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OCT
6
3 YEARS

Johnny Depp to Become Dr. Seuss for Illumination and Universal (Exclusive)

The star will also produce the live action feature inspired by the life of the classic children's book author.

Johnny Depp Headshot - P 2011
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Oh, the places he'll go! It's almost too perfect: Johnny Depp as Dr. Seuss.

Illumination Entertainment and Infinitum Nihil are developing a live-action movie about the life of classic children's author and illustrator Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Geisel). Depp will produce the project with the potential to star as Seuss, and Universal Pictures will distribute. Keith Bunin (In Treatment) has been hired to write the screenplay.

Depp is producing with Infinitum Nihil partner Christi Dembrowski, Illumination's Christopher Meledandri and David Kennedy.

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With Depp already having brought to life the Mad Hatter, Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie and Willy Wonka, the iconic Seuss seems a great fit for his chameleonic personality and recent desire to make family films. While producers say that the film is unlikely to take the fantastical CGI-coated style of Alice in Wonderland, which grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide with Depp in the lead, they are not ruling out animated bells and whistles. As some of the most popular works of all time, Geisel's books have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide.

Geisel was born in 1904 and spent much of his childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts before going to college at Dartmouth. Throughout his early years, he drew advertising and comic strips, then political cartoons during World War II. By 1950, Geisel was publishing the books that became worldwide classics. He died of throat cancer in 1991.

Universal and Illumination, which paired on last year's $543-million grossing Despicable Me, are in post-production on an animated adaptation of Seuss's The Lorax, which hits theaters in March. The Seuss estate must be happy with their handling of the author's work to open up the man's life to further cinematic interpretation. Universal produced How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and The Cat in the Hat (2003) from classic Seuss works, as well.

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The UTA-repped Depp last starred in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which grossed north of a billion this year, and provided the lead voice in the animated film Rango. He will next star in The Rum Diary and the Martin Scorsese-directed Hugo, which opens at Thanksgiving. Depp has Dark Shadows, with frequent collaborator Tim Burton, hitting theaters in May, and a possible starring role as Tonto in a Disney version of The Lone Ranger.

Repped by CAA and Kaplan/Perrone, Bunin also has an adaptation of the Joe Hill novel Horns in the works with Mandalay Pictures.

Illumination produced Hop, which was released in April, and it has Despicable Me 2 in production for a Summer 2013 release. The company has projects in the works on The Addams Family, Uglydolls, Curious George and Emily the Strange.

The Geisel estate is repped by ICM.