It’s moments like these when I lose a little faith that anyone in Hollywood operates with even the slightest code of honor.
When McG first started making noises about a “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” remake, it already struck me as a bit of dirty pool. Craig Titley had a new version in development already with producer Sam Raimi, and their script had already been in development for a while, and well-liked around town. I wasn’t worried, though, because I knew that the Raimi film had a director circling the project, and I had every confidence that if it came down to a shooting match between Fincher and McG, Fincher was going to win.
Now it looks like Fincher has indeed beaten McG, but not in the way I expected.
Evidently, Fincher approached Disney about his desire to make a “20,000 Leagues” movie with a take of his own, and he brought screenwriter Scott Z. Burns in with him. Disney, pleased to be able to keep their version alive, is in final negotiations to hire both Fincher and Burns right now, and it appears that if it is going to happen, it would be right after Fincher wraps production on his American adaptation of the uber-popular first chapter in the Millennium Trilogy, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
So… let me get this straight, because I’m having trouble believing that Fincher really is that open a douche. You circle a version of “20,000 Leagues” for a while. You get involved in development. And then you go to another studio and pitch them your own version and leave the first version you helped develop high and dry?
The interesting thing about the Titley/Raimi version is how it brought in material from the original Jules Verne novel that no one’s used yet in any film version of the story, and the narrative drive that it gave to Nemo. For the first time, the suggestions inherent in the novel were tied together in a very strong way that made it work as a story. I love the original book, but it’s episodic by nature. It offers up opportunities for both character and story that have only been touched on in previous versions.
20th Century Fox obviously thinks so, too, since it appears that they’re also developing a version for Ridley Scott to produce with Travis Beachum writing. Beachum wrote an early and well-liked draft of “Clash Of The Titans,” and his spec “A Killing On Carnival Row” was incredibly acclaimed. Beachum’s obviously a good writer, and the idea of a futuristic take on “20,000 Leagues” has at least some potential to be something radically different. Still, the marketplace isn’t going to support three separate films all riffing off of the same material, so something’s going to fold.
At this point, all three versions have solid talent attached, so what it’s going to come down to is which company pulls the trigger first.
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