"It Was Dismantled And Completely Reimagined": 11 Movies That Went Through Heck And Back With Changes, Delays, And Issues Before They Were Even Released

    On the opening weekend of Fantastic Four (2015), director Josh Trank wrote in a since-deleted tweet: "A year ago, I had a fantastic version of this. And it would have received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though."

    Note: This post mentions grooming, abuse, and violence.

    1. The Flash (2023) has yet to be released, but it's already generating buzz — and not for a good reason. Ezra Miller, who stars as Barry Allen/The Flash, has recently made headlines for numerous allegations. In 2020, a viral video appeared to show Miller choking a woman and throwing her to the ground at a bar in Iceland. Since then, they have been arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment as well as second-degree assault and charged with felony burglary.

    Despite the allegations, Warner Bros. reportedly still plans to release The Flash in June 2023, with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav calling the film "terrific."

    However, Miller's legal issues aren't the only hurdle The Flash has faced. The film has actually been in development since the 1980s, when comic book writer Jeph Loeb began working on a screenplay adaptation for Warner Bros. After the project fell through, Warner Bros. hired David S. Goyer (known for Batman Begins) to write a new script — he later left due to creative differences, and more writers were brought on for yet another draft. Adam Brody was initially cast as The Flash, but he departed the role in 2007 due to scheduling conflicts.

    2. Olivia Wilde's upcoming psychological thriller film Don't Worry Darling — which is set to be released in September 2022 — has already been at the forefront of media coverage and speculation for its casting changes and alleged behind-the-scenes drama.

    The film was announced in 2019, with Shia LaBeouf initially cast as Jack. However, in 2020, Wilde reportedly made the decision to fire LaBeouf from the project. Wilde explained her decision in an interview with Variety: "[LaBeouf's] process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions. He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy, and I don’t personally believe that is conducive to the best performances. I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job."

    However, LaBeouf recently disputed the claim that he was fired. In an email to Wilde (shared with Variety), the actor wrote: "I am a little confused about the narrative that I was fired. ... You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse. ... Firing me never took place, Olivia. And while I fully understand the attractiveness of pushing that story because of the current social landscape, the social currency that brings. It is not the truth. So I am humbly asking, as a person with an eye toward making things right, that you correct the narrative as best you can."

    There have also been rumors of an alleged conflict between Wilde and Pugh. In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Pugh opened up about feeling uncomfortable with the public focusing so heavily on the film's sex scenes: "When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it. It’s not why I’m in this industry. Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that."

    Don't Worry Darling is scheduled to hit US theaters Sept. 23. Here's the trailer if you're curious:

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    Warner Bros. / Via youtu.be

    3. Justice League (2017) was rife with difficulties and behind-the-scenes controversy pretty much since its inception. In fact, the film's original director, Zack Snyder, first rewrote the script just before production began. The script changes were largely due to the negative reception of Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and the studio wanting a story that was less dark and more hopeful. "The original Justice League that Chris [Terrio] and I wrote, we didn't even shoot," Snyder revealed in an interview with Syfy. "There's a lot of it that we shot [but] the actual idea, the hard, hard idea, the scary idea, we never filmed because the studio was like, 'That's crazy.'"

    In May 2017, Snyder stepped down as director during post-production after the death of his daughter. Joss Whedon, who had initially been hired to help with script rewrites, then took over as the film's director. Whedon changed the story substantially, adding 80 new script pages, cutting about 90 minutes of Snyder's footage, and attempting to make the film more humorous. Whedon's 120-minute version of Justice League was released in November 2017. It received mixed reviews from critics, and currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 39%.

    Just after the film's release, a petition was created to release Snyder's directorial cut of the film. It garnered over 180,000 signatures and began a high-profile social media movement known as #ReleasetheSnyderCut. Although the idea was initially deemed unlikely, Snyder announced in 2020 that his version of the film would be released as an HBO Max Original. The 242-minute-long Zack Snyder's Justice League was released in March 2021. It went on to become the fourth most-streamed film of the year.

