'Fifty Shades' Writer Kelly Marcel Tackling Disney's Live-Action 'Cruella' (Exclusive)

Cruella de Vil (Inset: Kelly Marcel)
Courtesy of Photofest; AP Images

The studio is fast-tracking the project as it cements its live-action fairy tale empire, dating no fewer than four untitled films through 2020 in addition to several movies already set for release, including 'The Jungle Book' and 'Beauty and the Beast.'

Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel is attached to write Disney's Cruella, based on the steely and well-appointed villainess Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians.

Marcel, who most recently adapted Fifty Shades of Grey, is working with Togetherness co-creator Steve Zissis on the story.

Word that Disney is fast-tracking Cruella comes after the studio dated no fewer than four untitled live-action films drawing from its animated vault. That's in addition to several movies that have already been dated: Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book (April 15, 2016), Tim Burton's sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27, 2016) and Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast (March 17, 2017).

Disney is far and away the industry leader in this space, pairing well-known filmmakers, writers and actors with classic properties. Burton's Alice in Wonderland defied all expectations in grossing $1 billion at the global box office in 2010. Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, earned a better-than-expected $758 million globally in 2014, followed by Cinderella earlier this year with $542 million.

Aline Brosh McKenna worked on an early version of the script for Cruella, produced by Andrew Gunn (Sky High, Bedtime Stories).

De Vil first appeared in Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians but became a Disney icon with the 1961 animated movie. And it's not the character's first incarnation in a live-action feature. Glenn Close played the character in 1996's 101 Dalmatians and the 2000 sequel, 102 Dalmatians.

Disney has several other live-action event films in the works. Burton is attached to direct Dumbo, while Reese Witherspoon is attached to star in and produce Tink, based on the classic Peter Pan character Tinker Bell. Witherspoon will produce Tink with Bruna Papandrea, her partner at the duo’s production banner, Pacific Standard. There's also a Maleficent sequel with Jolie and writer Linda Woolverton in the works, along with a live-action adaptation of Mulan and a Jungle Cruise project with Dwayne Johnson attached to star.

When dating the untitled fairy tale films earlier this week, Disney wouldn't say which movies might fill the four slots, which are Dec. 22, 2017; Nov. 2, 2018; March 29, 2019; and Nov. 18, 2019.

Other live-action tentpoles being plotted by Disney proper include A Wrinkle in Time, which Frozen co-director and co-writer Jennifer Lee is adapting, and Pete's Dragon.

Marcel is repped by UTA in the U.S. Zissis is repped by UTA and Abrams Entertainment.

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