Turnaround and Development Hell
Billionaires Vinegar - Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp were to star in this Catch Me If You Can-style movie about valuable wine collections to be directed by Gore Verbinski. When Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer decided Lone Ranger was a movie that had to be made, he called on old friends Gore and Johnny to jump ship and this one sank.
Daddy's Home - Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn were set to star and ready to go in this comedy to shoot in Los Angeles, but when producer Adam McKay told Paramount he might be able to edit one movie into two (Anchorman 2 AND 3!) Daddy's Home was shut down for the bigger and better deal, so Will could shoot scenes to tie the two sequels together. Anchorman 3 never materialized and Daddy's Home recast a few years later with Mark Wahlberg.
Dead Poet's Society - Disney got cold feet with our unknown star Liam Neeson two weeks before we started shooting in Atlanta and Rome, Georgia, so they shut us down with the thought of recasting Dustin Hoffman. The film shot two years later with Robin Williams and became a little classic.
I Want To **** Your Sister - Yes, the asterisks were part of the title on the screenplay. This hot script was picked up quickly by Paramount for $750,000 at which point they decided to make it "better" and rewrote it four times. This movie was funny and raunchy in a new way and predated the Hangover and other edgy comedies that went on to stratospheric success. It will likely sit on a shelf for eternity.
Guam Goes To The Moon - Paramount paid me $$ to do a budget and schedule for this project about a washed up astronaut (to be played by Tim Allen at one time) hired by Guam to promote the island and put them on the space travel map. I think I was producer number 3 of 5 that was asked to plan one of the various rewrites and incarnations. Needless to say, this one never got off the ground.
Wild Things - The tongue in cheek thriller was always going to be a fun ride, but it was originally cast a little differently. A fantastic actor fresh out of rehab was set to play the role of the high school counselor, but his handlers were protecting him a little too much and either he or they refused to meet in person weeks before the production was set to start. At the end of the day, Robert Downey Jr was deemed too much of a risk on a production that couldn't afford delays and the role was recast with Matt Dillon. Of course, RDJ did hold it together and went on to be one of the highest paid actors in the world. PS, the second runner up for the role of Kelly Ryan ultimately played by Denise Richards, was Tara Reid, of American Pie fame.
The Last of the Mohicans - This brilliant script written and to be directed by Michael Mann was a challenge from the onset. Michael began by searching the country for an area with deciduous trees. The helicopter scouting budget was an indication of things to come, as the production was plagued by the stresses of budget, location and schedule. Thousands of re-enactor extras came from all over the country to sleep in tents and play the roles of the french and english soldiers. The fort was built out of hundreds of trees cut down to simulate the historical setting. While Washington and California were aghast at any thought of cutting down a single tree, Duke Power, which holds thousands of acres in North Carolina, simply asked us to reseed so new trees would grow. If you look at a satellite view of the location today, you'll see we made the mistake of seeding in a symmetrical way instead of arbitrary, as nature looks.