This Anthony Hopkins Thriller Almost Became Seven’s Sequel

Jan 26, 2023

Seven, like so many classic films, isn’t exactly calling out for a sequel… but that’s never stopped a studio from giving it a shot anyway. There are few cinematic masterpieces that have not been followed with rumblings of a potential successor, and while common sense often prevails to leave their reputation untarnished, others are not so lucky. In this regard, Seven is a rather unique example given how it fits both categories. The film does not have a sequel, but the script that was being considered as a follow-up did end up getting produced many years later under the name Solace.

Unfortunately, Solace’s all-star cast couldn’t save it from poor reviews and an even poorer box office showing, and today its connection with Seven is about the only thing preventing it from vanishing into obscurity. While any overt ties between the two films had been removed by the time it was released, the influence of David Fincher on its content remains obvious, and watching it with the knowledge of its background transforms Solace into a fascinating watch.

For a Brief Period, a ‘Seven’ Sequel Felt Inevitable

Image via New Line Cinema

But first, a little backstory. Seven marked the sophomore directing effort for David Fincher following Alien 3, but crucially it also marked the first time he wielded significant creative control – a privilege he was keen to take advantage of. While the film’s grim aesthetic and bleak ending was the subject of much criticism from the studio and critics alike, it proved to be a surprise box office hit, grossing upwards of $300 million. Its success gave Fincher the breakthrough he’d been hoping for, and within a few years his place as one of his generation’s most defining filmmakers was indisputable.

Similarly, lead actors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman also saw their careers skyrocketing to new heights, solidifying their reputation which had been growing for some time. All of these factors guaranteed that Seven was never far from the minds of cinephiles, and as one century gave way to the next, its position as one of the best thrillers ever made began to set in.

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With this in mind, it’s no surprise that New Line Cinema floated around the idea of a sequel. However, rather than rehiring Andrew Kevin Walker to pen a new story, the studio instead turned to an unrelated script courtesy of up-and-coming writers Ted Griffin and Sean Bailey called Solace. While Griffin and Bailey were quickly moving through the ranks of Hollywood after working on Ocean’s Eleven and cofounding the production company LivePlanet, respectively, Solace was written in 1996 when they were still just a pair of fresh-faced youngsters trying to break big. The script was optioned by New Line in 2001, and while it’s unclear if the studio decided before or after this acquisition that it would make a good basis for a Seven sequel, what’s certain is that it didn’t take long for these rumors to start edging their way toward reality.

On paper, retooling Solace as Seven 2 (or Ei8ht, a title that doesn’t scan anywhere near as well as Se7en) didn’t seem too difficult. Griffin has fully admitted that Seven influenced his script, and watching them side by side makes that pretty evident – both follow an investigation into a deranged serial killer who’s just as intelligent as they are insane, all told under a heavy palette of gothic-inspired visuals and philosophical dialogue concerning the nature of man.

Since Seven brought the pursuit of its killer to a decisive conclusion – of its four lead characters, two are dead, one is in jail, and the other is retired – a direct continuation would be impossible, meaning that Ei8ht would instead take the form of a standalone sequel. The suggestion was to rewrite the character of FBI Agent Joe Merriwether (played in the final film by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to enable the return of Freeman’s Detective William Somerset – practically the only bright spot in an otherwise nihilistic world. Freeman’s performance had been one of the few aspects of Seven to receive unanimous praise from day one, and given that Somerset was the character best placed for future appearances, it made sense to structure Ei8ht around him.

Connecting ‘Solace’ & ‘Seven’ Was Hard Because of the Supernatural Elements

However, there was one major stumbling block that would make connecting Solace to Seven difficult – its supernatural elements. Solace’s main character is a psychic doctor whose ability to see snapshots of the future proves invaluable in the pursuit of the killer, especially when it transpires that he too has similar powers. This is not simply a light sprinkling of sci-fi that could be easily dusted away if needed, but an essential part of the narrative that would require substantial rewrites to erase. This juxtaposition between the real and the fantastical gives Solace the vibe of one of the more lowkey episodes of The X-Files where a dash of the paranormal was used to elevate an otherwise routine police procedural narrative. This works fine when viewing Solace as a standalone film, but when trying to retroactively connect it with an existing property (especially one as grounded as Seven), it creates issues galore.

Seven is far from the most realistic film ever made – its stylized world that seems to exist outside of any specific location or time is the perfect indicator of that – but it always maintained a level of believability that made its oppressive content so much more terrifying. By contrast, the supernatural exists at the complete opposite end of credibility, and it’s hard to see how such an outrageous concept could be introduced to this franchise without irreparably damaging the trust between a film and its audience that dictates that everything they see will adhere to an internal ruleset. Thankfully Griffin has denied the longstanding rumor that Somerset was supposed to develop psychic abilities (a suggestion so terrible it would have doomed Ei8ht before it had even left the starting gate), but that still feels akin to fixing a leak on an already sunk ship.

Not that any of this mattered, because it soon became apparent that Ei8ht was a doomed project. Freeman made it clear he had no interest, and reportedly was talked out of a potential meeting with New Line by the film’s most passionate critic, David Fincher (who later said that he would rather “hav[e] cigarettes put out in my eyes” than be associated with a sequel). Given that Ei8ht had failed to gain the backing of its intended star or its predecessor’s director, it was hard to see how it could proceed. Griffin exited the project in early 2002, and the project appears to have been canceled (assuming it was ever officially in production) shortly after. In the years that followed, reports would occasionally surface that Solace (back using its original script and name) was still in development, but even after high-profile names like Paul Verhoeven and Bruce Willis became attached, a finished film would never appear.

‘Solace’ Premiered Sans Its ‘Seven’ Connection

Image via Lionsgate Premiere

It would have been easy to write off Solace as just another unproduced screenplay destined to find a place on the annual Black List before disappearing forever, but to the surprise of everyone it was eventually produced. Films that have been gestating for so long almost always warrant a viewing (if only for curiosities sake), but the fact that it dropped into cinemas the same day Rogue One and La La Land went into wide release should say enough. Not that Solace is terrible, or even particularly bad – anything that allows Anthony Hopkins to ham it up as the smartest man in the room whilst performing against a comedically over-the-top Colin Farrell is sure to elicit some fun – but it’s a film that wears its influences so proudly you’re left wondering why you’re not watching them instead. It didn’t help that Fincher had spent the intervening years writing the rulebook on psychological thrillers, or that Zodiac’s writer James Vanderbilt had contributed such uncredited material to its script, increasing Solace’s problem of feeling like a knockoff of other (better) films. For fans of the genre, it’ll pass two hours, but otherwise there’s little to recommend.

But how different things could have been. While we never did see how Detective Somerset would have responded to another serial killer who thinks their violent crusade is actually for the betterment of society, it’s interesting to consider how much this single addition would have fundamentally altered our entire perception of Solace. It would certainly have been an eyebrow-raising addition that would have gotten people talking (especially if they had gone all the way and turned him into a Final Destination protagonist), but it also would have been immensely damaging to both itself and its predecessor for the sake of raising the box office value of an otherwise unremarkable film. Not everything needs a sequel, and it’s nice to see that everyone involved with Ei8ht collectively realized that before things went too far. If only other studios could take the same lesson.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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