She’s So Lovely (1997): John Cassavetes’ son, Nick, directs the kinds of movies his dad rebelled against: The Notebook, John Q, Alpha Dog. He wasn’t always that way. His second film tackled one of his pop’s never-filmed scripts, in which an ex-con (Sean Penn) tries to reunite with his beloved (Robin Wright Penn), now married to John Travolta. The words were all Cassavetes Senior, but not the feel—clean and bright, it made Junior’s segue into gruesome tearjerkers and Denzel-Washington-screaming-very-loudly programmers not too surprising.
The Big Brass Ring (1999): The list of unfinished works by Orson Welles is longer than some directors’ CVs. The recently late George Hickenlooper crossed one off the list when he reworked Welles’ script about a presidential candidate (William Hurt) with a secret. Alas, Hickenlooper was decidedly not Welles.
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001): When Spielberg does Kubrick, the clash of sensibilities is frustrating but fascinating. Spielberg reins in his sentimental streak for the most part, but still lets it off the leash too much, most notoriously once Multiple Ending Mode sets in.
Heaven (2002): Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kiéslowski, of the ten-film Decalogue and Trois Coleurs, was working on another film cycle when a cardiac arrest took his life: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Only the first was fully scripted, and it was filmed by Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer (evidently working on ‘ludes) while cowriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz finished the next two. Kiéslowski’s presence was decidedly missed.
Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003): Kinji Fukasaku cranked out yakuza pics for decades only to find mega-fame at 70 with Battle Royale, in which high-schoolers fight to the death on an island. He shot all of one scene for the lesser-but-thoughtful sequel before dying of prostate cancer, leaving son Kenta to complete the heavy work.
The Illusionist (2010): Via a technology nearly as old as cinema itself, Jacques Tati is revived in the Sylvain Chomet cartoon adaptation of a script Tati never filmed. Great! Except Chomet really should’ve exhumed another stillborn Tati project: Confusion, a futuristic multimedia satire meant to pair Tati with Ron and Russell Mael of pop duo Sparks.