Doom (partially found production materials of cancelled first-person shooter game film adaptations; 1994-1999)
Doom is a first-person shooter game franchise. The original Doom was developed and published by id Software in December 1993, with a sequel, Doom 2 reaching shops in October 1994. Both games proved major critical and commercial successes, and are credited with revolutionising the first-person shooter genre. Such was Doom's popularity that both Universal Pictures and TriStar Pictures were interested in creating a film adaptation throughout the 1990s, though a variety of issues caused the projects' cancellations.
In a December 2005 interview with Tom's Games, id Software CEO Todd recalled that shortly following Doom 2's original release in October 1994, several Hollywood production companies, including Dimension Films and several Disney companies, began expressing interest in adapting the franchise to the big screen. By April 1995, confirmation was received that Universal Pictures had optioned the film rights, with Ivan Reitman's Northern Lights Entertainment assigned to the project. Reitman had previously achieved success with the Ghostbusters franchise, and had also directed films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger like Twins and Kindergarten Cop. The latter fact likely fuelled growing speculation that Schwarzenegger would star in the action-orientated, horror-centric film. Other names rumoured for the main role included Tom Berenger, Sylvester Stallone, and Howie Long.
id Software co-owner Jay Wilbur elaborated during a September 1995 interview with FLUX that Northern Lights Entertainment had completed and reviewed a rough in-house first draft. Work on a second draft was soon to commence; Wilbur affirmed that id's deal with Northern Lights enabled them extensive oversight of the project, but id still encouraged them to expand and work around the games' rather loose narrative. Wilbur also stressed that a highly faithful adaptation was not on the cards, as id were concerned this move would replicate the failure of previous game films. One vision featured Schwarzenegger travelling to Mars and then battling the demons, with Industrial Light and Magic tasked with producing the film's special effects. Throughout 1996, Corona Productions shared several unconfirmed rumours regarding the film's proposed narrative. One claimed the film would adapt Dafydd ab Hugh and Brad Linaweaver's four-novel Doom series, which featured Corporal Flynn "Fly" Taggart as the main protagonist. Also rumoured was the idea there would be four main characters featured in the film.
Changes in Production
Both PC Entertainment and PlayStation Plus reported the film's planned release of late-1997. However, by late-August 1997, it appeared the film was all but cancelled as id co-founder John Carmack confirmed Universal's option had ultimately lapsed, with no further plans seemingly materialising. However, a twist emerged that Sony production company TriStar Productions had acquired the rights, and had swiftly begun production under Ethos Films. Ethos' Moe Lospinoso later rubbished previous rumours listed by Corona Productions, and claimed the screenplay would have no connection to the "bad" novels. By 1997, Vincent J. Guastini, who specialised in practical and creature effects, began sketch and model work on Doom's monsters during Universal's shafted production, before carrying over his work to Ethos. Both he and Lospinoso had previously worked on the film adaptation for Super Mario Bros..
Guastini shared sketches and models of the "Pinky" Demon, Baron of Hell, the Cyberdemon and the Spider Mastermind on his website. One sketch provided showcased the proposed animatronic controls for the Cyberdemon, described as being 12-feet tall. Elements from Doom 2 were additionally incorporated, with Guastini producing a sketch of the Mancubus. By 1999, models for all the monsters listed bar the Mancubus were completed, as was a production bust for the Spider Mastermind. It is unclear whether any work was started for Doom's other monsters. One scoop alleged Dino Conte was another producer, which was confirmed by both Lospinoso and the April 1998 issue of PC Powerplay. PC Powerplay also reported Ron Mita and Jim McClain were assigned to the project, presumably as the film's screenwriters. The narrative would be set on Earth, with a full release planned for 1999.
On 2nd February 1999, Lospinoso confirmed Todd McFarlane Productions would work on the film, essentially revitalising its production. Lospinoso intensified fan engagement by requesting "Coming Attractions" viewers to suggest the possible cast and director. This suggested that the long-running Schwarzenegger rumours, which had also been reported on by PC Powerplay in 1998, were never actually verified.
