Unraveling the Lengthy Journey of Making a ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Movie: The Reasons Behind the Delays

Almost a decade ago now, in the summer of 2014, the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game was released. It was a quick hit due to its simple yet effective frightening premise which finds the player working security all alone at night at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The only bad thing about this restaurant is that the Chuck E. Cheese-like animatronics come to life at night with the intention of killing you.

Players were so enamored with the game that it spawned seven sequel games and several more spin-offs, as well as a few novels. The Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise has been one of the most popular with game players. Hollywood quickly took notice as well, with the intention of turning the game into a feature film. Fans were excited by what could easily be a fun, big-hit horror movie, but it wasn’t that easy. Before anyone could make a movie, they first had to win over the creator of Five Nights at Freddy’s, Scott Cawthon. That wasn’t as easy as most assumed it would be.

RELATED: First ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Trailer Brings the Horror Video Game to Life


On April 7, 2015, a year after the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game was released, The Hollywood Reporter broke the exclusive news that the now videogame franchise was soon to become a feature film. They reported that the film would be produced by Vergo Entertainment, specifically by Roy Lee, alongside Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg of KatzSmith Productions. “We’re looking forward to working with Scott to make an insane, terrifying and weirdly adorable movie,” Grahame-Smith said. “The story really lends itself to being a movie, and it taps into a largely unexplored niche of horror that a lot of people will be able to relate to,” added Cawthon. No writers had been announced at the time.

Warner Bros. was to be the distributor. Those involved were also behind a Beetlejuice sequel that didn’t happen at the time, as well as Cary Funkunaga’s version of It, which also never came to be. The team struck out three times because even though Five Nights at Freddy’s was announced, it was never made.

After failing to settle on a script, the film left Warner Bros. in 2017. Gil Kenan, who had been tapped to direct the feature, took to Twitter to confirm rumors that he was no longer attached as director. That same year Five Nights at Freddy’s was picked up for development by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse. That wouldn’t be the end of the delay, however.


By 2018, Five Nights at Freddy’s had another script. This one would be written by Chris Columbus, the man who not only directed Home Alone and a few of the Harry Potter films but who also got his start as the writer of Gremlins, a movie very similar in tone to what Five Nights at Freddy’s aims for. It seemed like a perfect pairing. Jason Blum loved the script. There was only one huge problem. The game’s creator did not.

Jason Cawthon took to an online game forum (via Variety) to say, “OK guys, I had a script written; Jason liked it, and Chris Columbus liked it too, but I tossed it. I had a different idea for it, one that I liked better. I take responsibility for this delay; it’s my fault. I’m determined to find the right story. I’m sticking to what I’ve always said, either the right movie gets made or no movie gets made. I hate delaying a project that’s already seen so many delays, but I have to go with my instincts on what I think will be exciting and interesting, and what I think the fanbase will really want to see. If that means that I have to start over ten more times, then that’s what I’m going to do. The good thing is that each attempt gets better and better, in my opinion. So, despite the delays, it’s going in the right direction.”

By early 2021, Cawthon said the film was set to start filming in the spring. Jason Blum told Collider in September 2021 that Chris Columbus had left the film, adding, “We’ve written multiple scripts, and we’ve got where we’re threading a needle, which is doing justice to Five Nights at Freddy’s and making Scott (Cawthon) happy. The only way that we would go about it is giving Scott … I don’t want to do something that Scott doesn’t like. Let me say that a different way. I don’t have the right to do anything Scott doesn’t like. Basically, Scott has kind of like the equivalent of ‘final cut’ and it’s taken longer than I hoped to get the right story.” Blum also said, “We’re a long way from giving up. And I’m confident eventually I will figure it out.”

The hold-up for any Five Nights at Freddy’s film gave down to creator Scott Cawthon. “I don’t have to right to do anything Scott [Cawton] doesn’t like,” Jason Blum told Collider. Blum and Columbus might be powerful men in Hollywood, but despite their best wishes, it didn’t matter what they wanted as long as Cawthon was saying no. He had the final say.

Finally, in October 2022, Five Nights at Freddy began to take its final form. Cawthon accepted a new script and a new director was announced — Emma Tammi. Tammi co-wrote the script alongside Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback. There was more great news to go with it, as it was revealed that Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would be designing the animatronics. In a statement at the time, Jason Blum said, “Five Nights at Freddy’s is more consistently asked about than any other film I’ve ever worked on, and I’m thrilled to confirm it’s finally happening! With Emma Tammi at the helm, we’re committed to making Scott’s vision of the movie come to life. Rest assured, it will be and is worth the wait.”

Casting began not long after, with Josh Hutcherson hired for the lead role of poor security guard Mike Schmidt, and horror fan favorite Matthew Lillard cast as William Afton, Fazbear Entertainment’s owner. Universal Pictures became the distributor.

With a teaser trailer just released, Five Nights at Freddy’s is finally here, as it’s set to be released in theaters and on Peacock on October 27. The only issue is, did the film miss its best shot? Almost a decade has passed since the first game was released. If a film had come out around 2016 as intended, it would have been able to rely on the game’s massive popularity. While the franchise is still popular, it’s not where it was then. Any film that comes out not risks being seen as nostalgia that missed its chance to be timely. Still, let’s just be happy that it’s actually happening. Better late than never.

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