A few articles back I spoke about the absence of Richard Kelly from the world of filmmaking. Although there have been rumblings for years about what his next film would be there has been no concrete answers. Today I wanted to look at a handful of directors who are in “Movie Jail”. What is this Movie Jail I’m talking about? Basically it’s when a person screws up so fantastically that getting another job is next to impossible. Without further ado let’s dig into these careers and see what caused their downfalls.
Yep, we must begin with the man who is a textbook example of how to torpedo your own career. Hot off the success of the Academy Award winning film The Deer Hunter Cimino’s next project is one that lives in infamy. Heaven’s Gate ran over-budget, behind schedule, and landed with such a huge thud at the box office it forced production company United Artists to be sold off to MGM. Cimino made a few smaller films afterwards, but ever since 1996’s Sunchaser not much has been heard from the man. Odds of a Comeback: With twenty years now separating him from his last feature I’m going to say it’d be generous to assume there’s even a ten percent chance he’ll return.
There have been some great directors who got their start in the VFX industry. Right off the top of my head David Fincher comes to mind. Norrington’s resume included Aliens, Alien 3, and the underrated Hardware before he made his directorial debut The Death Machine. Showcasing his skill for visuals he then went onto direct New Line’s Blade and gave Marvel a much needed hit film. Sadly his next comic book film was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Between floods in Prague and strenuous relationships between the the studio and Sean Connery League had issues even before it debuted in theaters. The fact that it opened a week after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl became a monstrous hit was the final nail the coffin. Odds of a Comeback: Although Norrington said he’d never direct another film after League his name has been attached to other projects, but nothing has come to fruition. I’d say there’s a fifty percent chance he’ll make another film.
Arguably one of the best 80’s action directors, McTiernan was responsible for such big hits as Predator and Die Hard. His success even carried over into the 90’s with The Hunt for the Red October, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and The Thomas Crown Affair, but the man hasn’t made a single film since 2003’s Basic. There’s a long story behind this career falling apart, but long story short: wiretapping a producer, FBI investigation, almost a year in prison, and declaring bankruptcy. It’s been a long road for this man. Odds of a Comeback: Not good, let’s say there’s a twenty percent chance of another film. But if Stallone were willing to take a slight risk he’d get McTiernan hired to direct the next Expendables film.
Personally, the fact that Conran is on this list hurts me the most. Ever since I rented Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (on VHS no less) I’ve loved it. The amazing visuals, pulp sci-fi story, and impressive cast make this movie a rare gem. It’s too bad that the film didn’t fair well with the general moviegoing audience. Although he was initially slated to direct John Carter of Mars for Paramount he exited (or was forced out of) the project. After that he worked on commercials and in 2012 made a short entitled Gumdrop. Aside from his directorial debut not being a big hit Conran also mentioned that he’s not a big fan of self-promotion. And in Hollywood self-promotion is the key to success. Odds of a Comeback: This one is a toss up. In spite of my admiration of Conran I must remain objective. Optimistically I’d say forty percent as the man could pull something fresh out of his bag. Realistically I’d say twenty percent as Sky Captain came out in 2004 and aside from Gumdrop nothing new has even been mentioned. But I’m rooting for the man.
After making two indie films that proved Stanley had a knack for interesting visuals and trippy stories (Hardware and Dust Devil) he was brought up to the big leagues. New Line hired him to craft a live action adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic tale The Island of Dr. Moreau. What followed was a giant heaping mess of a production. In spite of Stanley crafting a strong script and storyboarding some down right horrifying scenes he was forced off the project a mere three days into shooting. Twenty years later and there’s no sign of Stanley making another film. If you’re a fan of documentaries about filmmaking I recommend watching Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. Not only does it tell Stanley’s story, but goes into how off the rails the film’s production went after he left. Odds of a Comeback: While not working on feature films Stanley has kept busy making short films and documentaries. Honestly, I have no idea on this one. So let’s go with a ??? percent chance.
These are just a handful of directors who’ve dropped off the map for one reason or another, but in a town that let’s convicted child molesters continue to work so long as they make money any comeback is possible. As usual, what are your thoughts? Are there any directors that you miss? Of all the people I mentioned which one would you like to see make a comeback? If you’re interested I’ll leave a link to my article on Richard Kelly below. As always, thanks for reading.