DreamWorks has pulled the plug on Haunted, an under-the-radar movie that was just weeks away from beginning filming. The studio had commissioned a quick, partial rewrite of the script by director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Scott Z. Burns (Contagion). But it ultimately decided that the project, a ghost tale said to have been inspired by Henry James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, was not ready to go into production. DreamWorks is said to have sunk about $5 million into preparing the film, which had a budget of about $17 million.
Haunted had been moving forward based on a script by Chad and Carey Hayes (The Conjuring) and Rose Leslie, who played the wilding Ygritte on Game of Thrones, was recently cast to star. Producing were Scott Bernstein and Roy Lee. DreamWorks had paused preproduction for additional work on the script and brought in Burns for a two-week writing assignment, though it was known Burns had other commitments that would prevent him from doing a complete rewrite.
Working under tight time pressures, the Fresnadillo and Burns began the process of reworking the material. Sources say they ended up making changes to the title, characters and action. Faced with a time crunch and a work-in-progress, DreamWorks decided to call a halt.
There had been some concern about the choice of Fresnadillo, the Spanish director who most recently directed the pilot Falling Water, which has been picked up by USA Network. His best-known film is 2007's 28 Weeks Later, which grossed $64.2 million worldwide. But a source says that was only after executive producers Danny Boyle and Alex Garland became extensively involved. Still, Steven Spielberg felt that the helmer had the skills for the project.
Haunted, which was to shoot under the DreamWorks label, would have been one of the first new projects to move forward since DreamWorks, Amblin and Participant formed the new Amblin Partners late last year, and Dreamworks, after distributing its movies through Disney since 2008, struck a new distribution deal with Universal.
While Fresnadillo is now off the project, the studio hopes to continue to develop it based on the original Hayes brothers' script.