Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
Hellboy was a comic book movie that came along at the exact right moment. It was almost the Guardians of the Galaxy of its day. This was a relatively unknown comic, it wasn’t DC or Marvel, centering on a premise that sounded ridiculous, bringing together an assortment of weird and visually stunning characters. Only a few years after the release of X-Men, the comic book movie climate was still sort of like wet clay. There were serious risks being taken on darker material and it took us a while to get back to that after the successes of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises and the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Spinoffs at the time tended to be relatively unsuccessful, with films like Elektra and Catwoman being two of the worst received comic movies of the decade. Spinoffs hadn’t yet gotten to that point of really expanding the universe and telling a different kind of story that obeyed the rules of the original.
Given that Nuada died at the end of Hellboy II, this movie would also have seen Doug Jones take on a dual role as both Abe and the Angel of Death, reprising that role from the sequel as well. Agent Myers, one of the leads of the original who was conspicuously absent in the sequel, would also have returned.
From a character perspective, this film would have at least been great for Abe. It would have picked up with him after the end of the second movie, dealing with everything that had happened to him, especially losing his first love. Dealing with that loss would prove to be harder than expected, too, as it would be revealed that Abe was still haunted by a psychic connection to the Princess Nuala.
Silverlance remained on Universal’s backburner for a surprisingly long time. As recently as 2015, when it seemed almost certain that they would not be moving forward with Hellboy III, they asked writers Peter Briggs and Aaron Mason if they would be willing to dust off their script. They started moving forward with the project, with the only issue being that now Hellboy himself could not be shown at all. They likened their original version to “a Suicide Squad situation. Batman was in it, but the story wasn’t about him.”
Now they couldn’t have Hellboy at all, basically only allowing the characters to mention him in passing. As a result, Nuada’s role seemed to be strengthened to an even larger degree, as Abe’s research into his past would have allowed for scenes depicting Nuada in various time periods. But then the movie encountered an even bigger problem.
All of a sudden, this project that was first established because Universal wanted to see more of Nuada could not use any characters from Hellboy II.
The story was quickly changed once again to remove a central character and instead see Abe and the B.P.R.D. go up against The Black Flame, a major villain from the world of the comics.
In my own interview with Doug Jones, who would have returned to play Abe in the spinoff, the actor confirmed he would have gladly returned had the project come to fruition. “Had they done it, I would have gladly reprised my role as Abe Sapien, but the planning phase, I had nothing to do with. I don’t own the franchise at all, I don’t own the property, I don’t own the source material, so it wasn’t my story to create. But with this reboot, I’m told the Abe Sapien character will not be showing up, at least in this first movie. I wish them well and reboots are a reality of Hollywood.”
As recently as 2016, Briggs and Mason had a meeting about the project, in which they were finally told that Silverlance would likely not be moving forward, as they were keen to reboot Hellboy with a totally new creative team. That’s exactly what’s happening now.
The Hellboy reboot might not bring us closure for the original cast and will not realize Guillermo del Toro’s ultimate vision for his interpretation of that world, but there is still a lot of talent involved. Neil Marshall, of Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday, Game of Thrones and so many more fantastic projects, is directing the reboot with David Harbour taking over the role of Hellboy.
Nonetheless, it would have been fantastic to see Doug Jones’s Abe Sapien in his own movie.