David Fincher Says Corporate Culture Killed 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA; Will Be Focusing on HBO Series All Next Year [Updated]

     September 16, 2014


Sometimes I think it would be cool to see a genius like David Fincher tackle something like a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The project had been in the works at Disney for years, and at one point it seemed pretty close to happening.  But, according to Fincher, it was corporate culture that killed this big-budget behemoth.  Not a huge surprise at that level of expenditure.

I’m not too bummed about losing this particular project, and I do think Fincher’s version is lost whether or not Disney moves ahead with their own.  It would have been cool, but now we’re getting Gone Girl, a movie I’m infinitely more excited about than I would have been about 20,000 Leagues. Still, his comments on the matter are more than worth checking out, as they’re largely representative of a studio culture in which domestic ancillary revenue is on the wane (thanks pirates) and foreign markets must be relied on to break even. [Update: We’ve added more from Fincher, including a fantastic-sounding description of what his 20,000 Leagues would have entailed and the revelation that he’ll be focusing solely on his upcoming HBO series Utopia next year.]

[Update: During a lengthy, fascinating interview with Playboy, Fincher offered up this enthusiastic description of his take on 20,000 Leagues:

“Dude, it was fucking cool. It was smart and crazy entertaining, with the Nautilus crew fighting every kind of gigantic Ray Harryhausen thing. But it also had this riptide to it. We were doing Osama bin Nemo, a Middle Eastern prince from a wealthy family who has decided that white imperialism is evil and should be resisted. The notion was to put kids in a place where they’d say, ‘I agree with everything he espouses. I take issue with his means—or his ends.’ I really wanted to do it, but in the end I didn’t have the stomach lining for it. A lot of people flourish at Hollywood studios because they’re fear-based. I have a hard time relating to that, because I feel our biggest responsibility is to give the audience something they haven’t seen. For example, [Gone Girl author/screenwriter] Gillian Flynn and I are doing Utopia [about fans of a cult graphic novel] for HBO, and that’s all I’m focusing on next year.”

That description makes the fact that the film isn’t happening even more heartbreaking.  Our original story follows below.]

20000-leagues-under-the-sea-posterFincher admits to LittleWhiteLies (via Indiewire) that his aesthetic isn’t traditionally something studios would seek out for a blockbuster, but he did entertain the notion:

“I don’t think anyone would come to me with a money-is-no-object proposition. No, I was ready to go to Australia and make 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was going to be a big tentpole summer movie, but there was a lot of riptide to it. It was not just the hero’s journey.”

And then he gets to the reality of the soured alchemy it requires to get one of these things off the ground, a cast with wide international appeal (regardless of if they’re right for the movie or not):

“You get over $200 million… all motion picture companies have corporate culture and corporate anxieties. Once we got past the list of people we could cast as the different characters in the film, once we got past one or two names which made them very comfortable, making a movie at that price, it became this bizarre endeavour to find which three names you could rub together to make platinum…  I just wanted to make sure I had the skill-sets I could turn the movie over to. Not worrying about whether they’re big in Japan.”

From which we can deduce that Brad Pitt’s unavailability to commit sunk the submarine a bit.  Still, not all is lost for Fincher.  We’re all counting the days to Gone Girl over here.


David Fincher 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

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