Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
Of all the movies we’ve covered, Paradise Lost has to be among the most ambitious. This is a film where, when you look at it now, it’s obvious that this was never going to be made. There’s no way in hell that it ever could have worked, but it had a lot of people excited for a long time. The idea behind Paradise Lost, extremely loosely based off the epic poem of the same name, was to create a fantastic, apocalyptic event film based on the story of Lucifer. A Biblical horror movie with a $100 million budget.
But for something that seems completely unfeasible, this got pretty far along before it was finally canned. The story was set to begin with peace and tranquility, all of the angels living together in, well, paradise. Lucifer and Michael would be the best of friends until God presented his newest creation: Man. Lucifer refuses to stay subservient if it means having to kneel to humanity, so he is cast out of Heaven only to plan his uprising.
The plan for this movie was to have dozens of elaborate, never-before-seen aerial battles, one of the things which put the feature way over its initial budget by the time it got cancelled.
Speaking about the project in 2008, Derrickson said, “You have to respect that Milton created the first anti-hero with that poem, and certainly this was preserved in the script… At what point does love turn to jealousy, jealousy turn into hate and hate into evil?”
There was also talk for some time that Paradise Lost would be shot for a 3D theatrical release, but it’s hard to determine where these talks began or ended.
After Derrickson left the project, the studio brought in The Crow director Alex Proyas. Once he came aboard, it began to gain traction once again. Bradley Cooper and Ben Walker were cast as Lucifer and Michael, respectively. Djimon Hounsou was cast as Abdiel, Rufus Sewell was cast as Sammael, Casey Affleck was cast as Gabriel, Callan McAuliffe was cast as Uriel and Dominic Purcell was cast as Moloch. Rounding out the cast would have been Diego Boneta and Camilla Belle as Adam and Eve.
Filming was set to begin in January 2012 in Australia, and then… nothing. No start of production, no word until the studio announced that the film would be temporarily put on hold while they figured out a way to bring down the movie’s already monstrous budget. At that point, they were already projecting it 10 to 15% over its staggering $120 million budget.
Apparently, they never did figure out a way for the budget to come down to a respectable size, because filming never began. The studio couldn’t figure out a way to cost-effectively pull off any of the huge visual FX sequences or complex air battles between the angels.
Had this actually worked out, it could have been mesmerizing if done right. A visually stunning epic with a deeply emotional core and sympathetic protagonist/antagonist. But from a studio standpoint, they were probably right to pull the plug. Everything about the massive, ever-expanding budget makes it sound like this could have been—somewhat appropriately—a situation similar to Heaven’s Gate. That film is infamous for going so over-budget that it actually bankrupt the studio.
I think it’s safe to say we’ll never see Paradise Lost at this point. The project has been dead for a few years and Fox seems intent on keeping it that way. But, both Deadpool and Logan have shown that you don’t need a massive budget to tell those kinds of stories, so it’s possible (though incredibly unlikely) that the studio could reconsider at some point.
Most likely, this is destined to be one of the most interesting “What if?” stories out there. We could have seen a massive, massive movie about Satan, taken from the best possible source material, with a largely impressive cast. But with its insane budget and lack of faith from the studio, it just wasn’t meant to be.