Ever since he exploded onto the Hollywood scene with Alien, Ridley Scott has been working consistently as a director for over four decades. In the process, he’s cultivated a massive filmography that spans all kinds of genres. As Scott observed to the Directors Guild of America. "I’ve got to go to work every day." That incredible work ethic means Scott has often times directed films on an annual basis, with certain years, like 2017, even offering up multiple new Ridley Scott movies.
Though there’s a mammoth amount of finished Ridley Scott movies out there in the world, that doesn’t mean every project Scott takes a liking to ends up on the silver screen. Naturally for a filmmaker whose so go-go-go, Scott has become attached to a number of movies that ended up never seeing the light of day. Some of these were taken over by different directors, while others simply sputtered out, never to be seen. Whatever the eventual fate of these projects, Ridley Scott has amassed a wide array of unmade motion pictures, many of which are downright fascinating to ruminate on.
Ridley Scott’s I Am Legend never saw the light of day
Today, I Am Legend is known as one of Will Smith’s most lucrative blockbusters and a showcase for his acting talents as he performs — for the most part — with no one but his canine companion. However, the project didn’t just magically appear as a Smith vehicle. I Am Legend bounced around Hollywood for ages, going through several famous filmmakers and lead actors before emerging in its final form. One of the most prominent early incarnations of I Am Legend came from director Ridley Scott.
In 1997, Scott was announced to be taking on the project with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. The proposed film was heavily hyped as the first collaboration between an iconic filmmaker and an equally famous leading man. However, by early 1998, the project had been abandoned, despite getting far enough to do makeup tests for what the film’s monsters would look like. According to Den of Geek, the primary reason for this version of I Am Legend failing to see the light of day was budgetary concerns, as well as worries over Schwarzenegger’s star power being viable enough to carry what was shaping up to be an unorthodox blockbuster. (This was right after the disaster of Batman & Robin.) Thus, Scott and Schwarzenegger’s big creative union fizzled out, paving the way for Will Smith’s I Am Legend in the process.
Ridley Scott didn’t pass go with Monopoly
You don’t normally associate directors of Oscar-winning movies to helm movies based on toys. However, that’s just what happened with the first attempt to turn Monopoly into a live-action movie, as Ridley Scott was hired in October 2008 to direct the project.
What could a Monopoly movie be about? Well, that question was answered a year after Scott signed on, as plot details revealed that the film would focus on a Monopoly-obsessed real estate agent who gets transported into the world of the game. This Jumanji-style concept would only be one part of the production, with Scott later explaining (via Screen Rant) that the concept of greed and how it can change people would’ve been the thematic crux of the film. Oh, and this was all supposed to be a comedy for the whole family.
This version of Monopoly sounds like a project packed to the gills with ideas. Whether that would’ve resulted in a satisfying or overstuffed film is something we’ll never know as Scott’s Monopoly movie went back on the shelf. Since then, numerous attempts have been given to try and revive the production, but none of them have gotten past go. Maybe they should try re-approaching Scott for the production. Judging by his original audacious creative vision for the Monopoly movie, he clearly had a lot of passion for the money-centric board game.
He never got to visit Dune
Dune is one of the all-time famous sci-fi novels, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that equally prolific directors have always been associated with adapting the property into film. Alejandro Jodorowsky famously tried to get a Dune movie off the ground while fully-completed Dune adaptations have been overseen by the likes of David Lynch and Denis Villeneuve. But according to Dazed Digital, before Lynch came on board to direct the 1984 Dune movie, Ridley Scott was hired to helm the piece in 1979.
Hot off the success of Alien, Scott was bringing a sense of ambition to the project that included telling Dune over two separate movies. The endeavor saw Scott unite with H.R. Giger, the artist responsible for the distinctive otherworldly beings in the original Alien movie. But despite working with familiar creative partners and getting seven months into pre-production, Scott eventually left Dune. The reasons why were complicated. Partially, it was due to personal family reasons, but there was also the factor of Scott’s discomfort with how far the production was veering off of the Dune book. As a result of these problems, Ridley Scott departed the project.
His Brave New World never made it to the big screen
Directly off of their collaboration for Body of Lies, Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio were both planning to reunite on a feature-film adaptation of the Aldous Huxley sci-fi novel Brave New World. Previously adapted as a pair of TV movies in 1980 and 1998, Scott and DiCaprio were looking to bring this novel to the big screen with star power aplenty. First announced in August 2009, the project seemed like especially prime material for Scott, given how Blade Runner and Alien had made him a seminal figure in the world of sci-fi cinema.
No further updates on the project emerged until 2013, when it was noted as being one of Scott’s upcoming projects. In the years since, the project has remained unmade with no official reason offered for its demise. However, Scott’s busy schedule and DiCaprio becoming extremely selective with his film roles likely played a major part in keeping this one unmade. But while Scott’s Brave New World movie would never make it to theaters, that doesn’t mean Aldous Huxley’s influential text has been absent from the last decade of pop culture. Eventually, Brave New World would get adapted into a TV show that premiered on the Peacock streaming service before getting canceled after just one season.
Behind-the-scenes drama infected Crisis in the Hot Zone
Movies about virus outbreaks are becoming a common fixture in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once upon a time, though, they were just occasional backdrops for adult dramas like Outbreak and Contagion. There was a point where Ridley Scott planned on contributing to this genre with an adaptation of "Crisis in the Hot Zone," a Richard Preston magazine article — later adapted into the book The Hot Zone — that looks at an assortment of the deadliest viruses ever known to man.
The project’s penchant for big-name talent wasn’t just limited to the movie’s director. Scott had also managed to wrangle Robert Redford and Jodie Foster for the film. These performers ended up leading to the project’s downfall, as the two allegedly clashed with each other, and Foster’s eventual departure led to the film getting abandoned entirely.
It was a sad end to a once-promising endeavor, but this wasn’t the end of Scott’s involvement with adapting this book. A National Geographic TV adaptation, entitled The Hot Zone, aired in 2019. A key producer on the project was none other than Ridley Scott. "We got to tell it in six hours. … You can’t really tell this much of a complicated story in two hours," The Hot Zone star Julianna Margulies explained. "So I think in the end it was a real blessing in disguise that they weren’t able to make it when they wanted to make it originally."
Ridley Scott almost joined the War on Drugs with The Cartel
In the mid-2010s, dramas about America’s War on Drugs began to gain an increased foothold in the popular culture. The Netflix show Narcos and the 2015 thriller Sicario helped to fuel this trend, and at one point, it looked like a Ridley Scott movie would help to further increase the prolific nature of this subgenre. At the start of 2015, Scott was hired to direct a film adaptation of the Don Winslow novel The Cartel for 20th Century Fox.
Screenwriter David Scarpa illuminated on Scott’s ambitions (via Flickering Myth) for the project in early 2018, noting that, "Ridley’s got sort of a big ambition for the movie. I think he sees it as a big sort of sprawling epic, and yet it’s also the battle to keep the thing economical as well, in a sort of Godfather kind of sense, and that’s incredibly interesting as well." Scott never got the chance to see if he could pull off that delicate balance in bringing The Cartel to the big screen. In March 2019, it was decided that The Cartel would be adapted into an FX miniseries rather than a feature-length movie. It looks like The Cartel can continue pop culture’s fixation with the War on Drugs, even if it’s not in the manner in which it initially intended.
He wanted to adapt the unfilmable Blood Meridian
Throughout his career, Ridley Scott has adapted films from some unexpected sources, so it should be no surprise that Scott briefly flirted with the idea of directing an adaptation of a novel largely deemed unfilmable. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian – about a gang of scalp hunters led by a vicious judge — has been the center of numerous attempted film adaptations over the years, and Scott is one of the biggest filmmakers to try and bring it to the silver screen.
In 2004, it was announced that Scott would be helming a film adaptation of Blood Meridan for Paramount Pictures. Though a buzzy concept for a movie, the project laid dormant for a few years before Scott provide an update to Eclipse Magazine on the state of his Blood Meridian movie. "We got it down as a screenplay, and the problem is that it is so savage," Scott explained. "But that’s what it is. If you did it properly it would be an X-certificate. But you can’t apologize for the violence, and you can’t quantify the violence and you shouldn’t try to explain the violence. It is what it is … an exercise in brutality, savagery and violence." All that grisliness clearly didn’t sit right with studio executives, and Scott eventually departed the project, leaving yet another Blood Meridian film adaptation dead in the water.
The Merlin Saga is missing some magic
Hollywood is constantly trying to turn King Arthur into a modern-day movie star. But as the likes of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword have proven, that’s much harder to pull off in execution than in theory. Disney — itself no stranger to the King Arthur mythos – decided to sidestep this problem by adapting series of books that shifted the focus over to the wizard Merlin. The books in question belonged to The Merlin Saga franchise by T.A. Barron, and in January 2018, Ridley Scott was in talks to helm the project. It was to be a rare foray into family-friendly territory for Scott, who was more famous for making films like The Counselor than titles that would end up at Disneyland.
At the time, the project was perceived to be Scott’s next endeavor as a filmmaker while further positive details for the project emerged a year later when a fall 2019 start date was announced. However, as the months went by, the project became less and less of a priority for both Disney and Scott. In particular, Scott has moved on to smaller-scale dramas like The Last Duel and Kitbag. It’s now been over two years since the last update on The Merlin Saga, and it appears to have been put on the backburner for all parties involved. Chalk this one up as another sign of how difficult it is to make King Arthur stuff work in the modern film landscape.
