Richard Stanley’s Return: Thank Nic Cage and a Ouija Board

Twenty-five years after the spectacular failure of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” the reclusive director is still dreaming of human-animal hybrids. Even as he considers a sequel to his new film, “Color Out of Space,” starring Nicolas Cage.

Richard Stanley’s career in Hollywood was supposed to be over. It was 1996, and he’d just been fired as the director of The Island of Dr. Moreau, a multimillion-dollar adaptation of a novel by H.G. Wells starring an aging and monomaniacal Marlon Brando.

The chaotic sequence of events, captured in the 2014 documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, would go on to become known as one of the greatest filmmaking disasters of all time. Brando repeatedly disappeared from set; Val Kilmer, playing Dr. Moreau’s assistant, was also a nightmare. Meanwhile, Stanley encountered a litany of personal problems — his assistant was bitten by a venomous spider; his mother’s house was struck by lightning three times. Before shooting began, he’d hired a British warlock named Skip to magically bind himself and Brando to the project, and now Skip was hospitalized with bone disease. Almost as soon as they began filming at Cape Tribulation, a remote region of Australia, a hurricane flooded the set, destroying equipment and throwing off the schedule even further. Three days into shooting, New Line Cinema, the production company behind the film, decided to fire Stanley. And it was at this point that things got truly weird.

New Line, apparently concerned that Stanley might sabotage the shoot, asked a production assistant to escort the director onto a plane back to America. But when the plane arrived, Stanley wasn’t on it. He’d disappeared into the jungle. A month or so later, some extras found him camping out by a river, living off yams and coconuts and a substantial supply of marijuana. Eventually, he sneaked back onto set, disguised as one of Dr. Moreau’s human-dog hybrids, and joined the rest of the extras as they burned down the set in the film’s climactic finale. The movie, when it was finally released, was a commercial and critical failure.
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