By Edward Davis | The Playlist July 17, 2013 at 10:26AM
With two major blockbuster flops in two years (“John Carter,” “The Lone Ranger”), the conventional wisdom follows that Disney is probably not green-lighting any major, untested would-be franchises anytime soon (even the the trio behind “The Pirates of The Caribbean” films, Bruckheimer, Depp and Verbinski proved nothing’s a sure thing). And so eyes immediately turned to David Fincher’s ambitious $200 million-plus, 3D tentpole adaptation of “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.” Given the recent announcement that Fincher would be directing the thriller “Gone Girl” with Ben Affleck this fall, we assumed the Jules Verne project had been scrapped, for the simple reason that Disney is not going to bankroll a potentially risky project.
However, after doing some digging, sources close to the project and the Fincher camp tell us “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” has been dead, at least from the Fincher side of things, for months. That report in April about the film receiving its funding down under was apparently a desperate bid by the Aussie government to entice the filmmakers and producers into continuing with this project that would bring millions of dollars in jobs to their movie industry. But as “Gone Girl” suggests, Fincher has moved on and had done so months ago. Not that he didn’t try to make 'Leagues' happen.
“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” filmmaker needed a star and when his first choice Brad Pitt passed, Fincher had a tough time recasting and agreeing with Disney on who should lead the film. Daniel Craig and Matt Damon were both approached by Fincher, but a long, 140 day shoot in Australia was too much for each actor, who didn’t want to be apart from their families for that long (Damon’s father has been struggling with cancer as well, so that’s a greater concern for the actor). While Channing Tatum's name cropped up earlier this year as one Fincher was considering, Disney apparently weren’t so hot on the idea of the rising, but not-quite A-list actor leading a massively expensive project that already seemed dark, risky and expensive. Disney then wanted Chris Hemsworth, but Fincher decided to cut his losses and move on.
The director has his eyes set on the new project “Gone Girl” which will shoot this fall, and casting is underway, with the female lead now being sought (THR reports that Rosamund Pike now the frontrunner ahead of recently mentioned contenders Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt). It wouldn’t be the first time Fincher (or any other filmmaker for that matter) has developed a project for a few months and eventually abandoned it (see “Chef,” “Torso,” “Heavy Metal,” “Rendezvous With Rama”), and so he's pressing on to newer pastures.
Meanwhile, movement has been brewing on another David Fincher project recently. Sources close to the filmmaker’s camp tell us Andrew Kevin Walker, “Seven” screenwriter and the scribe who also worked on “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” has been hired to quietly work on the the script for “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” the sequel to “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” A ton of money has already been spent on the sequel, with Steve Zaillian paid a hefty sum to write the first draft, and Sony don’t want to just write off that film, hence pursuing the sequel and trying to maintain whatever momentum that franchise has left. This is good news for fans of Fincher and the ‘TGWTDT’ series (Walker is apparently almost done with his draft), but there’s a catch.
The window to shoot “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is incredibly small, and both Fincher and Craig are busy this fall. The director will be shooting "Gone Girl," while the actor is hitting Broadway to star in the play "Betrayal" opposite his wife Rachel Weisz, with the show running from October 1st to January 5, 2014. 'Played With Fire' would need to arguably shoot in early 2014, otherwise Sony would have to wait even longer as Daniel Craig will likely be busy for a large chunk of next year, shooting the Sam Mendes-directed "Bond 24" (which already has a 2015 release date). That's not to mention that Fincher will likely require several months of post-production on “Gone Girl.”
So the question is, does Sony wait until 2015 to start shooting the “Dragon Tattoo’ sequel or do they simply go with another director? The answer may have already arrived as THR notes that "Fincher's chances of helming ['Played With Fire']...are all but dead." Fincher signed a pay or play deal and gets rewarded handsomely whether he directs it or not, but Sony was said to not be happy when “Gone Girl” was announced last week, and it appears they are now prepared to continue the Millenium series without the director.
Still lots more to come and things can change at any time, but let us know what you think below.