EXCLUSIVE: The big-budget film Paradise Lost, which was slated to start shooting in January but was pushed till early summer, has been scrapped, I’m told. The epic-sized Alex Proyas-directed film about the battle between good and evil inspired by the John Milton poem was to star Bradley Cooper as Lucifer, Benjamin Walker as the archangel Michael, Diego Boneta playing Adam and Camilla Belle Eve, with a host of other actors lined up for the action epic.
Legendary made the decision after trying to bring the cost of the movie down to $120 million, tops. The producer/financier spent low eight figures to get this far but had never green lit the film and therefore should not be on the hook for pay or play talent deals. It is possible that the film could return down the line, as Best Picture nominee Moneyball, American Gangster and some other pictures have done after being scrapped just short of a production start. But Paradise Lost might be halted for a while, until technological advancements in visual effects bring to a reasonable cost the task of creating a believable depiction of the celestial battles that are at the heart of this film. It was too rich for Legendary’s blood even though the company scoured every way possible to find a way to be grand but disciplined.
This was all about visual effects, unfortunately. That was the reason the film was halted late last year. Back then, I was told the film wasn’t scrapped; rather, Legendary’s Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni and producer Vincent Newman continued developing it to rework a budget that had passed the $120 million mark by 10% or 15%. The picture had crewed up for an Australia shoot and those people were told to go home.
When Deadline broke that story about the first postponement, it came at the same time that Legendary’s distribution partner Warner Bros unplugged the David Dobkin-directed Arthur & Lancelot because the film was going to cost at least $130 million, and Warner Bros didn’t want to spend a dime more than $110 million, particularly since the film starred newcomers Joel Kinnaman and Kit Harington. The studio also slowed the pace of Akira by shuttering the Vancouver production office, and letting lapse the test options deals it had with Dane DeHaan and Michael Pitt. Both actors had been competing for the lead role of Tetsuo, to star alongside Garrett Hedlund, Kristin Stewart, and potentially Ken Watanabe and Helena Bonham Carter. Neither film was greenlit, with production slated on Akira slated to begin March 5. I’ve heard Arthur & Lancelot cost Warner Bros $2 million for the script and maybe another $8 million in other costs, and Dobkin has been shopping the script to other studios.
Going back to Deadline’s exclusive revelation that Disney had unplugged The Lone Ranger last year — threatening to scrap the movie unless a budget of $250 million was trimmed to around $215 million despite the presence of global superstar Johnny Depp — these kinds of hard decisions are becoming more commonplace as studios struggle with rising costs of tentpoles. The films involved ranged from the Ron Howard-directed adaptation of Stephen King’s novel series The Dark Tower that was to star Javier Bardem, and At The Mountains Of Madness, which Guillermo del Toro was ready to direct with Tom Cruise. While it seemed like Paradise Lost had the potential to be a movie with a cool factor approaching The Matrix, for now, at least, it is the latest casualty in the struggle between creative ambition and fiscal discipline.