Serious question. By a quick show of hands, how many of you are seriously excited about or interested in a film version of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”?
I ask because I’m a little confused by the way this one’s coming together. Or not coming together, as the case may be. According to Variety’s Justin Kroll and Jeff Sneider, Blake Lively has now officially passed on playing Elizabeth Bennett in the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel. I actually had to go look up who the current director of the film is, and I’m wondering if Craig Gillespie is going to stay on the film for much longer. This thing’s been through a lot of hands in the last few years, and it’s no closer to making it to the screen now than it was at the start of the process.
As a book, I guess I can acknowledge the joke, but I made it through about four chapters of the novel when it came out before I set it aside. I’m all for post-modernism and mash-up culture, but it has to add something beyond a gimmick, and I’m still not convinced that “P&P&Z” does.
When you’re aiming high in the initial stages of casting, of course you face some disappointments. Natalie Portman may have been connected to the project as a producer, but I still think it was a long shot for them to ever expect her to star in a film as potentially silly as this one.
And let’s face it… there is a huge potential for this film to be a disaster. I’m guessing the producers of the film look at this summer’s disappointing results of “Cowboys and Aliens,” a project that had so many big names involved and which just couldn’t seem to get past the perception from audiences that it was an inherently silly mash-up concept, and they wonder if they’re going to fare any better in the marketplace. This is going to be an exercise in getting tone exactly right, and I don’t think there’s anything easy about the challenge.
So while they’ve been playing round-robin on directors (so far David O. Russell, Mike White, and Gillespie have all been attached), they’ve also been struggling to find an actress wiling to risk the ridiculous. Portman was first up, and they’ve also made very public bids for Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Scarlett Johansson, and Emma Stone. None of them were up for it, and word broke last week that Blake Lively was the newest choice for Gillespie, and that he had offered her the role officially.
At what point do you accept that your material might be uncastable? I’d say they’ve worked their way completely off the A-list at this point and they’re dealing with the low end of the B-list. I saw “Green Lantern” this summer, and I’m not sure I buy the hype around Lively in general after that. Yes, the film was a mess in many regards, but she was flat-out awful in it. There are certain actors who simply don’t work in period films because of how completely modern they are, and Blake Lively onscreen feels like someone who is absolutely a product of 21st-Century pop culture. If she’s the name that the producers were chasing at this point, then maybe it’s time for them to give up the chase.
I might be wrong. Craig Gillespie might find the exact right cast and he might be the exact right guy and they may have figured out the script and they might, somehow, someday make a great version of the film. But the odds of that seem to be getting increasingly thin, and there has to be a point where people finally just decide they can’t push the rock up the hill any longer. If I were a betting man, I don’t think I’d put money down on the notion of eventually sitting in a dark theater and seeing this come to life. I guess we’ll see how some of the other Grahame-Smith projects do, like next year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” and if one of them becomes a huge hit, then I would expect this heats back up. But if that tanks, it might be the excuse the producers need to pack up, dignity intact, and quit chasing the impossible.