Blockbusters that were finished by different directors

Sam Ashurst
Contributor
Superman II, Thor: The Dark World, and Batman V Superman were all finished by someone else

So, Game Of Thrones has finished. Well, sort of. There’s still two books to come, which puts fans in an intriguing position; trying to work out if the show has the ‘proper’ ending, or if it was some sort of artistic compromise.

Considering the general disappointment in the small screen version, it’s probably the first time a fanbase has actively prayed for ‘creative differences.’

Of course, film fans have suffered this struggle for decades - and we don’t even get books (outside of tell-all biographies) to give us closure.

There have been many massive movies that were started by one creative, before being finished off by another, with the mystery of what could’ve been lingering in the air. Here’s some of the most fascinating.

Jaws (1975)

Roy Scheider, left, and Richard Dreyfuss are shown in a scene from the movie "Jaws," 1975. (AP Photo)

Believe it or not, the film that invented the concept of the summer blockbuster, as well as the film career of Steven Spielberg, Jaws, was actually originally developed with a different director. Based on the popular book of the same name, written by Peter Benchley in 1974, Jaws seemed to be a no-brainer in terms of a movie adaptation.

Unfortunately, the first director involved in the process appeared to have no brain - for shark movies, anyway (we’re sure he’s very smart in all other respects).

Producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown originally hired successful commercial director Dick Richards, who'd just made his first feature. Except, during that early development process, Richards kept referring to the movie’s monster as a ‘whale’ - a mammal with a slightly different vibe to the book’s man-eating shark.

That’s a pretty major difference, so Richards was let go, and Steven Spielberg was brought in. The result? A shoot was so disastrous Zanuck and Brown probably wished they’d have kept Richards onboard. Well, until the film was released and became one of the biggest hits of all time.

Ant-Man (2015)

Peyton Reed poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film Ant Man in London, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

We actually do have some insight into what took Edgar Wright off Ant-Man, as the director has been relatively honest about the situation.

"I think the most diplomatic answer is I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don't think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie. It was a really heartbreaking decision to have to walk away after having worked on it for so long… I had made three movies so it wasn't like I was working on it full time. But after The World's End I did work on it for like a year, I was gonna make the movie."

Marvel told Wright they wanted to create their own draft of the script. "Suddenly becoming a director for hire on it, you're sort of less emotionally invested and you start to wonder why you're there, really."

Just as we wished we’d had the chance to read George RR Martin’s version of events before we saw the Game Of Thrones finale, we desperately wish we’d gotten Edgar Wright’s version of the comic before Peyton Reed’s take. Or maybe instead of? We know, we know, controversial.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Ryan Reynolds and Director Tim Miller seen at "DEADPOOL" Blu-ray and DVD Press Event. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment/AP Images)

Tim Miller’s passion for Deadpool, combined with Ryan Reynolds genius central performance - launched a pop culture phenomenon. So, when a sequel was announced, it seemed inevitable that Miller would be allowed to continue what he started.

As it turned out, star power has more weight than auteur theory, with the studio reportedly falling behind Ryan Reynolds following a clash with Miller during the editing process.

"Making the movie was very, very difficult," Reynolds said. "There were vaguely scary fights in the post-production process that escalated quickly. Luckily, everybody’s grown up and at the end of the day enjoys and loves each other."

In terms of the official explanation, that gets a bit more muddy. Miller was rumoured to want to go bigger on the sequel, with three times the budget and a much more traditional blockbuster feel. Miller has denied those claims.

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"I just want to say one thing to the geek audience out there,” he said in a statement. “Because it’s important to me what the geeks and nerds of the world think because they are my brothers and sisters. I didn’t want to make some stylized movie that was 3 times the budget.”

“If you read the internet — who cares, really? But for those of you who do, I wanted to make the same kind of movie that we made before because I think that’s the right movie to make for the character. So don’t believe what you read on the internet."

Whatever the truth of it, David Leitch took over directing duties, and created a film that felt like a logical successor to the original, albeit with less of a punk-rock feel.

The Batman (2021)

Ben Affleck, a cast member in "Justice League," poses at the premiere of the film at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

This one isn’t so much one director finishing what another’s started, more like what one director taking another’s script, tearing it up, and throwing it in the bin. We’ll never know exactly what Ben Affleck’s Batman script involved, but we can be certain it was probably pretty good.

“The original Affleck script was the best Batman script I’ve ever read,” storyboard artist Jay Oliva said. “Ben had a kick ass story and I believe that the audience and fans would have loved it.”

But, following the backlash against Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad: Dawn Of Margot Robbie, Affleck lost his passion for the project, and new director Matt Reeves started from scratch, keeping only the title.

Of course, another blockbuster finished by different director was probably the final nail in the Bat-coffin, but that deserves an entry of its own.

Justice League (2017)

Joss Whedon speaks at Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 11, 2015, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

As with Game Of Thrones, the original author of the Justice League movie wasn’t able to finish his masterpiece. Tragic personal events took Zack Snyder away from the completion of his DC trilogy, that started with Man Of Steel, continued in Dawn Of Justice, and would have ended with Justice League. Joss Whedon took over, and the results were underwhelming.

