Find out about the projects that Isla had at one point been rumoured to be starring in – or has auditioned for – but, for whatever reason, she never actually made.
• Guilty Party
In March 2020 Variety reported that Isla had signed on to star in and produce a half-hour dark comedy series titled Guilty Party for CBS All Access. Rebecca Addelman was reported to be writing, with Trent O’Donnell directing. The series was reported to be premiering on the streaming service in 2021.
In the half-hour series, Isla was to play Beth Baker, a discredited journalist desperate to salvage her career by latching on to the story of a young mother sentenced to life in prison for maiming and murdering her husband, crimes she claims she didn’t commit. In trying to uncover the truth, Beth finds herself in over her head as she contends with Colorado gun-smugglers, clickbait culture, the doldrums of marriage and her own tarnished past.
Julie McNamara, executive vice president and head of programming for CBS All Access said of the series: “‘Guilty Party’ is a wild ride fueled by Beth’s grit, passionate heart and desperation to redeem herself. We knew we needed a magnetic, versatile talent in the role, and Isla perfectly embodies the wholly original character Rebecca created. We are thrilled to add ‘Guilty Party’ to our growing comedy slate which includes ‘Why Women Kill,’ ‘No Activity’ and the upcoming animated ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’.” Writer Addelman added that “Guilty Party’ is a genre-bending show that tackles contemporary issues – the prison system, the death of print journalism and pervasive gun culture, to name a few – but has, at its core, smart, funny, ambitious and deeply complicated female characters. It’s been an absolute joy to write and create alongside fabulous studio, network and producing partners, and my hope is that it gives audiences a fresh take on the genre.”
In December 2020 Isla told The Telegraph Magazine that she had dropped out of the project because she didn’t feel ready to return to work given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic: “I don’t feel ready, personally. I still feel scared. It would be challenging every time I came home, thinking, ‘Could I be exposing somebody in my family?'”. Kate Beckinsale was reported to have replaced her.
In May 2020 it was announced that Isla had signed on to star in Unplugging, a comedy co-starring Matt Walsh, written by Walsh and Brad Morris, and the directorial debut of Debra Neil-Fisher. The story is about a couple who try to recapture their romance by taking a vacation in a rural town; they hope that unplugging from social media and electronics will force them to reconnect with each other and save their marriage. Their romantic weekend quickly turns disastrous with unearthly encounters, strong edibles and bizarre locals. In October 2020 it was announced that Eva Longoria had replaced Isla as the lead, due to scheduling conflicts.
• The Starling
Isla was first linked to this project in March 2017 – Keanu Reeves was also in talks to star. The film would tell the story of a married couple who lose a child and the wife goes into a recovery place to help her with overwhelming grief, leaving the husband at home alone. To help aid in her recovery, the husband decides to build a beautiful garden for his wife in their backyard, but as he does he is tormented by an aggressive, black starling. At his wits end with the relentless nature of the bird, he goes to see a veterinarian to find out if there is a humane way to get rid of it. The vet, the husband finds out, used to be a psychiatrist but gave it up to help animals instead. However, the quirky vet begins counseling the husband in a turn that neither of them really expected. Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland) was linked to direct, and the script – written by Matt Harris – was once on the Black List of best, unproduced scripts.
In 2019 it was announced that the original stars and director had left the project for unknown reasons. Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd were in talks to star, with the gender roles reversed and the tone shifting to more of a comedy. St Vincent director Ted Melfi was reported to be on board to direct.
• Desperados (2020)
In 2009 it was reported that Isla was in talks to star in Desperados, a comedy road-trip film described as a “female oriented Hangover“. The story is about a woman who sends an indignant email to her new beau, who has gone silent after they have sex, only to discover he’s comatose in a Mexican hospital. Panicking, she races south of the border with her friends in tow to intercept the email before he recovers. The initial reports about the development of the project stated that Universal had picked it up, with Mark Gordon, Jason Blum and Jennifer Todd producing.
The Playlist (now located at IndieWire.com) editors blogged that although it was “funny in fits and starts”, they “weren’t overly impressed” with the script when they saw it in 2010, and that the then-upcoming Bridesmaids looked like a safer bet at matching the success of The Hangover.
