With the “Haunted Mansion” film finally hitting theaters after over a decade in and out of development, director Justin Simien has addressed just how involved Guillermo del Toro was on the film, speaking exclusively to The Direct.
The reboot for a Haunted Mansion film goes as far back as 2010, when development began on a version led by director Guillermo del Toro, known for other works like “The Shape of Water” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” The director is famously known for his passion for the classic attraction and Disney’s films, even having a room in his home themed to The Haunted Mansion.
Del Toro was originally attached to direct, write and produce, and submitted a final draft of his script in 2012, with his story set in a “heightened reality” and feature the Hatbox Ghost as a main character. By 2013, he announced he was no longer the project’s director, but would stay on as co-writer and executive producer. At one point, Ryan Gosling was even in talks to star.
While there are a number of reasons why del Toro’s version didn’t work out, the one that is usually referenced is that Disney reportedly found the filmmaker’s original vision to be too frightening for family audiences.
About a decade later, in August 2010, Katie Dippold was signed on to pen a new screenplay for the shelved project, and less than a year after that, Justin Simien, director of “Dear White People,” was brought on to direct.
When speaking with The Direct, Simien admitted that he never had the opportunity to “interact with [del Toro’s] version of the film,” confirming that the Oscar-winning director was not involved in what became of his original project.
You know, I never got a chance to really interact with Guillermo [del Toro’s] version of the movie. By the time it came to me, Katie Dippold had written a brilliant sort of adaptation way in, and I have absolutely no idea how that development process occurred.
Simien went on to say that he was “really adamant” about the film “not pulling its punches” — which is interesting when you consider one of the reasons del Toro’s version was reportedly shelved.
But I do know that I was really adamant about the movie not pulling its punches because the Disney movies don’t pull their punches. The classic Disney movies are terrifying to this day. And they’re more terrifying as you get older and recognize the existential implications of things like Donkey Kid Island and being haunted by your stepmother and your uncle killing your father. And all of these moments, you know, they make these movies sort of iconic and stay with you for your whole life when you lean into that stuff.
While del Toro never got to make his Haunted Mansion movie, he did make a haunted mansion movie in the form of 2015’s “Crimson Peak,” starring Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska. For those who know what to look out for, the film is riddled with references to The Haunted Mansion attraction, and offers a glimpse at what could’ve been had his version of the film been made. While it was mostly received as a disappointment when it first released, “Crimson Peak” has since taken on a cult-like status, with many vocal fans online declaring it was good, actually.
“Haunted Mansion” materializes in theaters this weekend on July 28.
Do you plan on catching it, or would you have preferred to see Guillermo del Toro’s version be made instead? Or are you a rare fan of the 2003 film starring Eddie Murphy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, and check out the trailer for the new film below: