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Walt Disney Company (The) (NYSE:DIS), Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) – 5 A-List Movie Projects Stuck In Development Hell: Austin Powers, Popeye And More

For many years, the film industry trade media has been filled with announcements of major stars and top-ranked directors getting attached to a particular project. But more often than not, these projects never find their way to the big screen. This situation is commonly known as “development hell.”

Occasionally, a film that languished for years or even decades in development hell somehow manages to escape and get made. One of the most recent notable examples is Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which was conceived in the 1980s and went into development in 2007 but wasn’t ready for release until 2019 via Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX).

While running a complete inventory of every project locked in development hell could easily overwhelm our bandwidth, here are five projects that had all the right boxes checked but were never called before the cameras.

“Akira”: Katsuhiro Otomo’s feature film is widely considered to be among the greatest anime productions in the genre’s history. Warner Bros. acquired the rights for a live-action remake and Otomo graciously stepped back and voiced his approval for any necessary story changes that would be needed for the new version.

To date, however, “Akira” has baffled screenwriters and directors eager to recreate its sci-fi noir brilliance. Filmmakers including George Miller, Justin Lin, Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele were cited as being courted for the project. In 2019, Taika Waititi announced he would helm “Akira” for release in the summer of 2021, but he put that work on indefinite hold to concentrate on “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

The Chance of the Film Getting Made: It is possible, especially since Netflix is backing another anime-inspired project, the series “Cowboy Bebop,” and Waititi has insisted he is still focused on getting “Akira” made.

“A Confederacy of Dunces”: Few projects in development hell have failed so repeatedly to get made as this celluloid spin on John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. For years, the film project had a jinx attached to it as four actors who were considered to play the corpulent protagonist Ignatius Jacques Reilly — John Belushi, Divine, John Candy and Chris Farley — died shortly after their names were linked to the role.

Other actors managed to bypass that alleged curse. John Goodman, Will Farrell and Zach Galifianakis were named at various times to play Ignatius. A staged reading of a screenplay took place at the 2003 Nantucket Film Festival with Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Jesse Eisenberg among the participants.

The Chance of the Film Getting Made: Director Steven Soderbergh warned in a 2013 interview that the project appeared to be cursed, observing that it “has got bad mojo on it.”

If Jonah Hill hadn’t decided to streamline his appearance, he would have been a natural choice to play the roly-poly lead — but maybe the next XL-sized star may wander into the part. However, Toole’s work has been adapted for a 2015 theatrical version that was well-received:

“Austin Powers 4”: Mike Myers’ swinging London spy hasn’t been seen on the screen since 2003’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember” — and, for that matter, Myers himself has been an elusive commodity. Myers has limited his on-screen time to a handful of blink-and-you-miss-him parts over the past dozen years while hiding himself behind heavy make-up and the pseudonym “Tommy Maitland” as the host of an ABC reboot of “The Gong Show.”

Myers said in a 2005 interview that he was interested in doing a fourth installment in the franchise, adding in a 2018 interview that a script existed. Jay Roach, who directed all three of the “Austin Powers” films, has also confirmed he would be happy to revisit the property. However, one “Austin Meyers” fan couldn’t wait and created his own faux-trailer:

The Chance of the Film Getting Made: Myers does not seem eager to get back in the starring role spotlight. His latest endeavor is a supporting part in an untitled David O. Russell comedy with an all-star cast including Robert DeNiro, Taylor Swift and Rami Malek.

“Little Shop of Horrors”: This remake of the 1986 film musical reportedly has its cast in place with Taron Egerton as the florist Seymour, Scarlett Johansson as his co-worker and his secret love Audrey, Chris Evans as Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend and Billy Porter as the voice of Audrey II, the carnivorous talking plant raised by Seymour. Greg Berlanti is attached as the director.

The project was first raised in early 2020, so it is a relative newcomer to development hell. Still, it appears to be turning into a longtime resident with no movement made on this project despite efforts by Evans to encourage his fanbase to push AT&T Inc.’s (NYSE: T) Warner Bros. into greenlighting the effort.

The Chance of the Film Getting Made: Reportedly, Warner Bros. has been balking at the rising budget on this project. Even with the star power attached, the studio is clearly drawing a line on what it is willing to spend. Also, it is uncertain whether there is still an audience enthusiasm for musicals. While the Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) had a streaming hit with its filmed record of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” was a commercial flop in the newly-reopened movie theaters this summer, and there is a wait-and-see element on whether upcoming musicals “Dear Evan Hanson” and Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” will attract audiences.

“Popeye”: Animator Genndy Tartakovsky once claimed that he was destined from childhood to make a feature film version based on the Popeye cartoons. In 2012, the “Hotel Transylvania” creator had a deal with Sony Pictures, a division of Sony Group Corp (NYSE: SONY), to move forward with his vision.

Tartakovsky produced a roughly one-and-a-half minute 3D animated faux-trailer of the project that found Popeye and his sidekick Eugene the Jeep on a ship where they were saving Olive Oyl from a pirate attack. But by 2015, the project was cancelled. Animation Magazine reported in May 2020 that Tartakovsky was working on the project again with King Features, which owns the Popeye franchise, on a feature starring the spinach-loving character.

The Chance of the Film Getting Made: Rebooting old-school animation has proven to be successful at the box office, with the new Tom and Jerry feature and the revival of the Looney Tunes characters in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” There has been no update since last year’s news that Tartakovsky was pushing the project again, but keep your eye on Fintech Zoom for any updates on the Popeye front.

Photo: Beyoncé and Mike Myers in “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema.

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Walt Disney Company (The) (NYSE:DIS), Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) – 5 A-List Movie Projects Stuck In Development Hell: Austin Powers, Popeye And More

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