Ellen Rapoport was initially on board to write the project, with Wayne McClammy (The Sarah Silverman Show) set to direct. Come 2011, news broke that original director Wayne McClammy had left due to creative differences, and Betty Thomas (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Dr. Doolittle, Private Parts, The Brady Bunch Movie) had now signed on. The project remained quietly in development for another 8 years until 2019, when a whole new set of cast, crew and producers were announced and filming started. The film was released – with Anna Camp and Nasim Pedrad starring – on Netflix in 2020. It opened to poor reviews, but in its first weekend was the second-most streamed film on Netflix.
• Uncut Gems (2019)
The Safdie Brothers told The Playlist in 2019 that Isla was originally in line to star as Dinah, the wife of lead character Howard Ratner. Sacha Baron Cohen also did a table read for that lead role. In the end, Idina Menzel played Dinah, and Adam Sandler starred as Howard.
• Saint Judy (2018)
In 2017 backstage.com reported that Isla was in talks to star in Saint Judy, a drama about Los Angeles-based immigration lawyer Judy Wood, who changed the laws of asylum for women. While representing an Afghani immigrant who had been persecuted for opening a school for girls in her home country, Wood, by way of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, managed to have women, including female refugees, designated a protected class. Documentary director Sean Hanish was reported to be helming the film with the help of Betty Mae casting. Alfred Molina had also been rumoured to star. The original news article was quickly removed, for unknown reasons, and the filmed was developed and released in 2018 with Michelle Monaghan starring.
• Now You See Me 2 (2016)
Isla was on board to reprise her role as escape artist Henley Reeves in the follow-up to the successful Now You See Me, however, she fell pregnant and had to drop out. A new female character played by Lizzy Caplan was introduced in place of her. In June 2015 it was announced that Lionsgate were planning a third film in the series however, it seems that Isla will not be involved in this installment either.
• The Dressmaker (2015)
In 2014 it was announced that Isla was set to join the cast of Australian drama film The Dressmaker, alongside Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis, and Elizabeth Debicki. The film, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, told the story of Winslet’s character Tilly, who returns home to the remote Australian country town from which she fled as a child after being accused of murder, to make amends with her eccentric mother. Although ostracized, as an exponent of the most stunning 1950s haute couture inspired by Madame Vionnet and Balenciaga, she liberates and empowers the town’s women with her quick wit and beautiful clothing. She unexpectedly finds love and ultimately exacts sweet revenge on those who wronged her. Isla was set to play the supporting character of Gertrude, one of the townspeople. It was reported later in 2014 that Isla had to drop out of the project due to her pregnancy, and she was replaced by Sarah Snook. The film went on to become the second highest-grossing Australian film of 2015.
• Sabotage (2014)
Isla auditioned for the role of Lizzie Murray in this action/crime/thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The role originally went to Malin Akerman, but she dropped out after falling pregnant and the part was eventually played by Mireille Enos.
• This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
Isla was reportedly considered for one of the lead female roles in this comedy-drama directed by Shawn Levy.
• Iron Man 3 (2013)
In 2012 Jessica Chastain was offered the role of a “sexy scientist every bit as smart as Tony Stark” in Iron Man 3. Soon after, it was reported that she had scheduling conflicts with other movies, and would not be able to take the role. At this point, Marvel set up meetings with other actresses including Isla, Gemma Arterton and Diane Kruger to play the part instead. However, when Chastain became available again, the studios opted to go back to her, their first choice, for the role. A few days later, Jessica announced on her Facebook page that she wouldn’t be able to take the role, so the search was back on to find a “sexy scientist”. Rebecca Hall eventually landed the role.
• What To Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)
June 2011 saw several high profile Hollywood stars joining the pregnancy comedy What To Expect When You’re Expecting, including Isla, reports stated. She would take a part first offered to Kristin Wiig, who herself dropped out due to SNL filming commitments. However, once filming began there was no sign or mention of Isla on set, so we presume her involvement was either an incorrect rumour or didn’t work out.
• Your Highness (2011)
In 2009 it was reported that Isla would join James Franco and Natalie Portman in the trippy comedy Your Highness, but she did not make the movie.
• Get Smart (2008)
Isla told Total Film magazine that she auditioned for this spy comedy but didn’t get the role, possibly because the producers couldn’t see her as believable as an action star – “I remember auditioning for Get Smart and they all said ‘There’s no way she could do that stuff!'”!
