Book Review: Tales From Development Hell (New Updated Edition): The Greatest Movies Never Made?

Tales From Development Hell (New Updated Edition): The Greatest Movies Never Made?
By David Hughes

ISBN-10: 0857687239
ISBN-13: 978-0857687234


  • An insider’s look at Hollywood’s movie machine and how it often takes years – or over a decade to make a film.
  • Snappy, exciting, writing style that engages as well as informs.
  • Lots of juicy, oddball, interesting information.
  • The author’s personal stories help flesh out the truth of the book.


  • Occasional information overload can be distracting.
  • Complexity of the Hollywood system could have used some flowcharts.
  • You’ll want to punch Hollywood in the face.

SUMMARY: An indispensable book for anyone that wants to know how Hollywood works (and doesn’t work), and why a lot of films never happen – or turn out poorly.

David Hughes has worked in Hollywood for quite some time – sure you may not hear his name, but he’s been attached to plenty of projects that you may not have heard of. He knows what’s gone wrong in Hollywood having been there, and he dishes on what’s really going on in this updated book.

This is a guide to films you’ve heard of, could have heard of, or thought you knew and what went on to get them developed – or kill them off. From the trials and tribulations of “Batman” to the complete botching of an action-adventure historical romance with a stage magician, it’s a wild ride into the gaping maw of Development Hell. When you’re done, you may be amazed any movies ever get made, and that ones that are made actually can be good.

Each chapter explores a movie or media property/franchise and what it went through to make it to the big screen – or in some cases, languish for years or decades in Development Hell. Thus some themes are repeated because so many films go through the same labyrinthian insanity. However, that further serves to illustrate the true nature of Development Hell.

Very quickly, you come to realize that Hollywood is it’s own little world completely divorced from the rest of us. Ideas are tweaked and mutated, actors change things for their own preferences, market testing leads to well-planned decisions that are utterly stupid, and more. David unflinchingly (yet, with some odd empathy) helps you understand that Development Hell and it’s associated Circles of Weirdness is both completely crazy and totally normal.

Each journey is punctuated with amazing nuggets and untold stories, such as:

  • The idea of making a Lord of The Rings film in the style of Fantasia, an idea I am still completely alongside and want a Kickstarter fund for.
  • The fact that a sequel to “Planet of The Apes” went through a crazy amount of rewrites and ideas that had nothing to do with the eventual remake.
  • How “based on a real story” ends up completely meaningless after awhile.
  • Movie writers often take scenes from unused scripts and put them into ones they’re working on to save time and use cool ideas.

After awhile, you feel you’ve been on a thrill ride so amazing you don’t need to hide in a refrigerator to escape a nuclear bomb. Hollywood’s biggest drama may be itself.

The book is far, far more than entertainment. Hughes really documents history, process, and politics that truly inform you. It’s his snappy writing style that keeps the excitement going when he delves into ephemera and weirdness that most writers couldn’t handle.

Frankly, you see why the man worked in Hollywood – he’s good.

In the end, you’ll understand Hollywood a lot better, and possibly resort to drinking if you ever had ambition to work there. I recommend Taraka Masamune sake, by the way.

The book’s only flaws are that at some moments it turns on the information faucet and blasts you in the face with facts.  This would have been made easier with some diagrams or flowcharts.  It’s a minor criticism, but this is a book that has sections that require your full attention to fully digest.

Should you buy this book? The answer is yes, if you have any interest whatsoever in how Hollywood produces media. If you want to work in Hollywood and have not bought it yet, then shut up and go buy it now.

Finally, this is also a “keeper” book for those with media/history interests as you’ll clearly read it again.

Steven Savage