Hollywood works in very strange ways sometimes. Case in point: how did a novel by a French writer, first published in 1870, suddenly become the source material for two competing potential blockbusters?
Back in September, director Bryan Singer announced that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, based on the classic novel by Jules Verne, would be his next project after X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters on May 27. Rick Sordelet and Dan Studeny wrote the screenplay that got a green light for production, drawn from a story by them and Singer.
Initially it wasn't clear which studio would be distributing the film, but earlier this month 20th Century Fox officially boarded the project, with production aiming to begin in the fall. Singer noted that his version would feature "not only the original characters of Captain Nemo, Ned Land and Professor Aronnax, but also some new and original characters and [sci-fi] plot twists."
Of course, the best-known screen version of Verne's novel remains Walt Disney's 1954 production, starring James Mason as the mysterious Captain Nemo, Kirk Douglas as master harpoonist Ned Land and Paul Lukas as French scientist Professor Aronnax. Disney has been developing their own new version for years. David Fincher was attached for some time and reportedly wanted Brad Pitt to star as Ned Land at one point in 2012.
Eventually, Fincher dropped out and Disney's version was evidently placed on a back burner. Now that project has coming roaring back to life in somewhat different form, with news that James Mangold (The Wolverine; Knight and Day, above right) has been attached as director, per Deadline. The upcoming movie, titled Captain Nemo, is described as an origin story, though no plot details have been revealed. Sebastian Gutierrez, whose credits include Snakes on a Plane and The Eye, is currently writing the screenplay.
If you're wondering about Captain Nemo's origin story, Verne's novel indicates Nemo suffered at the hands of an occupying nation, causing his family to be devastated before the main events take place. That suggests Disney's version will not necessarily be an underwater adventure; it could include plenty of action along with a dramatic story of family and fighting against oppression, which would speak directly to Mangold's strengths as a director.
In any event, Mangold will be busy with The Wolverine 3 until it's released on March 3, 2017, so we shouldn't expect Captain Nemo until at least 2018.