    However, in July 2022, Rolling Stone reported that fake accounts and bots may have played a substantial part in the #ReleasetheSynderCut movement, alleging that up to 13% of accounts that took part in the conversation were fake. Snyder has disputed the claims.

    4. Justice League wasn't Whedon's first controversial film. Before Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a TV show, it was a 1992 horror comedy film. After Whedon wrote the script, Fox drastically changed the tone and removed most of the darker elements, turning it into a light comedy.

    Whedon reportedly walked off set, citing dissatisfaction with the project and conflict with actor Donald Sutherland. "I pretty much eventually threw up my hands because I could not be around Donald Sutherland any longer," Whedon said in a 2001 interview with the AV Club. "It didn't turn out to be the movie that I had written. They never do, but that was my first lesson in that. Not that the movie is without merit, but I just watched a lot of stupid wannabe-star behavior and a director with a different vision than mine."

    5. Fantastic Four (2015) went through endless script rewrites, reshoots, and behind-the-scenes issues from the very beginning. Initially, Josh Trank signed on to direct the film and Jeremy Slater was hired to pen the screenplay. However, when Trank decided he wanted to be involved with writing the script, the two clashed. "The tone that [Slater] was interested in was not a tone that I felt I had anything in common with," Trank told Polygon. Slater also claimed that Trank told him from the beginning that he was not allowed to speak to Fox executives without Trank present and that he "never saw 95% of [the studio's] notes." Slater left the project after six months.

    Producers then rewrote Trank's version of the script and changed the story's ending. After filming was completed, Fox executives were dissatisfied with the project and mandated reshoots. What happened next isn't entirely clear — several anonymous sources speaking to Entertainment Weekly alleged "cruel" behavior on set from Trank, while other sources claimed he was "driven to the breaking point by the studio." Regardless, the clashes resulted in major changes.

    Fantastic Four was considered a critical and commercial failure. It was panned by critics and audiences — it currently sits at a dismal 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — and was a box office bomb. Trank added even more fuel to the fire when he posted a now-deleted tweet: "A year ago, I had a fantastic version of this. And it would have received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though."

    6. Although it went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time, Frozen (2013) had a long, difficult creative process. Its development can actually be traced all the way back to 1936, when Walt Disney set out to adapt Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." He began developing the film in 1940, but World War II resulted in the project being shelved. Walt Disney Pictures revisited the concept throughout the '90s and early '00s, but the project didn't take off again until 2008 when it was pitched as Anna and the Snow Queen.

    From there, Wreck-It-Ralph writer Jenifer Lee was brought on as the screenwriter. In an interview with Scriptnotes podcast, Lee explained: "We had a very intense schedule. ... When I came on, we essentially started over, and we had 17 months. So, we were in a place of a lot of choices had to be made fast." Several major changes were made from the original version: Elsa and Anna were originally not sisters, Olaf was written as mean and obnoxious, Elsa was supposed to be a pure evil villain, and the ending was different.

    Frozen premiered in November 2013. It was the highest-grossing film of the year and won Academy Awards for Best Animated Picture and Best Original Song. A sequel was released in 2019.

    7. Deadpool (2016) shockingly almost didn't get released. Development began all the way back in 2004, and Ryan Reynolds immediately expressed interest in playing the titular character. However, a script didn't get written until much later. When Reynolds' Green Lantern (2011) performed poorly, Fox began to reevaluate its commitment to Deadpool. Executives also had concerns over releasing an R-rated superhero movie.

    The studio granted director Tim Miller a small budget to produce test footage for the film. When the test footage was leaked online in 2014, it received an enthusiastic response from fans. Fox eventually gave the project the green light a few months after the leak. "You can look back at an email chain from all of us, the core group involved in Deadpool, saying 'We should leak this, f—-,' like three years ago," Reynolds said in an interview with Yahoo. "Saying, 'Hey, if this thing is going to stagnate, one of us should just say "Whoops, I slipped it online by accident.'" And nobody seemed to want to nut up and do that, myself included. Someone did it for us, years later, when we all completely assumed it was dead in the water."

