on and perhaps they will lose out. In the world of negotiating, you do don’t say those things publicly – but del Toro’s entire campaign to do the movie has been public. Reading between the lines again, I have to think no one else was ever interested in the del Toro script and that any deal with NBC-Universal was, well, at least as much fantasy as fact.