When Paramount started moving forward with Rings in early 2015, there was talk that this project was actually a prequel to the 2002 hit thriller The Ring, which starred Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller, Martin Henderson as Noah Clay and Daveigh Chase as the iconic Samara Morgan. When shooting began just a few weeks later, director F. Javier Gutierrez confirmed that this story is actually a sequel, although none of the original cast members were brought back for this follow-up. F. Javier Gutierrez revealed in a new interview that he had actually considering bringing back Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller, but the reason it never happened may surprise you.
The Ring, which was based on the hit Japanese thriller Ringu, was a big hit at the box office, taking in $129.1 million domestically and $249.3 million worldwide from a $48 million budget. The 2005 sequel, The Ring Two, wasn't quite as successful, earning $76.2 million domestic and $161.4 million worldwide from an unspecified budget. This third movie languished in development for several years before F. Javier Gutierrez came aboard, with the director revealing in an interview with CinemaBlend that the studio was concerned about tying this movie to the previous installments.
"Well, at some point we were toying with the idea of Naomi Watts. It was a couple of moments that we were talking about that for a while. The problem is [that the studio] was concerned. There was concern about tying it too much to the previous one. So, it was not necessary. I mean, it would have been cool for the fans, probably. For the new audiences, they wouldn't care too much. It was kind of forced. We didn't want to force it too. Like, 'OK, they are putting Naomi Watts here too, because of The Ring.'"
The director added that having Naomi Watts come back would take the audience out of the story, so they decided to go a different route. Rings features a completely new cast including Aimee Teegarden, Johnny Galecki, Lizzie Brochere, Laura Wiggins, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Zach Roerig, Alex Roe, Vincent D'Onofrio and Bonnie Morgan as Samara. Rings was produced under a relatively small budget of $25 million, so if this movie is a success and Paramount orders even more sequels, then perhaps the studio will reconsider its stance. Then again, if it's successful without Naomi Watts, there would be little reason to bring her in at this point.
Rings marks a new chapter in the beloved Ring horror franchise. A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a "movie within the movie" that no one has ever seen before. Rings was originally slated to hit theaters on November 13, 2015, just months after principal photography began that spring, but it was later pushed into the spring of 2016. Then last February, it was pushed to a Halloween 2016 release date, before being pushed into its current release date this weekend, where it will face STX Entertainment's The Space Between Us.