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Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made?

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  981 ratings  ·  94 reviews
A compulsively readable journey into the area of movie-making where all writers, directors and stars fear to tread: Development Hell, the place where scripts are written, actors hired and sets designed... but the movies rarely actually get made!

Whatever happened to Darren Aronofsky's Batman movie starring Clint Eastwood? Why were there so many scripts written over the year
Paperback, Updated, 272 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Titan Books (UK) (first published May 1st 2004)
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Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I’m something of a cinema geek, so reading this guide to the behind the scenes rumblings and the roadblocks of trying to get a big budget film made (or not getting a big budget film made, as is mostly the case here) fell clearly in the area marked 'my kind of thing'. But even primed as I was to like it, this did still feel like a series of magazine articles on the same topic just strung together. And whereas I’d certainly have enjoyed reading one of these in a Sunday Supplement, fourteen of them ...more
David Keaton
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Worth a look for the behind-the-scenes Hollywood clusterfuckery. A bit of false advertising though, as a lot of time is devoted to a bunch of movies that were actually made - so the subtitle should probably say something like The Greatest (Alternative-Future Versions of) Movies Never Made? - but it's still a fun distraction. Planet of the Apes? Tomb Raider? Who gives a shit. The Cronenberg Total Recall though? Weep for what might have been! The mutants in the Verhoeven film were Cronenberg's ide ...more
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Undeniably fun to read, and I probably "enjoyed" this more than books to which I've given higher ratings.

The fun part, of course, is delighting in the stupidity of Hollywood execs, who throw millions at writers to develop stories and scripts, then destroy them with market research and hubris. Read "Tales from Development Hell" and marvel at how any movie, ever, gets made.

The reason for my low(ish) rating is I feel like I've heard the stories before. Anyone who regularly follows film sites is pro
J. Hamlet
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comedic-memoirs
This book is full of fun insights into the byzantine and often nonsensical process that is movie production. It also explains why a lot of movies that should've been great turned out so . . . . not great. And, true to its title, it is full of stories of fantastic takes and drafts on stories that either never got made or would've been drastically more inventive and groundbreaking than the actual finished product. ...more
Glen Hannah
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've longed for this book but never knew it. Years ago I used to read about exciting new films like a 4th Indiana Jones film and an Arnold Schwarzenegger film called Crusade, but they never eventuated. Well, Indy 4 did but I remember hearing that it was going to be made at least a decade before it actually came out. The reports seemed to say that it was all set to go into production.
Anyway, this book is about those films stuck in development hell. The films that just can't seem to come together
Catherine Howard
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable book about the blood, sweat and tears -- and YEARS of frustration -- that goes into trying to get a Hollywood movie made. Reading this, it's a wonder anything makes it to the screen at all. But next time you leave the cinema feeling less than impressed, you'll remember that somewhere, a screenwriter is clutching his original, better script for it, trying not to cry about what might have been...

I was especially disappointed to read about how OUTBREAK, a decidedly mediocre film a
Apr 15, 2012 rated it liked it
It contains some interesting stories, but as other reviewers have noted, "Tales from Development Hell" falls into a repetitive pattern pretty early on. It isn't Hughes' fault, necessarily, but unless you're interested in the particular film he's talking about in any given chapter, you're probably going to find it hard to keep from skimming. ...more
Andrew Foxley
Jan 24, 2021 rated it liked it
“This script is perfect. Who can we get to rewrite it?”

This line pretty much sums up David Hughes' 'Tales from Development Hell', which tells the stories of some of Hollywood's most infamous unfilmed projects - or those that went through many, many different iterations before eventually reaching the screen. It's packed with interesting tales, shedding light on an area of the film business that’s often underexplored - we tend to hear so little about the writing process, the reasons for screenplay
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: film
The premise of this book promises "The greatest movies never made?" - in fact, nearly all of these movies were made in some form eventually (Batman begins, lord of the rings, lara croft etc) Thus the book is not so much an informative look at great unproduced scripts as it is a collection of overly long and meandering anecdotes about the making of very famous movies.

There is a thin line between thorough research and just copy and pasting any quote that you have found about a movie in chronologi
Stephen Sambrook
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some of the stories on their own are interesting and enjoyable enough (the saga of the rival 'Outbreak' project is great) but read back to back there's a lot of repetitiveness. Not to mention that a good few of these films made it out of development hell so you're just reading long chapters on how Tomb Raider or Total Recall got made. There are also a few errors that are minor but shouldn't have made it through (Total Recall was not the highest grossing film of 1990; Robert Downey Jr. didn't rel ...more
Brent Blackwell
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I'll echo what others have said. It's at times a fascinating look into the frustrating process of getting a movie made, but its oral history vibe can be exhausting at times. There's a tediousness to plowing through the book, and I'd recommend it only in occasional chunks. Consider it more a collection of histories rather than any kind of cohesive book. That being said, the histories ARE pretty interesting, so it's worth a look for movie fans out there. ...more
Aaron Davis
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feels edited

Having read this I was hoping for real warts and all tales of scripts in development hell. Instead we get a glossed over account. Maybe this is because the writer of the book is a screen writer and doesn't want to upset the very people he's trying to sell his scripts too. Still it was a good read.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s really 3.5 but as I’ve complained MANY times before, goodreads doesn’t give you that option. It starts really strong but then loses steam, then it gets bogged down in the story of Tomb Raider which is not nearly as interesting as previous stories and seems like a personal obsession. It’s a good beach read, even though I didn’t read it at the beach.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: film
It’s fascinating, in a surreal, I-can’t-believe-these-are-the-people-who-got-to-make-movies (or try to) way. It’s just a shame the book aims at being little more than a record of gossip and oral histories (and is poorly edited to boot.)

Which is a shame – these stories, and all that original research, deserve better.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I'd say a 3.5. Interesting and gives a good insight into how it all works and why Hollywood movies often end up so crap and predictable. The downside is that it gets a bit repetitious and I would have liked more inside knowledge of the personalities involved in these films and their tantrums, including the likely stars. ...more
Brendan M.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a nerd on the internet since 2000, I'd heard a lot of these stories before, or heard about many of these projects before. Still, there were projects - like Smoke & Mirrors - that I didn't know about, and stories that were new to me. A fun, breezy read. ...more
Adam Windsor
An engaging and readable, though not all that deep, overview of the troubled (non-)production of several films, from the various false starts at making "Lord of the Rings" to the boondoggle of the proposed "Sandman" film or the last minute collapse of "Crisis in the Hot Zone". ...more
Mike Whiskey Bravo
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
A lot of bitchiness with fellow writers, which from experience reading other books about Hollywood is par for the course.
Michal Sventek
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Does what it promises, sometimes exhaustingly - however satisfyingly.
Jun 16, 2020 added it
Shelves: ebooks
had to read for my dissertation. i will not be rating my diss reads.
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was ok
Flat writing
Silvis Library
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
An entertaining look behind the scenes of movie development, looking both at original movies and sequels. I especially enjoyed the (chapter?) on Total Recall, which is a favorite movie of mine.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
TALES FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL: An Insider’s Look at Follywood!

Remember the rumor about Sandra Bullock starring in the next INDIANA JONES movie? Or how about the one when Kevin Costner was cast to play Indiana Jones’s brother? Or how about the one where Indiana Jones’s next adventure was going to have him discovering the lost island of Atlantis? If so, then TALES FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL: THE GREAT MOVIES NEVER MADE? is precisely the book you’re looking for.

(And, if you don’t remember the rumors, then
Arun Divakar
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
When it comes to films, a lot of concepts and ideas that seem fantastic on paper do not finally make it to the reel. For a multitude of reasons they sink into oblivion, never to be heard of again. Hollywood and Indian movies differ greatly on one aspect : script rewrites. Over and above 90% of Indian movies are scripted by an individual or a small group (mostly 2 or even 3 writers) at one shot until the film makes it to theatres. The director and writers collude on the writing process and do any ...more
Jeff Parry
I would have really enjoyed this more if it had lived up to its subtitle. Unfortunately many of the movies covered actually made it to the big screen. You also get tired of the endless script revisions that are provided. However this is necessary if you are describing the development process. You do get to see how Hollywood works and the pressures that directors and writers have to face. Studio bosses are not always the best judge's of what should and shouldn't be made but then there job is on t ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, movies
Originally posted on Misprinted Pages.

In his newly updated book, David Hughes gives more than a tourist’s definition of the dreaded “Development Hell.” Like Bilbo Baggins, he’s been there and back again, and his difficulty in slaying the dragon—getting a movie made and in theaters—is a problem that plagues amateur and seasoned writers, producers, and directors alike. Tales from Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? is a insider’s guide to Hollywood’s rejects, flops, and almost-weren’
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
*This review contains spoilers*

We all know 2005's Batman Begins, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, re-launched the Batman franchise on the big screen...But did you know before Warner Bros. gave the greenlit to Nolan to make his take on the iconic comic character's roots( Which evolved into The Dark Knight Trilogy) Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky was developing his own Batman origins film with legendary comic writer and artist Frank Miller which was a di
Lee Penney
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Most people probably don’t know (and don’t care) what it takes to get a movie made by a Hollywood studio. Even those with a relatively straightforward path to the screen will have faced numerous battles.

Douglas Adams, who experienced the process while getting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made for the screen (unsuccessfully in his lifetime), once described the process as ‘like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it.’

In Tales from
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
In the end, a solid "meh." When it was on, it was on. When it wasn't, it wasn't bad - just forgettable.

The first chapter is about a script called Smoke & MIrrors, about a retired French magician who's enlisted by the government to stop an Algerian resistance by proving that their leader is not a mystical figure, but is in fact performing simple illusions. It was the hottest script in Hollywood for a minute, and 20 years later has yet to be produced. The ups and downs of failed attempts to get th
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it."

This great little quote by Douglas Adams opens Tales From Development Hell - a fun read for film buffs, but one that quickly gets very repetitive. By the end of the book, you'll probably wonder how any movie ever manages to survive the giant egos, creative differences, and crass commercialism of the Hollywood studio system. Each chapter details a movie t
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David Hughes has written about film for numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, Empire, GQ, SFX, Fangoria and Cinefantastique. He is the author of Virgin's The Complete Kubrick and The Complete Lynch, and wrote Titan Books' acclaimed The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. ...more

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