Ridley Scott tried his best for Queen & Country
Numerous times, big-name writers and producers have tried to get the graphic novel Queen & Country off the ground. An espionage thriller penned by The Old Guard author Greg Rucka, the material does seem prime to be a major Hollywood picture, considering it’s all about an MI6 operative navigating dangerous spy missions. Those James Bond movies have spun gold for decades out of the stories about a British spy getting into action-packed adventures, so why couldn’t Queen & Country find similar success as a movie?
However, it’s always struggled to get onto the screen. Whether that’s due to Hollywood’s insecurity over women-led action movies, the source material not being super famous, or simply the scripts never being good will always be a mystery. But even director Ridley Scott couldn’t get this adaptation to come to life. In 2018, Scott was hired to take on the production for 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment. A few months later, the project seemed to be gaining some steam, as Sylvia Hoeks was in talks to take on the lead role. But that momentum was lost in the months thereafter, as zero updates followed on the project. To boot, one of its financiers, Chernin Entertainment, parted ways with 20th Century Fox, leaving the status of Queen & Country uncertain. It’s just the newest roadblock for an adaptation that can never seem to get off the ground.
He almost teamed up with Gerard Butler for a Simon Mann movie
Ridley Scott has never shied away from A-list talent. In fact, Scott usually works with famous faces, including everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Matt Damon to Russell Crowe. His roster of famous leads almost extended to include 300 headliner Gerard Butler.
Scott and Butler were planning to work together in 2011 on a movie about Simon Mann, a British soldier who tried to take over Equatorial Guinea. The splashy announcement was followed up by total radio silence on the project. There have never been any official reasons for why the production never came to be, but it’s easy to imagine a handful of reasons.
For one thing, Simon Mann isn’t a household name historical figure, and trying to sell a mid-budget movie based on him could’ve been a hard pitch to movie studios. For another thing, this Simon Mann film was announced shortly before Butler began a box office cold streak. Films like Chasing Mavericks and Playing for Keeps didn’t make it seem like Butler was someone audiences wanted to see unless he was yelling about "Sparta!" If Butler had been more of an action guy at the time (this was before the likes of White House Down), that could’ve helped ensure that Ridley Scott’s Simon Mann movie saw the light of day. As it stands, though, the project got unmade, and Butler ended up being one famous actor that never worked with Ridley Scott.
It’s What I Do was pretty controversial
In March 2015, Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Lawrence announced they were joining forces on a Warner Bros. war drama entitled It’s What I Do. This was to be a biopic of photojournalist Lynsey Addario. Despite the buzzy combo of filmmaker and actor, the project never came to fruition. After years of dormancy, another big director/actor mixture came together to adapt the material. Much like how he took over Spielberg’s Moses movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott was now aiming to take the reins on It’s What I Do.
Rather than working with the Girl On Fire, Scott’s version of It’s What I Do was looking at having Scarlett Johansson take on the lead role of Lynsey Addario. However, this incarnation of the production also ended up going on the back-burner. Many proposed Ridley Scott movies have fizzled out simply due to other projects consuming his attention. In the case of It’s What I Do, very specific circumstances sank this production. In October 2018, news broke that Johansson rejected financing for the project after learning that would come from the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. In the wake of this news, no further updates have come out for It’s What I Do, presumably due to struggles to secure financing and/or difficulties of emerging from the shadow of that controversial almost-financier.
Ridley Scott had to change his plans for another Alien
In the eyes of Ridley Scott, Alien: Covenant was the start of something big in the Alien franchise. Covenant was to begin a whole trilogy of new Alien prequels that would eventually lead into the original 1979 movie. This number expanded to six further follow-ups shortly before the official release of Alien: Covenant. However, you can’t make sequels unless the demand for more stories is there from moviegoers. Unfortunately for Scott, Alien: Covenant ended up coming in way below box office expectations, putting a kink in the director’s expansive Alien plans. As if that wasn’t enough, further problems emerged when Disney bought Alien‘s studio, 20th Century Fox. With the Mouse House overhauling the studio’s slate, it was unclear where Scott’s Alien movies would go now.
Though news emerged in May 2019 that another Alien movie was on the way from Ridley Scott, there have been no further developments on that project since then. Instead, new plans for the future of the Alien franchise have emerged. Rather than focus on Scott’s planned saga of Alien prequels, Disney has shifted its attention to an event Alien miniseries from FX and Hulu that will hail from producer Noah Hawley (Scott will also be involved in a producing capacity). With this show now taking priority and Scott’s schedule full with new projects, it doesn’t look likely that audiences will be seeing any further Alien movies from Ridley Scott in the near future.