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10 Films Canceled Before They Made It to Theaters

Batgirl wasn't the first movie to be shelved after filming

the day the clown cried
The Day the Clown Cried (image via YouTube)
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    The recent merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery has already transformed the entertainment industry. As the companies’ streaming services, HBO Max and Discovery+, combine, HBO Max has canceled a slew of its original series, and on August 2nd, Warner Bros. shelved its planned Batgirl film despite the $90 million project already being filmed.

    HBO Max had originally planned to introduce a slew of streaming-exclusive DC Extended Universe films, but according to The Hollywood Reporternew Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav opted to kill Batgirl and take the tax write-off instead. Zaslav plans to switch the company’s strategy completely and revert back to producing streaming films for a much smaller budget.

    Killing an expensive film in post-production seems like a shocking waste of money, but Batgirl isn’t the first movie to be canceled after filming. We rounded up 10 other films that studios decided weren’t worth releasing, mostly because they just weren’t very good.

    Nailed 

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    nailed 10 Films Canceled Before They Made It to Theaters

    David O. Russell sought out to direct Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, and James Brolin in the romantic comedy Nailed in 2008, but by 2010, he quit the project after it was repeatedly stalled due to financial difficulties. Eventually, the movie was completed without Russell’s involvement and released as Accidental Love in 2015, but despite its all-star cast, it wasn’t a slam-dunk. As the Chicago Sun-Times opined, “The satire is broad and forced and unfunny, there’s no cadence to the setups and visual punch lines, and the likable cast is hopelessly lost.” Refusing to be associated with the project, Russell is credited under the pseudonym “Stephen Greene.”

    Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals 

    uncle toms fairy tales

    The name says it all, doesn’t it? Filmed in 1968 by then-film student Penelope Spheeris (who went on to direct The Decline of Western Civilization and Wayne’s World), Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals starred Richard Pryor in a satire in which the Black Panthers kidnap a white man and put him on trial for every racist crime in American history. Legend has it that Pryor and his then-wife Shelley Bonis got into an argument at a screening of the film and Pryor ripped up the negative, though Spheeris later found a surviving clip of the film in her archives and donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2005.

    Empires of the Deep

    empires of the deep

    The pet project of Chinese real estate tycoon Jon Jiang, Empires of the Deep was an action-adventure fantasy film co-produced in China and America that cost $130 million to make. Following the eight mermaid kingdoms as they fight to maintain control of the ocean, the film came as far as releasing a trailer in 2012 — which was then mocked mercilessly. The actual movie never arrived.

    The Bravethe brave

    Adapted from Gregory Mcdonald’s novel The Brave, Johnny Depp’s directorial debut starred the white actor as an impoverished Native American man, so we probably didn’t miss much from its canned release. Variety called the 1997 film “overlong and unexciting” and noted that “There’s no specificity or authenticity to the characters; they’re simply generic modern Indians, which understandably could be taken as exploitative or insulting.” Due to its negative reception, Depp declined to give the project a proper bow.

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    A Bad Situationist

    a bad situationist

    The brainchild of writer-director Sam Seder and featuring David Cross, Sarah Silverman, Jon Benjamin, Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry, Jon Glaser, and Brendon Small, A Bad Situationist was a 2008 political satire that just didn’t land. Set in May 2001, the film centered around Arthur Lieberman, the unemployed son of Senator Joe Lieberman, as he starts a salon for intellectuals. Soon enough, however, he meets a group of radical orthodox Jewish postal workers who encourage him to commit acts of violence.

    Big Bug Man

    big bug man

    Starring Brendan Fraser and Marlon Brando (in his last known film), Big Bug Man follows Howard Kind (Fraser), a candy factory employee who gains special abilities after being bitten by insects. Brando was asked to play Kind’s boss, Nicholas Dunderbeck, but the veteran actor thought it would be more fun to voice the woman Mrs. Sour instead, and even wore full drag as he recorded his lines in his home. The film was supposed to be released in the mid-aughts, but it never arrived.

    Gods Behaving Badly 

    gods behaving badly

    Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, and Sharon Stone are among the names featured in producer Marc Turtletaub’s directorial debut, but they couldn’t save Gods Behaving Badly from itself. Based on Marie Phillips’ 2007 satirical novel, the film imagines the Greek Gods as real, selfish beings who live together in New York City and terrorize the humans below them. The film premiered at the 2013 Rome Film Festival and received a scathing review from The Hollywood Reporter, never to make a peep again.

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    Nothing Lasts Forever

    nothing lasts forever

    Starring  Zach Galligan and Lauren Tom and featuring appearances from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sam Jaffe, and Mort Sahl,  Tom Schiller’s Nothing Lasts Forever should’ve been a comedic goldmine. Instead, the film — which somehow at once makes fun of homeless people and revolves around a trip to the moon on a city bus — tested horribly at screenings, prompting Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to postpone its 1984 release indefinitely. Decades later, it was screened at a handful of events and became available on Turner Classic Movies.

    The Fantastic Four

    fantastic four

    German producer Bernd Eichinger signed a deal with Stan Lee to make a movie about the Fantastic Four in the mid ’80s, but budgeting issues stalled production. In order to maintain ownership before the deal expired at the end of 1992, he teamed with B-movie specialist Roger Corman to make the movie on a million-dollar budget. The result, The Fantastic Four, was understandably campy and nothing like the superhero blockbusters we’ve come accustomed to today. It was never officially released, but pirated copies of the film have circulated since 1994.

    The Day the Clown Cried

    the day the clown cried

    Jerry Lewis starred in and directed this 1972 Holocaust film, made before “Holocaust film” was a genre. Lewis plays Helmut Doork, the titular clown who is held as a political prisoner in Nazi Germany and ultimately begins performing his schtick for the captive Jewish children before leading them into the gas chambers.

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    The Day the Clown Cried was immediately controversial due to its premise, and Lewis vowed to never let anyone see it. In 2015, however, he donated a copy of the film to the Library of Congress, stipulating that it not be screened until at least 2024.

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