When it comes to good ol’ fashioned capital “H” Horror, no one does it quite like Guillermo del Toro — which is just part of what makes the idea of the Oscar-winning filmmaker tackling H.P. Lovecraft so enthralling to so many. Luckily for all those eager fans, working on an adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s novellas, At the Mountains of Madness, has been one of del Toro’s greatest ambitions for quite some time now. However, nearly 15 years after he first had the idea and sat down to write its screenplay, del Toro says how he wants to go about making the proposed movie is quite a bit different.
In an appearance on Fangoria’s Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast, del Toro sat down with hosts Eric Vespe and Scott Wampler to discuss his upcoming projects, and made mention of his elusive At the Mountains of Madness film. Following del Toro signing a multi-year deal with Netflix, the filmmaker said At the Mountains of Madness was one of the first film ideas he pitched to the studio — though he realizes now he would have to do a serious rewrite of the film before it went into production.
“I went through the cupboard and found Monte Cristo and Mountains of Madness. Those were a couple of the ones I presented first,” del Toro said. “The thing with Mountains is the screenplay I co-wrote 15 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 made it somewhat able to go through the studio machinery. Blockbustery. And I think I don’t need to reconcile that anymore. I can go to a far more esoteric, weirder, smaller version of it where I can go back to some of the scenes that were left out.”
According to The Wrap, Del Toro’s original take on At the Mountain of Madness was an “ambitious 3D affair with Tom Cruise starring and James Cameron producing,” the followed a “disastrous expedition to Antarctica that leads to a group of explorers discovering ancient creatures.” Ultimately, Universal pulled the plug on the project after concerns with the budget and its R-rating, leading del Toro to pivot to making Pacific Rim instead.
Since then, Del Toro has also worked on several other large-scale, opulent films, such as 2017’s The Shape of Water and 2015’s Crimson Peak. Because of that, the director said he is less attached to some of the grander scenes and set pieces in his original script, making it easier to part ways with his original plans for At the Mountains of Madness. He continued to say that only four horror set pieces from the original script will remain in his new version, as well as its “intriguing, weird,” and “unsettling” ending.
However, all good things — and rewriting entire screenplays — takes time, and del Toro is already a very busy man. Right now, the director is readying up the release of Nightmare Alley on Netflix in addition to finishing up a Pinocchio adaptation and production on Cabinet of Curiosities. However, del Toro says he is about to hit a bit of a lull following the post-pandemic boon, and should have time to work At the Mountains of Madness then.
“I’m settling down in the post-pandemic domino, because everything that I had spaced out for three years all of a sudden the deliveries came at the same time. But it is my hope [to make At the Mountains of Madness].”