EXCLUSIVE:Universal Pictures is pressing pause on Bride of Frankenstein, the Bill Condon-directed remake of the 1935 horror classic. Pre-production had gotten underway in London for a February 1 production start, but the crew has just been told to go home for the time being. Javier Bardem has been in talks to play Frankenstein’s Monster, and Angelina Jolie has been in talks to play his reanimated, reluctant mate in the second film in Universal’s Dark Universe initiative to bring back its classic movie monsters. I’ve heard the film is going back to the lab to do some more work on the script and that is why they stopped the clock. It had been dated February 14, 2019.
The studio confirmed to Deadline that its execs and Condon have indeed pushed pause. I am told the actors aren’t walking away. In fact, they are not committing until this all gets rectified.
“After thoughtful consideration, Universal Pictures and director Bill Condon have decided to postpone Bride of Frankenstein,” Universal said in a statement to Deadline. “None of us want to move too quickly to meet a release date when we know this special movie needs more time to come together. Bill is a director whose enormous talent has been proven time and again, and we all look forward to continuing to work on this film together.”
Even though the studio carved out that release date long ago, it sounds like they are still trying to establish exactly what this film should be, with Bardem and Jolie waiting for more rewrites by David Koepp before committing. A little caution here seems well placed after the the film that launched Universal’s monster program, The Mummy, turned into a confusing pastiche of action scenes without a sense of authorship of what exactly it wanted to be. An action adventure in the vein of the Stephen Sommers Brendan Fraser-Rachel Weisz films, or a truly frightening film like the 1932 original was for its time? Even though it grossed $407 million worldwide, the scariest thing about The Mummy was its reviews. There are numerous filmmaker-driven monster movies that will follow, but the welfare of the franchise is contingent on getting the next one right.
Condon won his Oscar for writing Gods and Monsters, about the last days of Frankenstein director James Whale. He spent a lot of time considering that filmmaker and his work. Now that he’s recreating arguably Whale’s best film for today’s world with two intense stars like Bardem and Jolie, wouldn’t the best course of action be to make a terrifying, well-drawn and possibly R-rated tale, even if that isn’t the template for the usual global blockbuster? That is the direction I bet this is going.
The other major movie Jolie is engaged in, Maleficent 2, just got Joachim Ronning as its director at Disney. That film seems likely to start sometime early next year.