For years now, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been defying the odds. The two filmmakers have flown in the face of everything we think we know about tentpole filmmaking, spinning box office gold out of such underwhelming concepts as movie adaptations of television shows, movie adaptations of toys, and big-budget Hollywood sequels. “For some reason, we don’t get engaged with it until it feels impossible,” the duo told ScreenCrush in 2014. Somehow, it’s an approach that seems to work for them.
Of course, Hollywood is the perfect industry for those attracted to impossible projects, and Lord and Miller have circled more than their fair share of Hollywood blockbusters over the past few years. Here are five of the most interesting projects that the two never quite got off the ground. And yes, before you ask, their Star Wars prequel definitely made the final cut.
The Reunion (2013)
The archives of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are littered with sparse descriptions of projects that never quite got off the ground. Such is the case with The Reunion, a live-action comedy announced by Sony in 2013. While both Lord and Miller were listed as producers, it was set to be written and directed only by Miller, a departure from their previous collaborations. All that was known about The Reunion was that the film would take place at — you guessed it — a high school reunion, which seemed a natural fit for the duo given the success of 2012’s 21 Jump Street.
In a 2014 interview with ScreenCrush, the two still seemed excited at the prospect of the film; when asked if The Reunion was still on tap to be their next project, Miller responded by saying it was “something that we’re looking to do in the near future” and admitted he was still “really excited” about the prospect of making The Reunion. As the duo continued to be successful in Hollywood, however, The Reunion was pushed out of the picture in favor of more high-profile franchises and remains a mystery to this day.
Clone High (2014)
No matter how many successful film and television franchises Lord and Miller launch, there will always be a vocal minority of fans clamoring for them to return to Clone High, the animated MTV series that put them on the map. In a 2014 interview with Collider, the two filmmakers opened up about the possibility of a movie sequel to their show, noting that they talked “very regularly” with series co-creator Bill Lawrence and were constantly bouncing ideas between the two parties.
Lord and Miller also admitted that resurrecting Clone High represented a ratings challenge; for Lord it was always a question of, “‘Am I gonna have to justify the budget that it’s gonna take by trying to broaden this to a family audience, and is that gonna kill what was fun about the original thing?’” Fans of the series may just have to console themselves with our 2013 interview with the duo, which included an in-depth conversation on the specifics of Season 2 of Clone High and beyond.
Ghostbusters 3 (2014)
Coming off two successful 21 Jump Street films and a handful of animated projects, Lord and Miller were popular picks for any big-budget comedies in the studio pipeline. One such film was Ghostbusters 3. The history of Ghostbusters 3 dates all the way back to 1989 and involves a breathtaking amount of infighting and creative differences between its creators, but when trade publications reported that Ivan Reitman had stepped down as director on March 18, 2014, it took only two days for news to leak that Sony wanted Lord and Miller to step in as his replacement.
Unfortunately, the rumored sequel could not quite get off the ground and the two men would officially pass on the project the following month. Later that year, ScreenCrush asked the two why they passed on working on a Ghostbusters sequel and they deferred to their busy schedule, noting that their work on Fox’s Last Man on Earth had left them “super tired” and in need of a break. The Ghostbusters franchise would be rebooted in 2016 with Paul Feig at the helm; Sony also surprised audiences earlier this year with the announcement that another Ghostbusters movie is on the way, this time with Jason Reitman — Ivan’s son — serving as director.
The Flash (2015)
That same year, studio sources were quick to confirm that Lord and Miller were working on a standalone Flash movie as part of the nascent Warner Bros. superhero cinematic universe. The character was set to be formally introduced in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and many involved speculated that the filmmakers would upgrade their involvement to the role of directors. They didn’t, and since then, any momentum on The Flash has been stalled out by turnover in the director’s chair and ongoing changes to the Warner Bros. franchise.
Originally, the studio had picked Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter author Seth Grahame-Smith to helm a version of the film based on Lord and Miller’s screenplay, but Grahame-Smith left the project in early 2016, citing creative differences with the studio. Then Dope director Rick Famuyiwa was tasked with delivering his own unique vision of the film, but he too stepped aside, also claiming a disconnect between himself and the studio. With a new projected release date of 2021 and an uncertain future for characters like Batman and Superman, it’s likely that not much remains of Lord and Miller’s work.
And then there was Solo, the long-gestating Han Solo origin story set within the Star Wars universe. Lord and Miller were not the studio’s first choice to direct the film; that honor belongs to Josh Trank, who was removed from Solo after rumors emerged of erratic on- and off-set behavior during production on Fantastic Four. Lord and Miller joined the film in 2015 and spearheaded a global search for the next Harrison Ford; it was reported that more than 2,500 actors auditioned for the role before it was decided that Alden Ehrenreich was the right man for the job.
And then, several months into production on the film, Lucasfilm unexpectedly pulled the plug on its two directors and brought in Ron Howard to finish the film. Much has been written about the differences that led to this high-profile divorce, but the biggest thread is the divergent styles of Lucasfilm and Lord and Miller. Much like Disney did with their early Marvel films, Kathleen Kennedy and company had hoped to develop a consistent style for their Star Wars prequels; when Lord and Miller pushed back, it wasn’t long before the two sides were forced to split. In the end, more than 70% of Solo would be entirely reshot by Howard, allowing him to claim the sole director credit on the film.