Warner Bros., Tim Burton Courting Robert Downey Jr. to Star in Live-Action 'Pinocchio' (Exclusive)

Robert Downey Jr. Tim Burton Split - H 2011
<p>Robert Downey Jr. Tim Burton Split - H 2011</p>   |   Getty Images
In the version being developed at Warner Bros., the actor would play Geppetto, the woodcarver who created the boy and who spends much time trying to reunite with his missing marionette.

Tim Burton's interest in tackling a live-action version of Pinocchio is heating up, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. And Burton's choice to topline the movie is Robert Downey Jr. as Geppetto, the woodcarver who creates the puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy.

The Pinocchio story was first published in an Italian children's book written by Carlo Collodi and has been adapted several times, including the 1940 animated Disney classic. 

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In the version being developed at Warner Bros., Geppetto embarks on a quest to reunite with his missing marionette. The well-regarded script is by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. Dan Jinks (American Beauty) is producing.

Neither Burton nor Downey has a deal with Warners, but sources say Burton is keen to direct the film and has begun talks with the studio, so it's just a question of whether Pinocchio will be his next movie. The Alice in Wonderland director also is eyeing an adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children at Fox, among other projects. Warners wants to move quickly with Pinocchio, so if Burton chooses to make another movie first, the studio might move on to other directors.

According to two well-placed sources, Downey has expressed serious interest in the project (and in working with Burton), but his busy schedule must still be worked out. Warner Bros. is hoping that Burton and Downey commit soon so the project can be fast-tracked. 

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If deals are made, Pinocchio would return Downey to Warners, which is behind his Sherlock Holmes franchise, the latest installment of which currently is in theaters. Downey also starred in the 2010 Warners comedy Due Date.

Burton is currently at work finishing Warner Bros.' Dark Shadows, based on the cult television series. That film is set for release in May.

Downey is repped by CAA and Hansen Jacobson. Burton is repped by WME and Ziffren Brittenham.

There are several other Pinocchio projects in various stages of development, including a stop-motion version being shepherded by Guillermo Del Toro.

Email: Borys.Kit@thr.com, Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

Twitter: @Borys_Kit, @THRMattBelloni