Versions of The Fly that Didn’t Fly

Given that David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly is considered the director’s ultimate meditation on body horror, one of the greatest horror films ever made, and was a box office success that earned over $60 million worldwide, it’s no surprise that it keeps coming back. This week, Deadline Hollywood announced that J.D. Dillard will direct a remake written by himself and his writing partner Alex Theurer, for Fox. (The duo’s first feature is the upcoming street magic-themed gangland thriller/superhero movie Sleight.) But what about the versions of The Fly that didn’t get made?

First, some background: Cronenberg’s movie is loosely based on George Langelan’s 1957 short story of the same name – about a scientist who accidentally fuses his DNA with that of a house fly, turning himself into a hideous half-insect creature – and it’s 1958 film adaptation by Kurt Neumann. That movie spawned two sequels, Return of the Fly (1959) and Curse of The Fly (1965), while Cronenberg’s resulted in one sequel, 1989’s The Fly II, a poorly-received opera in 2008 and a five-issue comic book series in 2015 titled The Fly: Outbreak, which continued the story of Brundle’s son from The Fly II.<style>

The first of these was a sequel proposed by Cronenberg’s Fly star Geena Davis as a project for her then-husband to direct, titled Flies. According to an article at Wicked Horror, this version, was to focus on Veronica giving birth to twin boys—picking up right after the original and totally ignoring the sequel—who start out normally and then begin their respective transformations at the onset of puberty.”

The article also states that the genesis of the idea came from a pitch that author/screenwriter/creator of Video Watchdog Tim Lucas made before The Fly II. “His story would have been very different, revealing that the telepods could actually be re-purposed to function as cloning devices, which is where the Flies title would be relevant. Geena Davis would again have a leading role in this one, with Jeff Goldblum surprisingly returning as Seth Brundle in a voiceover role as it is revealed that during the final teleportation, Brundle’s consciousness became trapped inside his computer.”

Last summer on the Blumhouse Shockwaves podcast, filmmaker and Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris recalled, Flies was announced as a sequel several years later, much in the way that Alien became Aliens. 20th Century Fox was going to do the same thing with Flies and act as if The Fly II didn’t happen.”

Fox Searchlight then revisted the idea again in 2003, with a version of the story proposed by Todd Lincoln, which would’ve been quite different than any previous versions and not had Brundle or the telepods in it. Lincoln told Collider, “My version was way outside the box conceptually and visually. Not at all what people would be expecting. It was a strange mix of influences such as Val Lewton, Neal Stephenson, Alan Pakula, Todd Haynes, Chris Cunningham, Michael Crichton, various Horror Manga and a touch of something you might find in The Animatrix. I also brought on top bioengineers and entomologists as consultants. We took it deadly seriously and got so into it that we were damn close to turning someone into a fly ourselves. The film would have been done almost entirely with practical effects. My story had very little in common with Kurt Neumann’s original The Fly or David Cronenberg’s remake.”

Of course, the filmmaker we really want to see helm another Fly movie is Cronenberg, and he tried to revisit that world. Around 2010/2011, Fox hired Cronenberg to write the script for the film. As he told Empire, “[M]y agent found out [Fox was] approaching people to do a remake of my film. He sort of said, ‘Well, you know, what about David?’ And they said, ‘Well, we never thought of that!’ I think they’d been to Guillermo del Toro and Michael Bay. [Fox] was excited about it enough to pay me to write a script. And then for various reasons it kind of got bogged down. I don’t know exactly why.”

The cover of Rue Morgue #116, featuring original art by Jason Edmiston.

In 2011, this writer interviewed Cronenberg for a 25th anniversary retrospective on The Fly for Rue Morgue. Here’s an excerpt of the interview in which he discusses revisiting the world of the film:

You’ve long maintained that you films have a definite end point and you aren’t interested in making sequels, however, you have expressed interest in remaking The Fly again. Is this correct?

It is correct. I have written a script that is more of a strange, lateral, let’s say oblique sequel than it is a true sequel, and it’s certainly not a remake of the original. It’s financed by Fox, and whether it will get made or not, I cannot say at the moment because there are a lot of up-in-the-air factors that deal with internal studio politics and a bunch of other things that I’m not in control of. But I would make it if they green-light it, let’s put it that way.

How do changes in filmmaking technology, advances in science or even the acceptance of body modification influence this new Fly story?

I’m not sure that any of that would affect this new version.

So then, thematically it would still be a story about aging and mortality?

Oh, I couldn’t possibly tell you what it’s about – that’s a total secret. Top secret. [laughs]

-Dave Alexander