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The Hulk that never was: Mourning Guillermo del Toro's dead projects

Commentary: Justice League Dark. The Count of Monte Cristo. Haunted Mansion. CNET's Bonnie Burton explains why she's heartbroken over the films that never got made.

Guillermo del Toro on the set of Crimson Peak.

Universal Pictures

When a filmmaker as successful as Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro writes a screenplay or TV pilot, it's hard to believe they could end up going nowhere. 

But according to tweets from the Oscar-winning director on Monday, that's exactly what happens even to the Shape of Water's writer and director. Quite a few of del Toro's finished screenplays -- 17 in total -- were fully written or co-written, but never went into production, languishing instead in development hell.

Del Toro's finished but unproduced screenplays include (deep breath): The Witches, At the Mountains of Madness, The Count of Monte Cristo, Mephisto's Bridge, Superstitious, Nightmare Alley, Haunted Mansion, Drood, The Coffin and another script co-written with Twin Peaks' Mark Frost).

Del Toro also wrote scripts for a proposed Justice League Dark movie based on the more supernatural superheroes from DC comics, and a remake of the 1966 cult classic Fantastic Voyage. He also wrote a sequel to his own Pacific Rim which was "very different" from the story that was actually used for Pacific Rim Uprising

Del Toro's take on classic tales like Beauty and the Beast and Wind in the Willows were also put on hold. There's even a script for a TV pilot based on Marvel's The Hulk that never saw the light of day.

Del Toro explained in follow-up tweets that these projects were not "maybes" or "wish list items," but legit completed scripts that took a year or more to finish. His scripts ranged from 90 to 130 pages. Keep in mind that usually one page equals one minute of screen time.

"Each script takes about a year, so more than a decade of work lost (in the case of 'Mountains' much more, since we scouted and designed etc)," del Toro tweeted on Monday. "Each of them took months or years of my life."

It's no surprise projects can be held up in development limbo, but what's especially intriguing from del Toro's tweets is the range of the films and TV scripts he wrote -- from horror and sci-fi to superhero action and classic literature.

As a hard-core del Toro fan, it's mind boggling for me to learn I could have seen his version of Alexandre Dumas' classic tale The Count of Monte Cristo or even a creepier take on Disney's Haunted Mansion ride.

Beloved children's stories like Beauty and the Beast or Wind in the Willows would have been exciting to see through del Toro's eyes. You only have to watch his creations Pan's Labyrinth and Trollhunters to see how del Toro understands the magical effects of fairy tales on both children and adults. 

Here's Hulk being his usual angry self in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Del Toro's grasp of horror in his previous films Crimson Peak and The Strain proves he could make The Coffin and The Witches into the kind of scary movies that would be worth their weight in blood. 

I would sell my soul to the devil just to see del Toro's vision of HP Lovecraft's creature-filled story At the Mountains of Madness. Del Toro gave us mythical beasts in the original Hellboy movies -- just think what he could do with Lovecraft's Elder Things like Cthulhu

But what truly breaks my heart as a fan is that I could have been spoiled with a new Hulk TV series created and written by del Toro. 

As much as I love the current Marvel version of the green giant played by Mark Ruffalo, I wonder if del Toro's unique vision would have transformed the angry Avenger into something deeper? 

While I may never know what could have been, at least there are quite a few new movies and TV series coming from the writer-director to look forward to. They include Pinocchio, The Buried Giant, Carnival Row, Wizards, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark ... that is, if they don't get stuck in development hell.

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