The surrealist writer and director David Lynch has an extensive filmography of unmade projects that never got the opportunity to see the light of day. With a unique talent for the horrific, thrilling, and macabre, Lynch’s projects have a major cult following with high praise from fans and critics alike. There are approximately ten known films and television programs that he never made and will likely never make.
When Lynch was 31, he released his first feature-length film about the struggles of fatherhood, titled Eraserhead (1977). This experimental body horror film sent the director on a forward trajectory towards the project that would make him a household name, The Elephant Man (1980). The historical drama starring John Hurt was a huge success among critics and with the box office. George Lucas of the Star Wars franchise admired Lynch’s work and was asked to direct Return Of The Jedi (1983). He ultimately refused due to the fact that he did not believe that his own vision for the film would reflect Lucas’s expectations.
He went on to create masterpieces such as Blue Velvet (1986), Twin Peaks (1990-1991), and Wild At Heart (1990). David Lynch is a force to be reckoned with in the sci-fi, horror, neo-noir, and surrealist genres of cinema, making him a fan favorite of anyone who enjoys a surrealist take on classic elements of western film. His talent and attention to detail makes the following unmade projects much more devastating as they could have been extraordinary additions to his already impressive filmography.
Following Eraserhead, Mel Brooks reportedly reached out to Lynch to assist him on his next project, Ronnie Rocket. He had already written the script, but quickly realized that the film would not be picked up by financiers for its incredibly cryptic plot. When he requested a new script to direct, he was given The Elephant Man. There are two drafts of the Ronnie Rocket screenplay, one from the 1980s and the other from the 2000s when Lynch revisited the project. It is one that fans have wanted to see on the big screen time and again but has never come to fruition.
The film resembles Twin Peaks’ detective elements mixed with sci-fi elements. According to Lynch, it is a film about electricity and a man with three feet. True to Lynch’s works, the viewer is free to interpret the script and is only given what they want to take from it. Due to the ambiguity, Ronnie Rocket is an unmade fan favorite.
In the 1980s, David Lynch and Mark Frost were driven to work on a biopic showcasing the last few months of the late Marilyn Monroe’s life with the title Goddess. It was going to be adapted from The Goddess: The Secret Lives Of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers. For legal reasons, the studio dropped the project due to the story’s claim that Bobby Kennedy killed Marilyn. Despite altering Monroe and Kennedy’s names, the fact remained that serious legal repercussions could follow this project if it went into production.
Working together once more, Lynch and Frost developed the comedy script One Saliva Bubble. It was set to follow a small town in Kansas facing a government conspiracy gone awry. The screenplay is available online, but little is known about the film rather than the fact that it was dropped and Martin Short and Steve Martin were rumored to be the movie’s stars.
Dream Of The Bovine was co-written with Robert Engels in 1994, and was set to become a television series for Comedy Central. It quickly expanded into a full comedy feature about three people who had once been cows. While they appear human, they continue to behave as if they are cows. While the script was not scrapped entirely, Lynch is not working on it currently nor does it appear that he will do so in the future. The reasons behind its cancellation are unknown.
David Lynch’s most well-known sci-fi film Dune (1984) is currently receiving the reboot treatment for the second time (Lynch’s being the first) by Denis Villeneuve for 2020. His take on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name did not receive the critical acclaim that was expected and ultimately tanked at the box office. Dune Messiah was set to be a sequel to the 1984 film by Lynch, and would continue the story of the future where humans live under a feudal system in an interstellar empire.
According to Lynch, he was over half-way done with the script for the sequel when he heard the news that it was not going to get the green light. While the screenplay is not available to read online, it was regarded as being much tighter, with better character development, and an even better story. While Dune Messiah never saw the light of day, the new 2020 film is sure to excite fans regardless of the fact that Lynch is not involved in the project.
Prior to his major successes, Lynch applied to the American Film Institute with Gardenback as a part of his application. Ultimately, he was accepted into the film program but the project was not revisited until an unknown producer expressed interest as long as Lynch expanded the story. The main plot was about a man forced to evacuate his home due to a large bug growing in his attic. Lynch turned down the prospect of expanding his early project with unknown reason.
If anyone could do Franz Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis”, justice it would be David Lynch. He reportedly worked on the screenplay for the film starting in the early 80s. Due to the fact that CGI was not available yet and practical effects were limiting, Lynch dropped the project. The film was set to follow the novella’s premise of a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he has turned into a large insect. It is entirely possible that Lynch may revisit Metamorphosis due to his admiration of the story alongside the similarities that he and Kafka share in their craft.
There is next to nothing known about Up At The Lake. Lynch pitched it to Dino De Laurentiis prior to his business going under. As far as anyone is aware, there is no script and it was set to be a mystery.
You Play The Black And The Red Comes Up is based on the 1938 novel of the same name written by Eric Knight. The only instance known of Lynch working on this film is in the documentary Don’t Look At Me (1989). It follows a man dealing with luck, death, and irony. Ultimately, he was not entirely invested in the project and dropped it without finishing the script.
David Lynch and Mark Frost teamed up to create The Lemurians. They planned for it to become a television show that followed the story of the lost continent of Lemuria. Their script detailed the evils of the people and the land, which caused it to sink to the bottom of the ocean. When an explorer discovers Lemuria, he awakens the Lemurians who wreak havoc on the world. The plot is incredibly entertaining but the project never reached the script stage of development for unknown reasons.
Nearly every unmade project that David Lynch is tied to or developed was ultimately dropped for reasons regarding financing, disinterest, and his intent to stay true to his form of creative expression. While all of the projects above have been scrapped, a few may see the light of day. It may not be in the immediate future, but Metamorphosis and Ronnie Rocket are the two that fans could expect if Lynch decides to revisit any of his unmade works.
Regardless of what is unmade, Lynch’s filmography offers so much to new and old fans that continue to entertain and will for years to come. It is hard to top the creative genius that goes into works such as The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. There is no director quite like David Lynch; hopefully the future brings some of these unmade projects into development.
More: Twin Peaks: What “We Are Like The Dreamer” Means