Tom Cruise Still The Top Choice For 'At The Mountains Of Madness;' Green Light Remains Elusive

It's been a good week for fans of Guillermo del Toro. The New Yorker dropped a massive profile piece that is second only to one of the director's expletive-laden commentaries when it comes to giving some insight into how the man thinks. But all is not yet great. While he and James Cameron have partnered at Universal to make an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, the script is still under the knife and the studio hasn't yet greenlit the film.

Enter Tom Cruise. We knew that Guillermo wanted the star to be in the film, and now James Cameron says they're still hoping to sign him.

Speaking to MTV, Cameron said,

Tom does want to do the picture. I don't think we have a deal with him yet, but we're hoping to get that closed soon. Guillermo is madly working on a new draft of the script. Hopefully we'll be shooting by June or July.

How do you get Universal, which has suffered a few big duds in the past couple years, to check the 'yes' box on the 'will you fork over $125m or more for a hard-R, very ugly horror/monster movie' questionnaire? Landing a star with global appeal — someone like, say, Tom Cruise — would certainly help.

According to the New Yorker piece, the idea for the monsters in Madness is to "terrify the audience with their malignancy." The director talks about monsters that have many stages (""Let's say that creature A turns into creature A-B, then turns into creature B, then turns into creature B-C. And by the time it lands on a guy it's creature E") that a series of artists (Avatar veteran Wayne Barlowe, Allen Williams, Peter Konig, and Sandman Mystery Theater artist Guy Davis) spent the end of last year designing. And there's the city discovered in the novel.

I wanted the whole city to be like an abandoned coral reef. A coral reef is a shitload of skeletons fused together, right? All the technology those creatures have, all their technology is organic. You and I use metals, plastics. These creatures don't have weapons or chisels. They create other creatures as tools.

In other words, there's a huge amount of design and effects work: stuff that eats budget. But while it's not gory — rather, the intent is to be "eerie and scary" — he wants the R rating "to have the freedom to make it really, really uncomfortable and nasty."

I don't want to make a movie called 'At the Mountains of Madness.' I want to make this movie. And if I cannot make this movie I'll do something else. It'll be horrible.

Universal exec Adam Fogelson said "the sense of scope, the sense of danger, and just the sheer popcorn commercial appeal of the creatures that he was presenting to us were a sight to behold. At each step, he wowed us, and, to be candid, he knew— and we all knew—that a 'wow' was required to keep this movie moving forward. It's a big bet."

But there's no green light yet. So the question is, can you accept Tom Cruise as the star of the film if that is what it takes to get it made? Given how much time and energy Guillermo del Toro has poured into ideas for this one, is that piece of casting a relatively small compromise in the grand scheme of things?

Finally, as a companion piece to the huge New Yorker article, there's a video clip that shows off some of the pages from Guillermo del Toro's sketchbooks. It's great stuff, with comparison shots between the drawings and clips from Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II. Let's hope that we don't have to settle for the At the Mountains of Madness equivalents instead of having the actual film.