In September of last year, we reported that Guillermo del Toro wanted Tom Cruise to star in At the Mountains of Madness. The film—which is based on the horror novella by H.P. Lovecraft and recounts a scientific expedition that uncovers ancient horrors dwelling in the mountains of Antarctica—has long been a passion project of del Toro’s and it looked like he was finally going to get it off the ground as a 3D film and with James Cameron attached as a producer. Cruise had been circling the role as recently as last month and it looks like he’s finally on board. Producer Don Murphy tells io9 that not only is Cruise attached to star, but filming is scheduled to begin in June.
Murphy also added that “the script is very close to the H.P. Lovecraft source material,” which I find puzzling. Hit the jump for my thoughts on Cruise signing on and the difficulty in adapting Lovecraft’s story. [Update: The Playlist just tweeted that reps for Cruise say he's not yet confirmed for the film; Update 2: Hitfix has learned that Murphy was quoted indirectly. The producer directly tells Hitfix, "no start date has been set AT ALL."]
Update 3: Steve here. I’ve been told that Universal killed the project on Friday and del Toro is going to take on Pacific Rim. Read our story here.
I recently finished reading At the Mountains of Madness and while I envisioned the lead character of William Dyer to be slightly older and more professorial, I understand the financial need to cast an international star like Cruise if del Toro hopes for Universal to bankroll a special-effects heavy R-rated horror film. Presumably, Cruise will jump straight from Rock of Ages, which is reportedly set to shoot in May, to At the Mountains of Madness.
As to Murphy’s comment that “the script is very close to the H.P. Lovecraft source material,” I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. We already know that del Toro wrote a new character for Ron Perlman and I think that’s a great idea. The book needs more characters if it’s going to work as a movie because the meat of the story, where Dyer and graduate student Danforth venture inside the mountains, is dialogue-free. In fact, it’s mostly Dyer and Danforth examining paintings and charting the rise and fall of ancient creatures known as “The Elder Things”.
Reading the novella, I have no doubt that del Toro will be able to visually interpret Lovecraft’s attention to detail (I personally found it too overwhelming and had trouble picturing the “Elder Things” in my head). But when it comes to the plot, he’ll have some work to do because a script that is “very close” to the source material is going to have some problems.