Filmmaker David Fincher’s highly anticipated HBO drama series Utopia is no more. Last year, following the release of the excellent Gone Girl, many wondered what Fincher would do next. Possibly inspired by friend Steven Soderbergh’s success with Cinemax’s The Knick, Fincher opted to delve back into television with a remake of the British series Utopia, for which he intended to direct every season-one episode. He brought along his Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn to write every episode, and the project was set up at HBO with production poised to begin in 2015. But following reports that Fincher had enlisted his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Rooney Mara to star, we learned last week that there was trouble brewing behind the scenes concerning the budget, and Utopia’s future was in jeopardy.
Unfortunately the worst has come to pass, as Deadline reports that Fincher and HBO were unable to come to a compromise on the project’s budget and thus Fincher has departed along with his cast. For up to a month, the filmmaker had been rehearsing with an ensemble that included Mara, Colm Feore, Eric McCormack, Dallas Roberts, Jason Ritter, and Brandon Scott to bring the thriller series to life, but those actors have now been released from their contracts as the project has fallen apart. Moreover, Fincher doesn’t own the rights to Utopia, so he can’t take the project elsewhere. HBO may still opt to move forward with a different creative team at the helm.
This is, frankly, really disappointing. The premise seemed a perfect fit for Fincher and Flynn—it revolves around superfans of an underground graphic novel who learn that the author has secretly written a sequel—and I don’t care how big HBO is, when you have talent like David Fincher in your pocket, you don’t let that slip away. Fincher famously went over-budget on Netflix’s House of Cards, but Netflix rolled with the punches and look how that turned out—he gave them the series that would launch an insanely successful string of original content. Plus, you’re HBO; use some of that Game of Thrones money!
Fincher has also separately been working on another HBO series, a comedy about the early music video era in the late 1980s called Video Synchronicity, but its future is also up in the air. Fincher directed the first two episodes, but production was halted after the fourth episode to reassess the series creatively. Last we heard, HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo sounded determined to make that show work, and Fincher is also attached to a James Ellroy noir drama series at the network, but now that Utopia has dissolved, it’s unclear if he’s keen on staying in business with HBO.
On the feature film side of things, the only big project on Fincher’s plate that we’re aware of is his Strangers on a Train remake written by Flynn and starring Ben Affleck, but Flynn recently said that film may not come to fruition for a while given everyone’s busy schedules. Whether it’s Video Synchronicity or another feature film, I do hope a new Fincher project comes to fruition sooner rather than later. Maybe Disney could come back around on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? To think of what Fincher might do with a big-budget blockbuster film…