Little else emerged following the Todd McFarlane Productions deal, suggesting the project was either cancelled or was languishing in development hell. Several explanations were given surrounding the unfinished productions' cancellation, one of which landed Doom under a negative light. On 20th April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the Columbine High School massacre. Both were reportedly obsessed with the Doom franchise, with Harris creating and publicly sharing several Doom WADs. Allegations persisted that Doom, as well as other violent video games, fuelled Harris and Klebold's desire to commit the massacre. The reputational damage Doom suffered was cited by Guastini as TriStar's main reason for cancelling the project.
id and TriStar's creative differences also played a role in the project's shelving. During QuakeCon in August 1999, Carmack revealed two scripts had been produced for the film. id hated both scripts, deeming the first as "terrible" and the other as "pretty mediocre". As id had significant control over the film's production, the company demanded changes, which TriStar refused to budge on. Thus, TriStar's option on the film expired, confirming the film's scrapping. In his Tom's Games interview, Hollenshead confirmed Columbine and script issues were contributing factors, adding that the need to expand the movie's narrative from the original games proved a major obstacle for Hollywood. He additionally believed the project lacked the right people involved from a production perspective. A film adaptation of Doom would not emerge until 2005, which was produced by Universal and starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, with the narrative incorporating elements from Doom 3 released the previous year.
Some sketches and models for the film were shared by Guastini on his website, but their whereabouts today remain unknown. In 2005, the models for the Demon, the Cyberdemon and the Spider Mastermind were sold in an eBay auction. A Baron of Hell model was also sold, but no images of it have ever resurfaced. Outside of the Mancubus, no other production materials have ever been publicly unearthed, including for some of Doom's most iconic enemies like the Imp and Cacodemon.
As for scripts, at least one draft was completed and critiqued by Northern Lights Entertainment. A second one was in the works by September 1995, though it is unclear whether it was finished, or if any other drafts and scripts were written before Universal lost the rights in 1997. As these early drafts were written in-house, their survival status depends on whether they were archived by Universal. Similarly, TriStar presented two scripts to id by 1999, and may still be present within Sony and/or id's archives. Alas, none of the scripts have ever been publicly showcased, likely stemming from most involved distancing themselves from the troubled production.
- Doom (lost FMV scenes and original work of 3DO port of first-person shooter game; 1994-1995)
- Doom (lost prototype of Sega Saturn port of first-person shooter; 1996-1997)
- Doom (lost reference photographs for first-person shooter game cover art; 1993)
- Doom and Doom 2 (partially lost original sound files of first-person shooter series audio; 1993-1994)
- Doom 4 (lost build of cancelled sequel based on "Doom" first-person shooter series; 2007-2014)
- Doom Absolution (lost build of cancelled Nintendo 64 sequel to "Doom 64"; 1997)
- Doom "Episode 5" (lost build of cancelled expansion to first-person shooter; 1995)
- Archived Tom's Games interview with Hollenshead, where he explained the project's troubled production and its cancellation. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Archived Aroged summarising Universal's failed first plan to adapt Doom to the big screen, listing quotes sourced from the October 1996 issue of PC Gamer. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- April 1995 issue of PC Games reporting on Reitman optioning the proposed Doom film. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Archived Corona Productions listing news and rumours surrounding the film's development and cancellation. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Roger Ebert listing films created by Reitman, including ones featuring Schwarzenegger. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- April 1996 issue of PC Entertainment reporting on the film's development and claiming it could have been released by 1997. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Issue 43 of Total! reporting on rumours Schwarzenegger would star in the film. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- September 1995 issue of Flux interview of Wilbur, where he explained id's control over the film's production and noting a draft had been written. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- September 1996 issue of PlayStation Plus reporting on the film's proposed release date of late-1997. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Vincent Guastini Productions summarising his work on the aborted film, and providing a few sketches and models he created. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Twitter post sharing surviving images of the models, which when then sold at auction. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Doom World discussing the 2005 auction of unused models. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Twitter post sharing two images of the Spider Mastermind production bust. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- April 1998 issue of PC Powerplay reporting on newly confirmed production members of the film, and its proposed narrative. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- The Guardian reporting on accusations Doom and other violent games fuelled Harris and Klebold's desire to carry out the massacre. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Archived 3D Action Planet reporting on Carmack's comments at QuakeCon, including on the shelving of the film. Retrieved 13th Jul '23
- Doom World listing the characters of Doom and Doom 2. Retrieved 13th Jul '23