The announcement that Tron 3 would be going forward caught many by surprise. It had taken almost 30 years to make a follow-up to the original Tron and Tron Legacy, despite making $400 million worldwide, was not considered to be the hit Disney thought it would be. Yet still, there is a passionate group of Tron fans that were ecstatic when a third film began development. That feeling was quashed a few days ago when Disney announced that Tron 3 would not be going into development, citing a full slate of movies coming out until 2018. That may be the case. Disney will have their own major live-action films coming out (Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and a sequel to Alice in Wonderland), a slew of Star Wars movies, Marvel movies, and Pixar movies. Also, Tron Legacy’s budget was about $170 million and the third film would more than likely surpass that. Even though that kind of money is pocket change to Disney, it’s still a heck of a lot of money to give to a filmmaker.
Another factor in all of this is the poor performance of Tomorrowland ($180 million budget and $42 million opening weekend). Many believe that the box office of Tomorrowland is the main reason Disney pulled the plug on Tron 3 but they can’t exactly come out and say that.
If this is the case, it would not be the first time a film was never made because of the performance of another movie.
Spider-Man (Cannon Films)
Cannon Films had hoped to put out a big budget Spider-Man movie in the mid 80s. Instead, they took the budget and split it between Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, figuring that the box office success of each movie would allow them to make an even bigger Spider-Man movie. Both movies flopped and helped to contribute to Cannon Films going under.
Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon
After 2001: A Space Odyssey became a success, Kubrick set his eyes on developing his dream project – a massive historical opus dedicated to the life of Napoleon. Kubrick put in a lot of time to the project’s pre-production. A script was written (well, a blueprint really since Kubrick typically re-wrote scripts as the movie progressed), costumes were created, funds established and Jack Nicholson was in discussion to play the lead role. But Sergey Bondarchuk’s film about Napoleon, Waterloo (1970), grossed a shade over $3 million and cost over $25 million to make. That was enough reason for studios to put the breaks on releasing another Napoleon film. Kubrick’s hard work did not all go to waste as some of the research he did helped him with scenes in Barry Lyndon (1975).
David Lynch’s Ronnie Rocket
Lynch’s tale of a detective trying to access a different dimension while standing on one leg (come on, it’s Lynch, don’t be surprised) has been put on hold a few times due to financial backing issues. Francis Ford Coppola was ready to back the film in the early 80s. Lynch even stayed at Coppola’s house for a bit while Coppola read over the script. But the failure of the 1982 film One From the Heart forced Coppola’s American Zoetrope into bankruptcy. Dino De Laurentiis’s De Laurentiis Entertainment Group was also attached to the film before going bankrupt. Lynch has never officially abandoned the project so there is still a chance.
Paul Verhoeven’s Crusade
After crushing it with Total Recall, Verhoeven set his eyes on making a huge, kickass flick about the Crusades starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Sinise, Jennifer Connelly and Chuck Heston. Walon Green (The Wild Bunch) wrote the script and Carolco Studios (despite some reservations over the budget) gave the okay for the movie to be put into production. Carolco had also green-lit Renny Harlin to put out a Cutthroat Island movie. The appeal of Cutthroat was that it would be done on the cheap. Unfortunately, the budget ballooned to over $115 million and Cutthroat went on to make $10 million at the box office. As such, we never were blessed with what probably would have been the most violent movie ever made.
Baz Luhrmann’s Alexander the Great
Much like Kubrick’s Napoleon, this film did not get made because another similar film bombed at the box office. Luhrmann had Leonardo DiCaprio signed on to do an epic movie about the Macedonian King. He wasn’t the only person with the idea. Oliver Stone was also working on an Alexander film starring Colin Farrell. Stone beat Luhrmann to the market and his project was not a financial success. Hollywood decided that no one wanted to see another Alexander movie and Luhrmann was shut out.
Another film that was partially impacted by Stone’s Alexander flopping in theaters is Michael Mann’s Gates of Fire. The adaptation of the Steven Pressfield historical novel about the Spartan battle at Thermopylae (the backdrop of Zack Snyder’s 300) needed a director who could handle a lot of chaos. Enter Michael Mann. It was great timing too. Mann was fresh off his successful biopic Ali and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator proved the genre could be a success. But after lackluster performances at the box office by Alexander and Troy, Mann’s Gates of Fire was put on hold and it would be Snyder’s adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel that we would recognize as the film version of the battle of the 300.
There are certainly other films that have met a similar fate. If you factor in sequels (such as Chinatown 3 being killed by the lifeless The Two Jakes), you could have a huge list of films that never were as a result of another movie flopping.
When the Movies and Stuff podcast talked with Steven Lisberger (director of the first Tron film and producer of Tron Legacy) he seemed pretty optimistic that the movie would be out in less than 30 years and probably much sooner. Tron 3 will more than likely be made at some point and there is even a petition to get the movie going again. But if it ends up never getting made, many may look back and shake their fists at Brad Bird and wished he had just made an Iron Giant sequel instead.
Special Contributors to this article I Am Better and Abe Lechner