Made in part to satisfy a growing appetite for slasher flicks and B movies, the numbered sequels gained traction in the 1970s with such projects as The Godfather Part II and Rocky II. Tentpole films with open endings and loose story lines represented chances to turn stand-alone projects into blockbuster franchises (and had been doing so for decades). But of course there were the flops, too. Films like Jaws 2, 3, and 4 arguably diluted the strength of the original. The Brody family and their shark adversary remained consistent, yet the thematic complexity waned with each new iteration. Sequels were bankable, except when they weren’t. Many failed to move past the script stage or suffered death from a thousand rewrites. As media companies morphed into conglomerates, legal battles over film rights prevented sequels from coming to fruition. The Casablanca sequels, E.T. 2, and Forrest Gump 2 were never made, dying in development. Here’s a brief history of some of the more famous sequels that never were:
Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian
Tim Burton has a penchant for letting his gothic characters roam pastel backdrops. But even the Netherworld’s premiere bio-exorcist, Beetlejuice, couldn’t survive the smarmy heat of Hawaii. In the sequel to the 1988 film, the Deetz family planned to move to Hawaii to build a resort before discovering that their hotel was built on top of ancient burial grounds. In 2013, Winona Ryder expressed interest in revisiting Lydia Deetz, but Warner Bros. shelved the idea in April 2019.
Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires
Cult favorite Bubba Ho-Tep espoused all manners of campy goodness: an Elvis impersonator, a race-switching John F. Kennedy, and an undead mummy terrorizing the residents of a nursing home. Described as a prequel, Bubba Nosferatu was to feature a ghastly battle between Elvis and a coven of she-vampires. If Paul Giamatti had his way, he’d be playing Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. “But as frequently happens with these things, it went away suddenly,” Giamatti told Esquire in 2013.
Casablanca 2 / Brazzaville
Heralded as one of cinema’s greatest achievements, 1942’s Casablanca spurred no fewer than three sequel endeavors including a 1973 attempt offered to François Truffaut. However, just like Humphrey Bogart’s Rick, their story couldn’t materialize without Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa. Brazzaville was the first try; Bogart was set to star in a sequel that would explore Rick’s future after he and Ilsa parted ways — with Geraldine Fitzgerald slated to play his new love interest. Brazzaville would have also revealed Rick and Captain Renault to be secret agents for the Allied forces, but the treatment was too sharp a departure from the original material. At least they’ll always have Paris.
Double V Vega
In an alternate universe, Quentin Tarantino’s seminal film Reservoir Dogs and his magnum opus, Pulp Fiction, would have collided to create Double V Vega. In the unmade Pulp Fiction prequel, Vic Vega and Vincent Vega are brothers uncovering the Amsterdam criminal underworld — Royales with Cheese abound. Double V Vega never made it past the script stage before Michael Madsen and John Travolta aged out of their roles, and Tarantino was adamant he would not go the route of The Irishman to de-age the actors with CGI.
After David Fincher’s box of envy and wrath closed out the deadly sins of Se7en, New Line Cinema made plans to develop its numerical descendant, Ei8ht. The script, originally titled Solace and penned by Ted Griffin, gave Morgan Freeman’s Somerset psychic abilities to track down a supernatural serial killer. The sequel’s paranormal elements departed too far from the gritty realism of its predecessor, leading Freeman, Fincher, and Brad Pitt to jump ship. New Line ditched Ei8ht, thus preserving the integrity of normal detectives hunting down a criminal whose strength for psychological manipulation outweighed any psychic powers.
E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears
Steven Spielberg forwent another bike trip over the moon when he decided not to make E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears. Before abandoning the sequel, Spielberg wrote a nine-page treatment that morphed E.T.’s childhood parable into a sinister tale about a race of carnivorous aliens targeting Elliott (Henry Thomas) and his friends. However, Spielberg decided that the sequel’s darker themes would tarnish the “virginity” of the first film. Spielberg’s distaste for sequels was summed up by a quote in John Baxter’s book Steven Spielberg: The Unauthorised Biography. “Making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick,” Spielberg said. Tell that to Jurassic World.
Forrest Gump 2
Forrest Gump ran out of road after Tom Hanks refused to continue his great North American trek through history. “I’ll be saying ‘box of chocolates’ again about the same time that Sean Connery says, ‘I’m Bond. James Bond,”’ Hanks told Entertainment Weekly in 1995. Despite Hanks’s lack of interest, Dune screenwriter Eric Roth was tapped to write the sequel, but in an ironic twist of events, American history interfered. In Roth’s version, Forrest found love after Jenny’s death with a Native American woman who would die in the Oklahoma City bombing. After the Twin Towers collapsed, Roth’s third act was rendered too ill timed to make it to the big screen.
Freddy vs. Jason 2
After the $116 million global success of 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, the sequel was stuck in the throes of Hollywood development hell. The idea was picked up shortly after the success of the first film, and executives decided to amp up the crossover by throwing the Evil Dead’s chainsaw-wielding Ash Williams into the mix. However, after Freddy Krueger actor Robert Englund decided to hang up his blade fingers and striped sweater, the sequel lost momentum when Warner Bros transferred the rights to Paramount for Friday the 13th in exchange for a stake in Interstellar. Paramount was given a five-year time frame to make the sequel before the rights reverted, but it wasn’t able to resurrect Freddy and Jason in time.
Green Lantern 2
The OG Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds, flopped so astronomically at the box office that Deadpool 2 featured an end-credits scene in which Deadpool shoots Reynolds to prevent the sequel from materializing. Before Green Lantern bombed, its end credits set up a possible sequel by depicting Sinestro giving into the power of the yellow ring. Because of its poor reception, the second film was never made. However, the film’s failure did bear some fruit for Reynolds; its outcome meant he could play Deadpool’s Wade Wilson without the Green Lantern associations. Nonetheless, HBO Max is giving Green Lantern another chance with a series reboot starring Finn Wittrock.
Kill Bill: Volume 3
Tarantino originally envisioned Kill Bill as a four-volume saga with ten years between the last two films. Instead of following the Bride, Kill Bill 3 would home in on her enemy Vernita Green’s daughter, Nikki — who would seek to avenge her mother’s death. Tarantino even dream-cast Uma Thurman’s daughter, Maya Hawke, as the Bride’s progeny. Thurman and Hawke said they would be interested in appearing in a third movie, but Tarantino famously said he would retire after his tenth project, meaning the chances of Kill Bill 3 closing out his filmography are slim.
Mathilda: The Professional
In the Léon: The Professional role that launched her career at 12, Natalie Portman played Mathilda, a precocious schoolgirl training under Léon, a French hitman. Director Luc Besson formulated a spinoff focusing on an older and wiser Mathilda reckoning with her parents’ deaths at the hands of a corrupt DEA agent, but the sequel was shot down when Besson left Gaumont Film Company to create his own studio, EuropaCorp. Mathilda’s story lived on in Colombiana, a critically panned adaptation starring Zoe Saldaña. Despite The Professional’s potential, it might have been best that the sequel never came about; Portman touched upon the dicey dynamic of Mathilda and Léon at the 2018 Women’s March, claiming that the sexualization of her tween self affected her for years to come.
Even more never-produced sequels to think about …
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 2
The Breakfast Club 2
John Carter 2
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