File this under “sometimes Hollywood injustices really do get fixed in the end.” According to a recent interview with Birth Movies Death, Richard Stanley, the original director (before being replaced by John Frankenheimer) of the 1996 sci-fi film The Island Of Dr. Moreau, may finally get another chance to complete a movie based on the classic H.G. Wells novel.
The saga of Stanley’s ill-fated Dr. Moreau project is told in the 2014 documentary Lost Soul by David Gregory—a combination of Lost In La Mancha and Heart Of Darkness. The young director, fresh off the cult sci-fi movies Dust Devil and Hardware, was enlisted to helm the high-profile Dr. Moreau movie in the mid-1990s. Armed with an amazing vision both for the movie itself and for the creatures in particular, this should have been a “sure thing”…
But it all went to shit.
Who exactly was to “blame” for this clusterfuck is a textured, complex answer deftly handled in the documentary—but there is no question that Stanley was “pushed out,” suddenly replaced by a much older director who did not have his heart in the film and was under strict orders to just get it out the door.
Then there was also the issue of the rampaging egos of actors Val Kilmer (who was originally supposed to be the movie’s lead, but then took on a lesser role because he literally could not be bothered) and Marlon Brando (who changed the entire film to revolve around his own wacky interpretation of Moreau).
In the end, the fired Stanley was reportedly hiding out in seclusion on the other side of the island, even sneaking on the set once dressed as one of the creature “extras.” The experience so burned him that he sadly never directed a feature motion picture again.
But this might all change. Stanley says that he is in talks with unnamed parties to develop a new Island Of Dr. Moreau, and that Lost Soul director David Gregory has helped him get closer to that goal:
At this stage, I can’t say exactly by who, and how long it will take, but the project does live again, largely thanks to David. We’re currently scripting and designing the thing. It’s going to be an all-new screenplay and an all-new cast of beast-people; the original creatures are copyrighted by Warner Bros. [parent company of New Line, which produced and released the ’96 film]. I wasn’t particularly happy with them anyway. The final designs of the creatures in the Frankenheimer version were disappointing, and I think there’s huge room for improvement.
One of the stand-outs of the Lost Soul documentary is to see Stanley’s amazing original designs for the creatures, so this should be a treat.
Stanley says that the actual format of the new Dr. Moreau has yet to be decided:
I’m hoping it will metamorphose into three feature films or six television hours. I’m actually pushing it toward the latter. I would prefer it to be on TV rather than as a theatrical movie or movies, because a) we would have less interference from the studio, and b) we could have an R-level product. I believe that going for the multiplex, it would have its teeth pulled and its nails cut again [New Line’s Moreau was PG-13], and going to television, we could be pretty unrestrained in the way we approach the material. There are a lot of scenes I’ve always wanted to do, including those with the sexually charged dolphin people [laughs], that have fallen out along the way, which I would like to get back into it.
I think HBO or AMC could handle sexually charged dolphin people.
At any rate, I do hope this project takes off—it would be great to see Stanley’s original vision for the story finally realized!
Lost Soul can currently be viewed on Amazon Prime right now, if you’re interested.