• The Dark Knight (2008)
Following her turn as Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins, Katie Holmes opted not to return for the sequel, The Dark Knight. She decided to make Mad Money instead. The studio and director Christopher Nolan considered several actresses to step in as Rachel Dawes, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams and Isla. Maggie Gyllenhaal was ultimately hired.
• No Country For Old Men (2007)
Isla auditioned for the supporting role of Carla Jean Moss, the wife of lead character Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin), in this Coen Brothers Western-thriller. The role went to Kelly Macdonald.
• The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Isla recorded a voice for a character in the Simpsons movie, but her scene was eventually cut. This was reportedly due to the script being rewritten hundreds of times, including after animation has started. As a result, hours of finished animation footage was cut, including cameos from celebrities such as Edward Norton, Erin Brokovich, Minnie Driver, and Kelsey Grammer, and Isla herself. Isla joked (?) in an interview in 2013 that she was “devastated” that she was cut! She added that “I was cut out! Heartbreakingly I was axed. I played someone like a consultant who came in to prepare all the characters for the fact the world was ending. It was so funny. I got to do it with the real actors and so it was exciting. They all said: ‘You did such a great job!’ But then they cut me, so clearly they were not telling the truth. I never saw the movie, actually. I was too bitter. I’m a huge Simpsons fan, so I was devastated. I thought that was the end of my career in animation.” Clearly it wasn’t all bad though, as she has since gone on to star in several animated movies!
• First Daughter (2004)
Isla auditioned for this role but apparently was not funny enough! She recalls, “The casting director for that movie First Daughter with Katie Homes rang my agent and said, “She just wasn’t funny.” My response was, I didn’t know it was a comedy! I read the script and there wasn’t a single joke in it. I mean, forgive me for not Houdini-ing some bloody comedy out of thin air!”
• Catch Me If You Can (2002)
During an interview for Nocturnal Animals, Isla revealed that she and Amy Adams have been friends since before the internet began noting their similar looks. They first met while they were both auditioning for the role of Brenda in Catch Me if You Can. Adams ultimately won the part.
• A Film By Alan Stuart Eisner
In November 2012 producer Mike Lobell talked about starting work on an ensemble comedy with Isla, Robin Williams, Shirley MacLaine, Rob Reiner and Oliver Cooper. In 2017 Deadline reported that work would start on this later that year in New York. The story was to be a comedy about a young man trying to discover what happened to his family during WWII. As of May 2022, the film is listed on IMDB as ‘development unknown’, and no further details have been heard since the initial announcement.
• The Thin Man
In March 2012 Isla was rumoured to be one of 8 actresses being considered for the lead role opposite Johnny Depp in a re-make of 1934 comedy-mystery movie The Thin Man. The Thin Man centers around Nick Charles, a detective turned socialite, as he and his wife Nora are drawn into the investigation of a murder. Rob Marshall was set to direct, and the other actresses he was said to be considering were Eva Green, Amy Adams, Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan, Rachel Weisz, Kristen Wiig and Emily Blunt. A few months after the initial announcement it was reported that the studio – Warner Bros. – was putting the film on hold and that it hadn’t green-lit the project despite the initial announcement. As of 2020 the project has never been made and nothing further has been reported on it.
• Kiss & Tell
News came out in early 2010 that Isla was attached to star in “high concept” romantic comedy Kiss & Tell. The story centers around a woman who discovers she has the power to see exactly how a long-term relationship will unfold with a man after kissing him. Dax Shelby and Robert Stevens were reported to be penning the script based on their original idea, with Sheldon Turner (writer of 2009 hit Up In The Air) and Jennifer Klein producing for Universal. Variety reported that the project is one of the first that Debbie Liebling picked up since becoming president of production at Universal. As of September 2020, no further news has been reported on this project, although it is still listed as In Development on IMDB.
• Untitled/One Day My Princes Will Come
October 2009 saw the announcement of not one but two new projects for Isla – One Day My Princes Will Come, and Life Coach (below). Both films were acquired by Universal. The film is based off a French script entitled Un Jour mes princes viendront … translated as One Day My Princes Will Come. Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun) was attached to direct. Universal would not disclose the plot of this film, but it is a romantic comedy. Alain Chabot and Stephanie Danan were reported to be produving through Wam Films. The New York Times list Jean-Luc Goosens as the ‘source material’, presumably the writer of the French script. As of September 2020, the film is no longer listed on IMDB so likely not in development any more.
