Blame a huge budget and proposed R-rating for the plug being pulled
Gore Verbinski, director of this week's A Cure For Wellness – the Pirates of the Caribbean director's return to the horror movie genre after more than a decade of big-budget action movies – has built a reputation for his stunning visual style. BioShock fans were understandably thrilled when it was announced that he was on board to direct a film adaptation Ken Levine's dystopian underwater epic back in 2008, but a year later Universal pulled the plug on the project just eight weeks before filming was due to begin.
In an AMA on Reddit this week, Verbinski was asked to elaborate on what had happened to the film. The director mentioned that the movie's R-rating and huge budget were the main factors that led Universal to drop the project. It was believed at the time that Verbinski wanted $160 million to complete the project – an unprecedented amount at the time.
"Well it's no short answer to that question but we were eight weeks prior shooting when the plug was pulled. It's an R rated movie. I wanted to keep it R rated, I felt like that would be appropriate, and it's an expensive movie. It's a massive world we're creating and it's not a world we can simply go to locations to shoot. A Cure For Wellness, we were able to really utilize a variety of location to create the world. Bioshock it wouldn't work like that, we'd be building an entire underworld universe. So I think the combination of the price tag and the rating, universal just didn't feel comfortable ultimately. At that time also there were some R-rated, expensive R-rated movies that were not working. So I think things have changed and maybe there will be another chance, but it's very difficult when you're eight weeks away from shooting a movie you really can see in your head and you've almost filmed the entire thing, so emotionally you're right at that transition from architect to becoming a contractor and that will be a difficult place to get back to."
That reference to "R-rated movies that were not working"? That would be Zack Snyder's expensive and polarizing 2009 movie, Watchmen.
Very little detail about the project has been revealed previously, although conceptual illustrator Kasra Farahani (Thor) did reveal some of the concept art he designed for the film back in 2014 (which you can see here), in which he showed off the aesthetic and some character designs for sequences involving a Little Sister and Big Daddy.