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Warner Bros. and Team Downey are moving forward with their live-action take on Pinocchio and have enlisted Paul Thomas Anderson to write a draft with an eye toward directing.
Though the film would seem far outside of Anderson’s wheelhouse, the move shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Robert Downey Jr. was poised to star in Anderson’s Inherent Vice until his Avengers: Age of Ultron obligations got in the way and Joaquin Phoenix stepped in to play the lead. Downey and Anderson are good friends and have been looking to work together for some time.
The Giver writer Michael Mitnick penned the latest draft of Pinocchio, and Downey has been quietly tweaking the script for the past six months. Downey has been developing Pinocchio for years, but the project has found new urgency in the wake of a string of live-action hits based on kids’ classics, most recently Disney’s Cinderella.
Ever since auteur Tim Burton turned Alice in Wonderland into a billion-dollar live-action franchise and the Angelina Jolie starrer Maleficent earned $758 million worldwide last year, the studios have been angling to set up projects based on live-action kids’ tales, with A-list directors flocking to the projects across town.
Disney is bringing Beauty and the Beast to the big screen in March 2017 with Emma Watson in the lead and Bill Condon directing. Jon Favreau is filming The Jungle Book, also for Disney, for an April 2016 release. Not to be outdone, Warners has its own Jungle Book in production that stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett. That version, which will be released Oct. 6, 2017, will be a mix of live-action and performance capture CGI.
Over at Universal, a live-action version of The Little Mermaid is in the works, though Sofia Coppola recently dropped out due to creative differences. Burton, who was initially attached to direct Pinocchio, will instead direct a live-action Dumbo for Disney.
Downey is onboard to play Geppetto in the tale about a wooden puppet who wants to become a human boy. Bryan Fuller and Jane Goldman wrote previous drafts of the story that is based on a novel by Carlo Collodi. Downey, who most recently starred in Ultron, has a long-standing relationship with Warners (he recently starred in The Judge for the studio). He will produce Pinocchio alongside Team Downey partner Susan Downey as well as Dan Jinks (Milk).
Anderson is a six-time Oscar nominee who received a director mention for 2007’s There Will Be Blood. He most recently received a screenplay nomination this year for Inherent Vice.
Anderson is repped by CAA and Jackoway Tyerman. Mitnick is repped by WME, Grandview and Sloane Offer.
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