Screenplays are the backbone of films—all great movies start off with good scripts, and it’s up to everyone else to make them bigger than life. Putting a good script on the back end is wasteful, so many producers find them to have them repurposed or recycled—like movies that are supposed to be sequels to others. Here are some of them that you’d be surprised were not stand-alones:
Die Hard (1988)
Based on the novel by Roderick Thorp called Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard was supposed to be a sequel of The Detective, which was adapted into a film starring Frank Sinatra in the 1960s.
When people are asked who initially played the role of John McClane, they’d automatically assume it was Bruce Willis in Die Hard, but in fact, it was actually Frank Sinatra in The Detective. Steven E. de Souza, screenwriter for Die Hard admitted, however, that the sequel was initially offered to Sinatra as well, but he said, “I’m too old and too rich to act anymore,” which was why the film landed on Bruce Willis’s lap instead.
Rocky IV was not supposed to be the end of the franchise. There had been a joke around Hollywood for Rocky to fight a space alien in the fifth installment, and screenwriters Jim and John Thomas went on to take it seriously. They started with the script for Predator, which was originally titled Hunter and producer Joel Silver ended up liking it so much, he picked it up for 20th Century Fox in 1985. However, he cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Alan “Dutch” Schafer instead of Sylvester Stallone due to their previous work dynamic before on Commando.
The success of Leon: The Professional brought Luc Besson and his partner, Olivier Megaton, thoughts for a sequel called Mathilda. However, there have been a lot of roadblocks, including the fact that Natalie Portman’s star rose in Hollywood. Besson’s rocky relationship with the Gaumot Film Company also pulled the project behind—they owned the rights for The Professional, so he and Megaton had to turn Mathilda into Colombiana instead.
In an interview, Megaton said, “Ten years ago, we decided to make Mathilda, which was the Professional sequel, but we couldn’t do it because of the evolution of a lot of things. Luc tried to do this movie again and again—he proposed it to me 12 years ago. But when we decided to change the script and to make another movie with a revenge story like Mathilda, he had to give up everything about Mathilda.”
Minority Report (2012)
Total Recall was based on short stories by Philip K. Dick. When the first film became a box-office hit in 1990, TriStar Pictures wanted to make a sequel and was looking to combine Total Recall with Minority Report.
However, the screenplay, which was supposed to show Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character stopping crime before it happened on the Red Planet, never saw the light of day because Carolco Pictures, which owned the rights to both stories, went out of business. The 20th Century Fox swooped up the project and enlisted the talents of Steven Spielberg at the helm and Tom Cruise as the lead.
New Line Cinema wanted to make a sequel for Se7en, so they pulled a story called Solace from Ted Griffin, who also wrote “Ocean’s Eleven.” The sequel, which they were supposed to call Ei8ht was about a psychic who helps the FBI find a serial killer. New Line wanted to change the psychic character to Morgan Freeman’s Se7en character, Detective William Somerset, but director David Fincher was not enthusiastic about it. He said, “I would be less interested in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes. I keep trying to get out from under my own shadow.” He later added, “I don’t want to do the same sh*t over and over.”
New Line Cinema went on with the project despite not having Fincher on board, but they used Solace under its original title and characters, and not based on the plans they had for Ei8ht.
Films can be as fluid as companies want them to be, and in each of these cases, they made the right call in going on with the projects despite their initial plans of being sequels to other films. The scripts were good, and they deserved their corresponding blockbuster success being under the shadow of the original installments.