Unreleased movies are like milk cartons: They no longer seem fresh after a certain sell-by date, and they may be the only place you’ll find some studios’ missing children. These are the films that studios commissioned and shot, sometimes as long as four years ago, but they remain on the shelf despite the presence of such big-name stars as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Eddie Murphy, Vin Diesel, Heather Graham, Billy Bob Thornton, and Sylvester Stallone. Listed below are some of Hollywood’s most forlorn stray children, along with the stories behind them and the dates when — if ever — you’re likely to see them at the multiplex.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Cast Eddie Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Joe Pantoliano, Randy Quaid, Peter Boyle, Pam Grier, Illeana Douglas
Plot In 2087, Murphy runs a nightclub on the moon (great location, but no atmosphere) and stands up to the moon mobsters trying to muscle into his action.
Studio Warner Bros.
Filmed Summer 2000
What’s the holdup Test audiences reportedly found the film lighter on laughs than ”Apollo 13.” A year after production wrapped, the picture went back to the launch pad for extensive edits and reshoots. After at least three release date postponements, this one should finally splash down at the end of the summer, when it won’t face much competition from other expensive effects movies.
Expected release date August 16, 2002
Cast Sylvester Stallone, Madeleine Stowe, Anthony Quinn
Plot Mob comedy in which bodyguard Stallone falls for Stowe, who plays the daughter of capo Quinn.
Studio Franchise Pictures
Filmed Spring 2001
What’s the holdup Franchise (the producer of such gems as ”Battlefield Earth” and ”3000 Miles to Graceland”) has a first-look deal with Warner Bros., but so far neither Warners nor any other distributor has picked up the rights. Screen legend Quinn died before production was complete, but his part apparently was finished. More likely, the delay has to do with Stallone’s recent track record. Plus, do you really want to see Stallone in an action comedy/romance?
Expected release date None
Cast Sylvester Stallone, Tom Berenger, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Patrick, Sean Patrick Flanery, Charles S. Dutton, Courtney B. Vance, Jeffrey Wright
Plot Traumatized by his involvement in a violent case, FBI agent Stallone chills out at a Wyoming clinic for shellshocked feds, only to find himself and the other patients stalked by a serial killer.
Filmed Spring 1999
What’s the holdup This one has been released seemingly everywhere in the world except the U.S. Universal delayed the release several times in 2000 (to keep the movie out of the way of Stallone’s October, 2000 release ”Get Carter”) and 2001. The title was changed a couple times (”The Outpost,” ”Eye See You”) before recently being changed back to ”D-Tox,” the name under which it was released elsewhere. Overseas reviews haven’t been good, but when has that ever stopped a Stallone movie? If it does come out here, expect it to go straight to video or cable.
Expected release date 2002? 2003?
Daddy and Them
Cast Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Jim Varney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kelly Preston, Andy Griffith, Ben Affleck, Brenda Blethyn
Plot Thornton wrote, directed, and stars in this comedy about a wacky Arkansas family thrown into chaos when an uncle (Varney) is charged with murder.
Filmed Summer 1998
What’s the holdup This was shot so long ago that Thornton was still engaged to Laura Dern (before he and future wife Angelina Jolie met on the set of ”Pushing Tin”), and Jim Varney was still alive (he died in 2000). Miramax delayed its release many times in 1999 and 2000 to keep it out of the way of Thornton’s similarly long-gestating ”All the Pretty Horses.” When that flop finally came out at the end of 2000, Miramax still couldn’t figure out what to do with Thornton’s self-styled ”white-trash romantic comedy.” After showing the film at a couple of small festivals in 2001, the studio gave ”Daddy” a test release in five theaters in Macon, Ga. last October. Apparently, the test failed; as EW noted in its Feb. 22 issue, one theater reported a box-office take of just $430 after the first week. (Maybe the print ad, which showed Thornton with his pants around his ankles and his hand in his crotch, put off the locals.) With Miramax’s similarly-delayed ”Waking Up in Reno” now scheduled for October 25 (see below), don’t expect to see ”Daddy” anytime soon.
Expected release date None
Killing Me Softly
Cast Heather Graham, Joseph Fiennes
Plot The English language debut of Chinese art-house director Chen Kaige (”The Emperor and the Assassin,” ”Farewell My Concubine”), it’s an erotic thriller about a woman who impulsively beds a stranger (Fiennes) and marries him, only to learn that he may be a killer.
What’s the holdup Test audiences reportedly couldn’t stop laughing at the supposedly torrid love scenes. Initally set for February, the film has yet to nail down a new screening date.
Expected release date Late 2002
Cast Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Barry Pepper, John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper
Plot Four sons of Brooklyn mobsters find themselves out of their depth when chasing a bag of loot in Montana.
Studio New Line
Filmed Fall 1999
What’s the holdup After an initial release date of January, 2001 came and went, New Line pushed this one back five times. The studio released a trailer to theaters a year ago, but the film (like several other New Line releases) was put on hold as the studio focused its attention on last winter’s Oscar hopefuls: ”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” and ”I Am Sam.”
Expected release date October 18, 2002