• Life Coach
The second new project announced for Isla in October 2009 was Life Coach, again acquired by Universal. Not only would Isla be starring in this, though, she is also reported to be producing it. Life Coach is a comedy about a young woman who consults a life coach who turns out to be more messed up than she is. Liz Cackowski (SNL writer) and Maggie Carey (Funny or Die Presents… writer) are writing the script, with Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Chris Henchy co-producing. Isla mentioned this movie in a 2011 interview with IndieLondon whilst promoting Rango, saying “there’s a movie called Life Coach I’m working on. Hopefully, one of them [Life Coach or Groupies] will go soon. It’s more frustrating being in development than it is to just be cast in something, obviously, because a lot of it is out of your control.” Life Coach is still listed on IMDB as being In Development, although no further news has been heard since the initial announcement.
• The Cookie Queen
Isla first mentioned Cookie Queen (or ‘Cookie Clean‘ (typo by the website?)) in an interview with Movies Online in March 2007, saying that since she started on Groupies, she’d also been working on this with two male writers. “I’m still being creative and moving more into production, and making sure I have a little bit more power and control over my career,” she told the website. The Hollywood Reporter reported the news a few weeks later, in April 2007.
The story follows Claire “Cookie” Taylor (Fisher), who holds the record for all-time girl scout cookie sales. When she learns that a precocious fifth grader threatens to end her 20-year reign as cookie queen, she sets out to sabotage her. Isla explains the story as being about “a girl who sold the most Girl Scout cookies and built her entire adult life round that. Then a nine year old girl overtakes her record and the woman descends into madness as she starts selling cookies again to get her crown back. I sold Girl Scout cookies in Australia, but, as I recall, I ate most of my box. My mom had to bail me out.”
Isla was reported to be serving as a producer on this movie although there was conflicting information on whether she co-wrote the script. Jeremy Haft and Ed Gonzalez are known to have written the script, and Universal and Mosaic Media are producing. She gave an update on the project in a July 2007 interview with Buzzine, saying that Cookie Queen has “been bought”, and explains how these projects she is developing for herself come about, saying that she will “come up with the idea, or an idea is brought to me, and then I work together with them” to develop it. Isla continued to talk about the film in interviews between 2007 and 2009, including referencing it in an unknown interview in 2009 as a project she was working on next (alongside Rango and Groupies). In 2020, the movie is still listed as ‘In Development’ at IMDB however Isla has not spoken about it recently nor have there been any new updates on its production status.
Groupies was Isla’s debut screenwriting project that she developed with fellow comedienne Amy Poehler for several years. “I was just surprised as to the lack of comedic female material there is,” Isla confessed after her breakout role in Wedding Crashers, and instead of waiting for roles to be written, she decided to dive on in and take charge of this project. The idea and story of Groupies is Isla and Amy’s own. The project was first announced by Variety in late 2005 after being acquired by Paramount, with Isla and Amy Poehler attached to star and executive produce, and Erica Rivinoja writing the screenplay. Somewhere along the line, Isla and Amy joined the script writing duties, later saying that she and Amy Poehler wrote much of the structure and the gags, and they hired Erica Rivinoja to write the actual script itself. John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels and Jill Messick were named as co-producers in the 2005 Variety announcement.
Groupies will follow two 30-year old woman who worship a rock band and follow them around on tour. One synopsis released several years ago described it as a comedy set in the world of rock ‘n’ roll groupies. Perhaps the only lifestyle that can rival the roller coaster ride rock stars follow is, well, their groupies. Theirs is a carefree, free rolling life with no regard for social norms such as having jobs, boosting savings, and planning for future. What comes, goes and this is exactly the kind of flow the movie Groupies wishes to follow. Expect a great portrayal of rock stardom as well as an apt representation of what goes behind its glitz and glamour.
Isla spoke about this project in interviews over the years – she spoke more about the writing process for the movie in an interview with Movies Online in 2007, and then in 2009 told Moviehole that she still rewrites a lot of her lines, much to “the distress of everybody that works with me!”, suggesting the script was still undergoing revisions at that point. In 2011 Isla told Indie London that Groupies is “pretty close to being ready”, and that “hopefully, one of them [this or Life Coach] will go soon.” In a 2020 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Isla spoke about her screenwriting work but added that “I’ve never been lucky enough to have anything made. In some ways I don’t feel very confident… it’s just not there yet.”
Read more about Isla’s screenwriting work here.