Yesterday, we learned that an R-rated Hellboy reboot was in development with Neil Marshall (director of episodes of Game of Thrones, The Descent and a horror film that I love, Dog Soldiers) directing and Stranger Things star David Harbour in talks to star. Of course, we already knew that the third film from Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman sadly wasn’t going to happen, so the new film might just be the next best thing. However, del Toro’s Hellboy 3 wasn’t the only film in the series that didn’t get a chance to come to fruition.
In a Facebook post, Hellboy story writer Peter Briggs revealed that an Abe Sapien spinoff almost happened which would have been titled Silverlance: From the Files of the B.P.R.D. and would have seen Doug Jones reprise his role from the first two films. Here’s the story as relayed by the writer:
Back in 2010, I was working out of an office at Weta Workshop in New Zealand, when I got a surprise call from Universal. Internally, Universal were keen to make a “Hellboy” spinoff based around the character of Prince Nuada from “Hellboy 2” and asked if I was interested in writing it. I said I was, although there was the slight problem of Prince Nuada being…ah…um…slightly “dead” at the end of “Hellboy 2”. I also pushed a little bit that, if it came off, I’d really like to direct it and make it in New Zealand. Universal were agreeable and said we could discuss that at the appropriate time.
I started working on an outline with my Los Angeles-based “Panzer 88” co-writer Aaron Mason while still in New Zealand. It was called “Hellboy: Silverlance”, and we solved the “Nuada Problem”. Although we never really discussed it as such it really was a “B.P.R.D.” movie. The aquatic Abe Sapien was the main character, and Hellboy still featured fairly prominently in it. I suppose you could liken it to a “Suicide Squad” situation: Batman was in there, but the story wasn’t really about him.
Aaron and myself turned it in. Universal really wanted to proceed with it, but after further discussions at the studio it was apparent a “Hellboy 3” was still on the cards for the studio and more of a priority, so “Silverlance” got back-burnered. I figured that was the end of that.
Five years later, 2015, I was in Sweden when I got another call from Universal. It was looking like “Hellboy 3” wasn’t now going to happen, so would Aaron and myself now be interested in further developing a reworked version of “Silverlance”? Larry Gordon would be involved. Hell, yes!
The one caveat Universal gave us was that the character of Hellboy himself now couldn’t be shown.
Briggs went on to further explain what the film would have been:
We reworked and expanded the project out. The story had a sort of “Highlander” structure to it. Moving into their new Bureau For Paranormal Research And Defense headquarters in Colorado, Abe is troubled still by his psychic connection with Princess Nuala from “Hellboy 2”, so researches the history of Nuala and Nuada. We would have seen Nuada’s connection to a rival fairy courtier who seeks control of the fairy kingdom (and Nuala’s hand in marriage), and engineers the machinations that cause Prince Nuada’s expulsion. We’d have seen Nuada in different timezones down the centuries, including his first meeting with Mister Wink in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition (Nuada saves Wink from a troupe of soldiers); and Nuada in Nazi Germany in World War 2 engineering a pact to keep various supernatural entities unharmed from the conflict. (We would have seen Nuada and Kroenen fighting in a “friendly” bout for a bunch of Project Ragnarok goons.)
Doug Jones would have been playing twin characters of both Abe and a reprise of the Angel Of Death, with whom Prince Nuada strikes a bargain. Agent Myers from the first “Hellboy” film would have returned. The story reached a rousing action climax at the B.P.R.D. Colorado headquarters and used Rasputin’s summoning gauntlet from the first movie (and we did manage to sneak Hellboy in for a cameo in one scene!) If it had been successful, it would have been the first in a series of “From The Files Of The B.P.R.D.” projects.
Finally, the writer revealed the eventual fate of the project:
Aaron and I turned in our retitled “Silverlance: From The Files Of The B.P.R.D.”, the end of 2015. Discussions continued with Universal into early 2016, when we had a conference call with Universal and Mike Richardson from Dark Horse Comics. I’ve been friendly with Mike for 20-some years, and we were asked politely to put a pin in the “Silverlance” project as they were keen to reboot a movie version of “Hellboy” with an all-new team. Universal were very happy with our reworked “Silverlance” and wanted to proceed with it, but now it was made clear we couldn’t use any of the characters created for “Hellboy 2”. Which, given that the story was all about Prince Nuada, was a bit of a bind. I suggested going back to the comics and instead working on an all-new “B.P.R.D.” storyline involving the nemesis character The Black Flame (whom I really loved from the comics.)
Things were quiet throughout 2016, but just before Christmas 2016 I was in Bath in England when we got the call from Universal to say that it looked like “Silverlance” was once more back on, but it was looking a little unclear. (This really surprised me, as I’d assumed after the early 2016 conversation the project was scuppered for good.) I kept in touch with Universal periodically into 2017. With the announcement of the Neil Marshall “Hellboy” reboot project yesterday, I think it’s safe to say “Silverlance” is now officially dead. As a fan of “Hellboy” for 25 years, I’m curious to see how the new Millennium project turns out.
I’m torn on the news of a Hellboy reboot as I really enjoyed del Toro’s two films and I would have been all in for an Abe Sapien spinoff as well. Still, though, I like the creative team behind the new reboot and the fact that it will be R-rated, so I’ll be willing to give it a fair shot.