Disney hired noted action director John McTiernan to work on the film. The studio plowed through several more drafts of a script, including one by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who went on to pen the screenplays for Aladdin, Shrek, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. McTiernan offered the leading roles to Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts, but Cruise was reportedly unhappy with the script. McTiernan left the project when he realized that the visual effects of the time would not allow him to tell the story the way he wanted to.
Carolco went under in 1994, sidelining the project for about a year. Disney took another stab at a film, hiring novelist George R. R. Martin to co-write a screenplay with writer Melinda Snodgrass. Martin was not fond of the source material, and Disney apparently didn’t think much of his script. The studio announced in 2000 that it would not pursue the project any further.
Two years later, Paramount picked up the film rights and by 2004 the studio had convinced Robert Rodriguez to direct. Rodriguez was interested in the project, and he wanted to hire Burroughs illustrator Frank Frazetta to help him with the film’s design. When Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild of America, the studio dropped him from the project. Paramount hired Kerry Conran and later Jon Favreau to direct the film, but the studio relinquished the rights in 2006.
Independent studio The Asylum released a direct-to-DVD adaptation of A Princess of Mars in 2009, starring Antonio Sabato, Jr. and Traci Lords. That movie is set in the modern era, with John Carter a veteran of Afghanistan rather than the Civil War.