    Deadpool was given a much smaller marketing budget than usual for a Marvel film, which resulted in Reynolds himself heavily promoting the film on social media. The film premiered in February 2016 and was a critical and commercial success. A sequel was released in 2018, and a third film is currently in development.

    8. Kangaroo Jack (2003), which is often regarded as one of the worst films ever made, actually has a pretty wild backstory. In an interview with Vice, actor Jerry O'Connell revealed that the original vision for the film was completely different: "It started as a pretty dark spec script [titled Down and Under] about two shitty mafiosos who have to go to the outback. A lot of cursing, a lot of sex, and it was really funny."

    However, initial test screenings were poor — except for the audience's positive reaction to a scene with a kangaroo. The studio then decided to completely rework the project and make it into a PG-rated, family-friendly comedy. Marketing focused VERY heavily on the animated kangaroo. Here's the trailer:

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    Warner Bros. / Via youtube.com

    However, the film itself actually included very little of the kangaroo. The movie was panned by audiences and critics upon release, as well as criticized for misleading marketing. In fact, it was so bad that O'Connell said producer Jerry Bruckheimer actually asked him to never read any of the reviews.

    9. Slender Man (2018) was pretty much doomed from the very beginning. Two years before the film went into development, a real-life incident occurred where two 12-year-old girls lured their friend into a forest and stabbed her 19 times, reportedly to please the fictional Slender Man (the victim survived). Although the movie was not about the real-life stabbing, it still generated controversy.

    According to Bloody Disgusting, Screen Gems and Sony Pictures were afraid of the potential backlash and, as a result, cut a significant portion of the footage. In fact, several of the scenes featured in the trailer below didn't make it into the film at all:

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    Sony Pictures Entertainment / Via youtu.be

    Producers reportedly tried to shop the film around to different distributors before its release, but were unsuccessful. Slender Man premiered in August 2018 and was not screened in several Wisconsin theaters out of respect for the real-life families. The movie received overwhelmingly negative reviews — it holds a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 8%.

    10. Pixar's The Good Dinosaur (2015) went through numerous rewrites, multiple directors, and major casting changes. Bob Peterson first conceived the idea in 2009 and was initially hired to write the script. However, he was removed from the screenplay in 2013 due to "story problems."

    However, that was only the beginning. After the project was delayed by 18 months, Pixar Animation Studios laid off about 5% of the company's workforce. The Good Dinosaur was then subsequently "dismantled and completely reimagined," according to John Lithgow (who was part of the original cast). In 2015, most of the cast, including Lithgow, was revised. Peter Sohn also replaced Bob Peterson as the director.

    The Good Dinosaur premiered in November 2015. It received mixed-to-positive reviews, but performed poorly at the box office, earning just over $332 million globally. The film was considered Pixar's first box office bomb.

    11. And, finally: James Cameron first announced the development of Avatar (2009) sequels back in 2010, but the films have been delayed over and over. The first sequel, Avatar: The Way of the Water, is scheduled to finally be released this December, nearly 13 years after its predecessor. Three more films are now expected to follow, spanning release dates all the way into 2028.

    The first sequel was initially supposed to be released in 2014. It was then pushed to 2016, and then delayed again multiple times. "There’s a layer of complexity in getting the story to work as a saga across three films that you don’t get when you’re making a standalone film," Cameron said during a promotion event in New Zealand, before the fourth sequel was announced. "We’re writing three simultaneously. And we’ve done that so that everything tracks throughout the three films. We’re not just going to do one and then make up another one and another one after that."

    Cameron said another one of the major reasons for the delays is because they're shooting with underwater motion-capture. "It’s never been done before and it’s very tricky because our motion capture system, like most motion capture systems, is what they call optical base, meaning that it uses markers that are photographed with hundreds of cameras," he explained in an interview with Collider.

    Avatar: The Way of the Water is scheduled to be released theatrically on Dec. 16, 2022. Here's the teaser trailer:

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    20th Century Studios