One of the highlights for me at this year’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon was seeing the Charles Laughton version of “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” on a theatrical screen. I’ve seen that one many times, but always at home, and it’s the sort of experience that benefits from being seen on as big a screen as possible. Part of that is the impressive production design, but much of what I feel benefits from being blown up that big is Laughton’s performance.
Quasimodo is one of those roles that actors are drawn to because of the various opportunities that it represents. And with Josh Brolin, I can tell you that he is absolutely fascinated by the world of make-up heavy performances. When I visited the set of “Jonah Hex” and talked to him about the appliances he had to wear in that film, he was loving the restrictions it placed on him as an actor. And while that film didn’t really work out for Brolin, it sounds like it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm at all.
After yesterday’s wins at the Academy Awards and the billion-or-so dollars it earned at the box-office worldwide, “Alice In Wonderland” is going to serve as a template for a whole lot of movies that are going to be greenlit in the next few weeks and months. And in particular, it’s going to make it very, very easy for a studio to say yes to any classic story with Burton’s name attached.
So it seems like serendipity that Josh Brolin and Tim Burton are developing a new take on “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” for Warner Bros. with Kieran and Michele Mulroney writing the film. They were the writers on the “Justice League” film that Warner almost made a few years ago, and they recently wrote the new “Sherlock Holmes” sequel as well.
Right now, there’s no guarantee Tim Burton will actually direct the film, but it certainly fits in with his thematic concerns, and I would imagine that if the script works, he’ll sign on. It’ll be too tempting for him to resist. After all, you’ve got a deformed outside, you’ve got a tragic love story, you’ve got the world of early ninteenth-century Paris… it’s like a buffet for Burton.
And for Brolin? It’s a chance to play against type, and I sense that he’s not comfortable in the leading man skin he occupies, and that he’d be much happier as a less-attractive but more-interesting character type. Make-up seems like a great way for him to make that happen.
We’ll see if they can get this one to the finish line, but if they do, I’m sure we’ll have more on it as it comes together.