Universal Pictures and Guillermo Del Toro have a few things in common. One is monsters. Another is a host of unmade movies that leave fans wanting.
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The entire Dark Universe slate is a great example. But, before that, the studio was going in a different direction, sort of like what they’re doing now with their historic horror properties.
Focused on historical blockbusters, they sought to adapt the Golden Age of Hollywood monsters for the 21st century. Out of that came The Wolf Man starring Benicio Del Toro which performed poorly.
Around the same time, Guillermo Del Toro was developing a literary icon, Frankenstein, for the studio; and he had, who else but his favorite collaborator next to Ron Perlman, Doug Jones in mind for the monster.
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Jones doesn’t conjure the tall, bulky flat-top popularized by Karloff, but the actor says Del Toro’s vision was different from what everyone expects. His monster was skinnier to complement Jones’ frame.
“He was more emaciated, little skinnier, little more pathetic looking,” Jones said to Collider of Del Toro’s Frankenstein monster.
“And yet, [he] had an unnatural physical prowess, an unnatural athletic-ness to him,” he continued, reflecting on the unevenness of the weaved-together body. “He was sewn together with spare parts of a couple different bodies. Very bony face, long, stringy, drawn hair.”
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The creature shop responsible for the design, Spectral Motion, showed Jones a completed bust with makeup on it. He was speechless and teary-eyed at the sight. “It was like, honestly, my eyes welled up,” Jones said.
He compared it to the art of Bernie Wrightson. “It was so hauntingly beautiful, and it did pay reverence to Bernie Wrightson’s artwork and gave you a different-looking Frankenstein’s monster than what you’re used to.”
Wrightson co-created Swamp Thing but illustrated his fair share of Frankenstein monsters. Sometimes the two creatures clashed.
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Jones thinks it was the Dark Universe concept that kept the movie, meant to be its own thing, from getting off the ground.
“The idea came to do what Marvel is doing, where there’s an entire Universal Monsters Universe,” he said. “Where they can interplay with each other and guest in each other’s movies, that sort of thing.”
“That new era was going to start with the new Mummy movie that Tom Cruise was a part of,” he continued.
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Jones added his take: “My guess would be, and again, I have no authority to say this, but my guess would be Guillermo probably wanted to make a standalone movie that was just his piece of art, that would be an homage to the book and an homage to the original film.”
The financial and critical disappointment of The Wolf Man may have also given them cold feet, which makes more sense when you look at the timeline.
Universal came to their senses and decided standalone low-budget offerings were the right call.
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The Invisible Man, directed by Leigh Whannell, did supremely well this year and is going to lead to more – starting with a new Wolf Man remake.
Maybe, down the road, Universal will drag the Hellboy director’s Frankenstein idea out of mothballs. Would Jones do it? He “would kill to,” he says.
Del Toro’s latest project is an adaptation of Nightmare Alley for Searchlight, formerly of Fox.