Sequels that were axed during production

Sam Ashurst
Contributor
Rainbow Road To Oz, ET II and Alien 5 all almost made it to cinemas.

World War Z 2 is officially dead. The David Fincher blockbuster was set to re-team the director with his Se7en / Fight Club / Benjamin Button star Brad Pitt, but the project is no more.

As much as we were intrigued by the zombie sequel, if it means Fincher can focus on getting Mindhunter season 2 onto Netflix as soon as possible, we’re all for it.

And at least it was only in the ‘location scout’ phase of production. Other sequels have been much further along when their plugs got pulled. Though, considering those include the following, maybe that’s for the best…

Rainbow Road To Oz (1957)

Rainbow Road To Oz (credit: Disney)

With the Wizard Of Oz proving to be a huge hit on its release in 1939, Disney producers decided to shoot their own live-action adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, buying up the rights to all 13 of the sequel novels. The plot of the first attempt, Rainbow Road To Oz, revolved around Dorothy’s return to Oz to rescue the Cowardly Lion from a spell cast by vengeful son of the late Wicked Witch of the West.

Despite the fact Disney shot enough footage to air a clip on Walt Disney’s Disneyland TV, and recorded songs that would be later released on record, the film was cancelled.

The rumoured reason was that Disney execs were worried their film would be unfavourably compared to MGM’s infinitely superior original film, which was enjoying a new life on TV. Seeing as it’s a bit like trying to make Citizen Kane 2, we can kind of see their point.

Revenge Of The Nerds (2007)

This 1984 movie follows a crew of computer science students who stand up to a group of bullying fraternity bros.

Okay, so this is more of a reboot than a sequel, but it still counts, as the new Nerds movie was going to focus on a new generation of students, and would almost certainly have featured cameos from the original cast. Also, significantly, it was an astonishing two weeks into shooting before the plug was pulled, which is pretty unprecedented for a production of this scale.

According to Variety: “People close to the film say another issue was that Fox Atomic topper Peter Rice was not completely satisfied with the dailies and that the film felt smaller than the kind of pic he’s aiming to release from Atomic, the teen-oriented label launched last year.”

The film was being helmed by Fanboys director Kyle Newman, and would have starred Dan Byrd (The Hills Have Eyes), Chris Marquette (Joan of Arcadia), Jenna Dewan (Step Up), Ryan Pinkston (Punk’d), Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite), and Kristin Cavallari (Laguna Beach), all of whom would have won multiple Oscars for the project, we’re sure.

The Return Of Billy Jack (1985)

Writer, director, actor Tom Laughlin

One of the longest running franchises that barely anyone appears to have actually seen, the Billy Jack series – about an American Navajo Indian, who’s also a Green Beret Vietnam War veteran, and a hapkido master – ran to four films, with plans for a fifth.

The Return Of Billy Jack would have seen the titular hero take on child pornographers in New York City, and production began in 1985 – only to be swiftly halted when star / director / writer / producer Tom Laughlin suffered a head injury when a stunt involving a breakaway bottle went wrong. The production ran out of money while Laughlin recovered, and the film was never finished.

In 1996 Laughlin tried to raise money to finish the fifth film, which had by that point been retitled to ‘Billy Jack’s Crusade to End the War in Iraq and Restore America to Its Moral Purpose.’ So… yeah.

Ei8ht (1996)

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en (credit: New Line Cinema)

Se7en 2: Ei8ht is slightly different to every other entry on this list, in that it did eventually get made – sort of. With the success of Se7en surprising pretty much every executive who tried to change the ending the first time around, New Line Cinema producers scrambled to find an already existing screenplay that would be suitable for a sequel.

When they couldn’t find one, they decided to go with a script that would have required Morgan Freeman’s character to suddenly be psychic. Seriously.

Unsurprisingly, David Fincher wasn’t massively keen on the idea, saying the script didn’t make much sense, and later saying about doing a sequel: “I have less interest in that than having cigarettes put out in my eyes.”

Which feels pretty definitive. The film did get made, though not as Se7en 2. It’s called Solace, and stars Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, if you’re car crash curious.

ET II: Nocturnal Fears (1983)

Early concept designs for ET II (credit: Universal)

Written by Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison, a horror sequel to ET was a thing that really did almost happen. In fact, it went as far as creature design, with actual puppets being built, before Spielberg finally came to his senses.

If he hadn’t, a generation of kids would have been traumatised by a film revolving around a gang of flesh-eating aliens landing around the corner from Elliott’s house, who would then kidnap and TORTURE the child for information on ET. We’re not making any of this up. The ‘80s were a strange time.

Alien 5 (2015)

Concept art shared by Neill Blomkamp (credit: 20th Century Fox)

Poor old Neill Blomkamp. If his social media accounts are to be believed, he put a LOT of work into his Alien sequel, which would have picked up directly after Aliens, ignoring Alien 3 and every sequel and spin-off afterwards. Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn were both onboard, and were said to be excited about the sequel’s premise.




Despite the fact it looked pretty cool, the project was canned when Ridley Scott decided he wanted to return to the universe he created, with Fox executives deciding that it didn’t make sense to run the Prometheus franchise at the same time as Alien 5.

Did they back the right Xenomorph? Critical and audience reactions suggest maybe not…


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