Guillermo Del Toro Has Been Fighting To Adapt This Book For 15 Years

H.P. Lovecraft's novella, "At the Mountains of Madness," is no stranger to rejection. Initially pitched to the sci-fi magazine "Weird Tales" in 1931, it was rejected by the publisher for being too long. Several decades later, filmmaker and horror auteur Guillermo del Toro has been trying to adapt this same story about an ambitious team of arctic explorers into a feature film, but he's long had troubles convincing major studios to back it. To some, it would seem that the big screen is just not in the cards for this particular Lovecraftian excursion, but del Toro hasn't given up hope just yet.

"At the Mountains of Madness" is a chilly tale, taking place on the continent of Antarctica. When Lovecraft sat down to pen this particular tale, there was still a lot to learn about this particular continent, making it the perfect setting for his icy yarn. In the story, Dr. William Dyer sets out to explore that vast expanse of ice and snow with a crew of men, only they end up discovering much more than they bargained for. 

In true Lovecraftian fashion, the tale unfolds through the narration of Dyer all but begging any future explorers from making their way to this lone continent. He has seen things on this voyage, and he does not recommend anyone else follow in his footsteps. The story is filled with hostile lost civilizations, Lovecraftian monsters called shoggoths (sorry, Cthulhu), and enough terror and dread to last a lifetime. It's a classic, chilling tale — one that would, no doubt, be a great addition to del Toro's body of work — but its journey into a feature film has been nothing short of harrowing. 

Every story has a home

Del Toro first started writing a screenplay for "At the Mountains of Madness" in 2006. When he pitched the film to Warner Brothers, they — just like "Weird Tales" did to Lovecraft — rejected it. Its two biggest problems were things del Toro was unwilling to budge on: the budget and the rating. Del Toro then turned to Universal Studios, who initially accepted the pitch, but eventually rejected it for the same reasons as Warner Brothers. It turns out it can be kind of hard to get studio backing when the movie you plan to make has a budget of $150 million and a projected R rating. Collider reports that "del Toro refused to censor his vision for the film," and since the budget was also non-negotiable, "At the Mountains of Madness" was tabled. 

Nearly two decades have gone by since then, but fans of both Lovecraft and del Toro shouldn't lose hope! In an interview for The Kingcast podcast, del Toro talks about this passion project, and it sounds like he hasn't let go of the possibility of it eventually finding a home. Because so much time has passed since del Toro's initial script was conceived, the story will have to undergo some rewrites before it's ready, though. He told The Kingcast:

The thing with "Mountains" is, the screenplay I co-wrote fifteen years ago is not the screenplay I would do now, so I need to do a rewrite. Not only to scale it down somehow, but because back then I was trying to bridge the scale of it with elements that would make it go through the studio machinery.  

His plan would be to scale back on some of the bigger things like elaborate set pieces in order to go "into a weirder direction," but ultimately his original ending for the film would be the same. As he said to The Kingcast: "I know the ending we have is one the most intriguing, weird, unsettling endings, for me." 

It's worth noting that del Toro recently signed a multi-year deal with streaming behemoth Netflix, and Netflix is already allowing him to take a swing at one of his other passion projects, "Pinnochio," so here's to hoping that we get to finally see his adaptation of "At the Mountains of Madness" soon. After all, Lovecraft eventually found a home for the story at "Astounding Stories," proving there is always a home for everything.