Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks have pulled the plug, at least for now, on an under-the-radar upcoming horror movie that they have been developing for some time. Haunted was being produced by Steven Spielberg and was going to be directed by 28 Weeks Later helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, but he has been fired and any form of production on the project has halted. What is perhaps most surprising is that the movie was supposed to start shooting in a few weeks, meaning that this project was very far along in the development process.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the studio and Steven Spielberg had decided to give the project the axe. According to the report, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns were doing some additional work on the script, which halted pre-production for a couple of weeks. As it turns out, the pair wound up doing a massive rewrite which conflicted with the direction that DreamWorks had approved of, changing the title of the movie, characters and major plot points. That essentially made it a completely different movie and not Haunted, the movie that the studio signed on to make. So, that caused them to fire the director and stop the project from moving forward. As of now, the movie is dead.
The original script for Haunted was written by Chad and Carey Hayes who wrote the massive horror hit The Conjuring. The story was said to have been inspired by the Henry James 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. Scott Z. Burns had reportedly been brought in just to do the two weeks worth of rewrites that had been approved by DreamWorks alongside Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. There is apparently some dispute as to what was or was not approved in terms of the direction of the script by the studio, but either way, Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks weren't happy, so ultimately the outcome remains the same.
As mentioned, the project was very far along in the development process. According to the report, DreamWorks had already put around $5 million into Haunted, which was going to have a production budget of around $17 million. Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie had been cast as the lead in the movie alongside Annabelle and 12 Years a Slave actress Alfre Woodard.
Haunted may not be totally dead in the water, it just won't be the same movie that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo apparently wanted to make. DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg are hoping to try and develop the movie with another director using the original Chad and Carey Hayes script. There is no word on whether or not Rose Leslie and Alfre Woodard will still remain attached to star in the movie, but given that there will clearly be at the very least a significant delay, they will probably be moving onto other projects for the time being. Who knows? Maybe once Steven Spielberg is done with Ready Player One he'll just step up to the plate and do it himself, but that seems unlikely.