Guillermo del Toro is an artist of boundless creativity and inexhaustible passion, which is both a blessing to cinephiles and a hurdle when it comes to actually getting films made within the U.S. Hollywood system. Unlike the typical filmic mercenary, del Toro simply doesn’t make decisions based on profitability or audience pandering—he tends to make exactly the film that he wants to make, and that makes studios nervous. It’s one of the reasons why the man has been so associated over the years with highly ambitious film projects that don’t end up coming to fruition, and one of the most famous of those has long been his planned adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s long Antarctic novella At the Mountains of Madness.
For years now, this project has been treated as if it was effectively dead, but in a recent interview with The Kingcast, del Toro dove back into his aspirations for the project, revealing that he still intends to make At the Mountains of Madness someday if he can. This version, though, would likely be significantly different from the one he would have made when he first wrote the script, reflecting the changed market for indie horror cinema in particular. Said del Toro:
“The thing with Mountains is, the screenplay I co-wrote fifteen years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite. Not only to scale it down somehow, but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that would make it go through the studio machinery.”
The director is essentially saying that no longer would his version of Mountains of Madness need to be made palatable to a big studio and made on a big budget, which was always one of the things that kept it from getting made—no studio wanted to dump $150 million or more into an R-rated horror film of an IP that isn’t particularly well known. Universal at one point picked up a version that was set to star Tom Cruise, but again the studio eventually ended up with cold feet. Del Toro’s revised Mountains of Madness, meanwhile, would be a considerably more intimate affair, and one that the director notes would be much “weirder.” As he put it:
“I don’t think I need to reconcile that anymore. I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it. You know, where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out. Some of the big set pieces I designed, for example, I have no appetite for. Like, I’ve already done this or that giant set piece. I feel like going into a weirder direction. I know a few things will stay. I know the ending we have is one the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings, for me. There’s about four horror set pieces that I love in the original script. So, you know, it would be my hope. I certainly get a phone call every six months from Don Murphy going ‘Are we doing this or what? Are you doing this next or what?’ and I say ‘I have to take the time to rewrite it.’”
So once again, we’re left waiting for del Toro to complete his own creative process, which always seems to involve juggling about half a dozen projects, before turning his attention back to Mountains of Madness. In a few weeks, that will include the release of his latest feature Nightmare Alley on Dec. 17, 2021, but if we’re lucky, maybe del Toro will find some time to overhaul that long-gestating Lovecraft script again. It’s a passion project that just about every fan would like to see finally come to fruition.