Sam Esmail’s years-in-the making adaptation of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis became one of the first major casualties of the 2023 Hollywood strikes. Seven weeks into the WGA work stoppage, the UCP studio, where Esmail has been under an overall deal, pulled the plug on the big-budget series, which had been prepping in Australia with a partial cast set, including Briana Middleton and Lindy Booth.
Because of the strike, Esmail could not comment on the cancellation at the time. He shared his reaction tonight on the red carpet for his upcoming Netflix movie Leave the World Behind starring Julia Roberts and Mahershala Ali.
“Obviously, it was heartbreaking,” he told Deadline. “But during the strike, we all understood. And I got to work with a lot of talented people out in Australia, where we were mounting the production. It was a really good experience, and I don’t regret it for a second.”
As Deadline reported at the time, since production drafts of the scripts for the large-scope, special effects-heavy series had not been finished before the May 2 start of the writers strike, that delayed setting budgets and other key elements of pre-production.
After seven weeks of limbo, UCP evaluated the money spent to date and the risk of going forward amid rising costs related to pushing the start of production, building and holding expansive stages, labor and VFX work while a WGA strike was going on and a SAG-AFTRA strike was looming. The studio ultimately opted to not proceed with the series and notified their partners at Apple TV+.
“Push costs and uncertainty related to the ongoing strike led to this difficult decision,” a rep for the studio told Deadline at the time.
The filming was to take place in the state of Victoria where it was projected to create nearly 4,000 jobs, making use of one of the world’s largest ‘virtual production’ infrastructures, according to the April 2022 announcement.
Metropolis had been a passion project for Mr. Robot creator Esmail. He was writer, director and executive producer on the eight-episode series which he had been working on for more than seven years.
Is this the end for Metropolis, the TV series?
“As of right now, it’s officially over but it’s Hollywood, who knows?,” Esmail said.
Watch a video of his comments to Deadline below.