However, fans didn’t accept the official story, and still demand that Warner Brothers #releasetheSnydercut, despite the fact the Snyder cut doesn’t actually exist. As is so often the case these days, they launched a petition in the hope it’ll convince Warner Brothers to turn a couple of trailers into a feature length movie. They’ve probably got more chance of becoming the next Batman.

Basically, the Game Of Thrones backlash warning signs were hidden in plain sight.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Alan Taylor, left, and Kevin Feige, president of production at Marvel Studios, arrive at the U.S. premiere of "Thor: The Dark World". (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

When Patty Jenkins left Thor: The Dark World after a couple of months, it seemed like a bad decision by Marvel. Now we’ve seen Wonder Woman, it feels like an even worse call. Ex Game Of Thrones director Alan Taylor didn’t exactly do a greaaat job as a replacement.

The Dark World frequently appears at the very bottom of MCU ranking lists, but it could have been avoided - if Jenkins had been allowed to create her original concept, which was a “Romeo-and-Juliet-esque space opera that hinged on the separation of Thor and Jane Foster,” according to Jenkins.

“It was painful and sad because I really loved those guys and I loved the idea of us making a Thor together, but it’s one of those things. You have to make sure that the movie you want to make is fully the right movie for that studio too. It was heartbreaking, but I also knew that it was good… I knew that it was good because I didn’t think I could make a great film out of their script.”

“If I do it, and it’s what I think it’s gonna be, I can’t help the fact that it will represent women directors everywhere, and then that’s going to be bad for everybody… As heartbreaking as it was, I was also like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do something I don’t believe in, in that big of a scale. I knew that that was going to set [not only] me back, but also women directors back.”

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Which, you know, considering what a huge hit Wonder Woman would end up being, is just a little bit heartbreaking.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Ron Howard poses for a portrait to promote his film, "Solo: A Star Wars Story" . (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

There’s probably an entire spin-off movie to be made about the making of Solo: A Star Wars Story, (Solo: A Star Wars Story Story?) and, to be honest, it would probably be more exciting, dramatic and engaging than the movie that ended up being released.

That’s because original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from the project after a full 80% of the film had finished shooting, which is a fairly astonishing statistic.

Reportedly, the problem was caused by Lord and Miller’s improvisational instincts, which didn’t sit well with the higher-ups. So Ron Howard, cinema’s ultimate pair of safe hands was brought in. The film was a flop, but people want a sequel so maybe this will have a happy ending?

Superman II (1980)

Danny Glover, Richard Donner, Mel Gibson and Rene Russo, from left, arrive at the Richard Donner Tribute Wednesday, June 7, 2017 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

When Richard Donner was let go from Superman II, a legend began. Replacement director Richard Lester directed so much new material, he basically made a new film. But the intrigue around Donner’s version remained a major talking point for fans.

Lester didn’t help when he talked about Donner’s plans. "I think that Donner was emphasising a kind of grandiose myth,” Lester said at the time. “There was a kind of David Lean-ish attempt in several sequences, and enormous scale. There was a type of epic quality which isn't in my nature, so my work really didn't embrace that... That's not me. That's his vision of it. I'm more quirky and I play around with slightly more unexpected silliness."

Yeaaaah, so it’s probably not surprising that fans wanted to see what they’d missed out on.

Shockingly, they eventually did. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2006. Imagine if HBO suddenly agreed to reshoot Game Of Thrones season 8 based on those fan petitions, and you’ll have a sense of how bonkers this chain of events was.

Island Of Doctor Moreau (1996)

Richard Stanley in ‘Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau’

Of all the entries on this list, this one’s the most insane. We know we’re stretching the definition of ‘blockbuster’ by including it, but this one is such a crazy story it inspired a feature-length documentary so how can we not cover it?

When eccentric genius Richard Stanley was hired to write and direct a new interpretation of sci-fi horror classic Island Of Doctor Moreau he probably thought it would be a challenge, but nothing like what he ended up being faced with.

From a rainforest location that suffered from terrible weather, to an confrontational Val Kilmer, to an absent Marlon Brando, Stanley had more than his fair share of difficulties to deal with. So it’s probably not surprising that, when he got fired a week into production - by fax - he had a bit of an extreme reaction.

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He not only instructed that the production designer burn the set down (though he was probably joking), he stayed in the local area and ended up returning to the set in disguise as a dog man, as an extra.

Replacement director John Frankenheimer tried his best, but - as is outlined in the documentary ‘Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau’ - the set continued to be chaotic, and the resulting film was a critical and commercial failure.

Stanley finally returned to directing this year, with the upcoming Nic Cage HP Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space, his first movie for 20 years.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Dexter Fletcher poses for photographers upon arrival at the BAFTA Film Awards in London, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Grossing over $903 million worldwide, on a production budget of about $50 million,

Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t a traditional blockbuster, but it certainly did blockbuster numbers.

It should have been a triumph for director Bryan Singer. But, following alleged clashes on set, in addition to Singer suddenly leaving the set for an unplanned break, he was eventually fired. Fox hired Dexter Fletcher to shoot the final couple of weeks, but Singer is still credited as director.

The controversy appears to have had an impact on Singer’s career, however - Singer has no upcoming directorial projects listed on IMDB.