A film based on the Saints Row video game series spent a little while in development. At one point, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson was involved in the project, and before that Dwayne Johnson considered starring in the film. Now, a former executive producer on the video game adaptation has written a piece detailing what happened to the R-rated, Escape From New York-inspired movie.
Below, find out why the Saints Row movie didn’t happen.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Saints Row, a popular, well-liked game comparable to Grand Theft Auto. The first Saints Row game sold two million copies. Since then, there have been three other games released in the series. With a strong fanbase, the development of a Saints Row movie was inevitable. Over at Fandom, producer Nick Nunziata — the creator of CHUD.com and executive producer of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark — explained why the film never materialized.
In short: the series’ developer and publisher, THQ, went bankrupt.
Nunziata wrote that the project, which involved producers Lloyd Levin (Watchmen) and Andrew Cosby (2 Guns), interested “huge directors” and “A-list stars were on the menu.” Their vision for Saints Row was Escape From New York but bigger and with the attitude of the video game series.
Originally, screenwriter Peter Aperlo‘s treatment had an original character entering this world through a reality show, described as “a sort of urban Survivor with real bullets.” It was a revenge story, but the producers thought an origin story would’ve been a more suitable introduction to Saints Row, so Aperlo reworked the story and wrote the script:
So, our plot ended up hitting a lot of the same notes as SRII, with the Boss as a Count of Monte Cristo figure coming in to reclaim what was once his. Throw into the mix Dane Vogel wanting to convert a chunk of Stilwater into a private prison (something that’s still relevant today) and a lot of over-the-top action and darkly humorous social commentary (a la the original RoboCop), and that was essentially our SR.
RoboCop and Escape From New York aren’t bad R-rated templates to follow, but once a major star started circling the project, the screenwriter wrote a softer, safer version:
Dwayne Johnson was very interested at one point. One of the worries, for me anyway, of having a big star like that, was that we’d have to tone things down. This was going to be hard R, balls to the walls. Sure enough, I was asked to prepare a draft that was PG-13. Soften the violence, no nudity, only one “f***” allowed. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know how hard that would be and still keep it SR. I couldn’t even use the “Phuc Mi Phuc Yue” Vietnamese Seafood sign I wanted to have!
Aperlo was proud of everyone’s work. He conceded that, yes, what they were making was cartoony — and there’s nothing wrong with that — but it “had something to say.” The screenwriter and all involved had high hopes for the project.
Nunziata concluded he doesn’t know what the future holds for Saints Row, which once had director Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus) attached to direct. The executive producer also pushed for Dan Trachtenberg to direct long before he made this year’s hit film 10 Cloverfield Lane, but how serious those discussions were, and whether Trachtenberg even discussed the project with the producers, is unclear.
If you want to learn more about this wild, hard-R scrapped adaptation of Saint’s Row, then check out Nick Nunziata’s post. Over there, you can also see some more of artist Clay Staub‘s concept art: