The 13th Floor

The Story Behind SOLACE: The SE7EN Sequel That Almost Was

On December 16th, Alfonso Poyart’s supernaturally-tinged serial killer thriller, SOLACE, will finally arrive on VOD (and in select theaters) for American consumption. To say its journey to release has been a long one since production began in 2013 would be an understatement. Its history, however, is far more interesting than the constantly delayed release dates and its being shelved temporarily due to Relativity’s financial woes.

Relativity ultimately sold the film to Lionsgate two months ago. The most interesting aspect of its production history, as far as I am concerned, is the fact that it was almost EI8HT.  That’s right! David Fincher’s SE7EN came very close to having a sequel.

A few details from this phase of SOLACE’s journey to the silver screen have been chronicled here and there over the years. It’s a regular resident of “Sequels That Almost Happened” lists, generally appearing right alongside the likes of E.T. 2: NOCTURNAL FEARS and GUMP & CO. What I began to realize as I researched its development, however, is that none of it has ever been fully laid out in a single piece… Until now, of course!

SOLACE was born in the early ‘90s as an original screenplay written by Ted Griffin (RAVENOUS) and Sean Bailey. Not much is known about it before New Line scooped it up in the late ‘90s for retooling as a SE7EN sequel. As best I can guess, it seems to have made the rounds in Hollywood. Regardless, years after the success of SE7EN, New Line was keen to cash-in with a follow-up and zeroed in on using Griffin and Bailey’s tale of a psychic investigator with a direct link into the mind of a similarly-clairvoyant serial killer as their meal ticket.

Why this premise screamed SE7EN II to them is beyond me, but here we are. Besides, I’m more dumbfounded by the choice to let an “8” substitute for the letter “G” in the title. I was unable to find a name for who (or whom) rewrote SOLACE into EI8HT (oof, that title) and details of the earliest incarnation of those changes are sketchy at best. Rumor has it, however, that the story would have centered on Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) developing some sort of strange psychic connection with a brutal serial killer. Wilder still is the rumor that initial drafts had said killer turn out to be Somerset’s former partner, David Mills (Brad Pitt).

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As intriguing (or infuriating, depending on your opinion) a notion as that reveal might have been, it wasn’t meant to be. By all accounts, not only did Brad Pitt balk at the idea of doing a sequel, but so did director David Fincher. Freeman, however, actually signed on and the project was retooled to where Mills was apparently only mentioned in passing as being institutionalized at some point between the films.

The project stalled at some point in the early ‘00s and was placed on the backburner, with Freeman opting to reprise his other famous detective, Alex Cross, in 2001’s ALONG CAME A SPIDER instead. Interest renewed again in 2002, with New Line landing Nick Cassavettes (ALPHA DOG) to direct. As often happens in Hollywood, it ultimately stalled once more. After Cassavettes left, the director’s chair was reportedly offered to Paul Verhoeven (ROBOCOP) and Miguel Sapochnik (REPO MEN), among others. Soon after, Freeman himself departed the project and it went back to being a standalone film.

SOLACE resurfaced in 2005 with Bruce Willis attached to play the lead and a few other directors, such as Shekar Kapur (ELIZABETH) and Mark Pellington (THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES), came and went. Minor rewrites by the likes of James Vanderbilt (ZODIAC) and Peter Morgan (STATE OF PLAY) also took place. Once again, the project went nowhere and Willis also eventually bounced.

In 2011, Anthony Hopkins hopped onto the ever-languishing film and the rest is history. Now, five years later, we have a completed film containing Colin Farrell, Abbie Cornish, and Negan himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as his primary co-stars. Of course, horror fans will find more to enjoy beyond Hannibal Lecter and Negan working side-by-side. SOLACE also contains THE WALKING DEAD alumni Jose Pablo Cantillo, Xander Berkeley, and Jordan Woods-Robinson, as well as genre staple Marley Shelton.

 

Having seen SOLACE, it’s hard not to see how it might have played as EI8HT, especially if Mills being the killer had remained intact. While not a great film by any means, there’s a nice chemistry on display between Hopkins’ John Clancy and the killer. It works as is, but it’s hard to not envision far more emotional showdowns between Somerset and Mills. That said, some things are just best left alone, especially when it comes to classics like SE7EN.

On the subject of directing such a follow-up, David Fincher was once quoted as saying “I have less interest in that than having cigarettes put out in my eyes.” That’s an extreme reaction to say the least, but a punishment that has no doubt run through the minds of fans the world over when subpar sequels are made to their favorite films. Perhaps that is the true eighth sin, at least in the realm of cinema: sullying great works with cash grab follow-ups.

EI8HT makes for an even more interesting “what if,” now that we can all have a fairly clear picture of what it would have been. At the end of the day, however, this is one “almost” sequel that I’m glad we never received. What say you, readers?

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