David Fincher and Disney close to making a decision on launching ‘20,000 Leagues’ remake

Someone is going to make a new version of “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.”

Bold prediction, I know, but at this point, it’s inevitable.  Too many different writers have taken a crack at it lately, and in May of 2010, I wrote a piece about no fewer than three different versions that were in development at the same time.  There was the Sam Raimi version that Craig Titley wrote, there was the Ridley Scott version that Travis Beachum was writing for 20th Century Fox, and there was also a Disney version that was originally being developed for McG until David Fincher went in and pitched the studio his own version that Scott Burns was going to write.

Now, just over two years later, it looks like Fincher is close to getting a green light from the studio, and according to Variety, they are asking him to put everything else on hold for a month as they look at the numbers and decide if they can make the film.  Andrew Kevin Walker was working on the script earlier in the year, and the studio must be pretty happy with what’s on the page right now.  Variety also reports that Brad Pitt has been approached about playing the part of Ned Land, the sailor whose encounter with Captain Nemo drives the story.  If anyone can get Pitt to sign on to what sounds like a far more normal role than he normally plays, it’s Fincher, and if Pitt does sign on, that sounds like an irresistible package for Disney.

Obviously Disney has a long history with this property.  Their ’50s film was a massive success for them, and it remains one of their most iconic live-action films.  I shared it with my sons as part of Film Nerd 2.0, and they’re rewatched it a number of times since.  Toshi even picked out the way the Captain Nemo story informed “The Spy Who Loved Me” when we watched that recently.

I wouldn’t say that Fincher “needs” this movie, but a down-the-middle mainstream hit would definitely help him as he develops more personal material.  Now that Alan Horn is calling the shots at Disney, I’m curious to see how he defines the Disney brand moving forward.  This sounds like a big adventure film, and I’m guessing it would be Fincher’s most family-friendly film ever.  There’s no way Disney is going to greenlight an R-rated take on things, so we’re talking about a PG or a PG-13, more along the lines of a “Pirates Of The Caribbean” than anything we’ve seen from Fincher so far.

It sounds like they’re a long way from making any choice about “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” but if I was a betting man, i would say the odds are stacked against Fincher ever making that sequel.  The first film may have made $240 million or so worldwide, but it was also incredibly expensive, and I don’t see Sony and MGM making another one for the same price.  Fincher’s never made a sequel to one of his own films, and it seems unlikely that he’s going to wait around until Steven Zallian has some free time to finally turn in a draft of the movie.  Fincher’s got to be looking for something that is close to ready, and it sounds like “20,000 Leagues” could be exactly right for him.

There’s no decision at the moment, but with Disney putting Fincher on hold, the clock is ticking, and we’ll likely hear news about this one way or the other very soon.