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Scott Z. Burns Says David Fincher's '20,000 Leagues' Aiming For Thematic Mix Of Technology, Commerce & Humanity

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist February 6, 2013 at 2:05PM

As far as big-budget extravaganzas go, there are a few that keenly attract our attention, and one of them is the proposed adaptation of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" that Disney is potentially mounting with director David Fincher and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. A large-scale piece of mainstream entertainment crafted by the duo behind edgier recent fare like "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and "Contagion" is an intriguing idea. And when we talked to Burns about "Side Effects," his new psychosexual thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh (our review here), we had to ask him about the progress of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus.
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20,000 Leagues Under The Sea David Fincher Scott Z. Burns

As far as big-budget extravaganzas go, there are a few that keenly attract our attention, and one of them is the proposed adaptation of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" that Disney is potentially mounting with director David Fincher and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. A large-scale piece of mainstream entertainment crafted by the duo behind edgier recent fare like "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and "Contagion" is an intriguing idea. And when we talked to Burns about "Side Effects," his new psychosexual thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh (our review here), we had to ask him about the progress of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus.

When we asked where the movie was, exactly, in the pipeline, Burns sounded cautiously optimistic. "I think they're getting closer to pulling the trigger," he said. He continued: " The last time I talked to anybody about it, it did seem like it was slowly marching in a good direction. I desperately want that movie to get made because I'm a huge David Fincher fan and I just want to go to the movie." Burns says that since the last time he was on the project, he knows additional work has been done on the script. "I know that David did some more work on the script with Andy Kevin Walker, who is a brilliant writer and wrote 'Seven.'"

Burns then summed up Fincher thusly, speaking in a kind of appreciative awe: "David can do things that only David can do and so it's sort of a different world than other things. It needs to be David and he needs to have exactly the tools that he wants and it's kind of awesome to be around because he's visionary on a whole other level."

At one point Fincher had said that one of the reasons was excited about "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (which Disney had made memorably once before, with Kirk Douglas as Ned Land and James Mason as Captain Nemo) was the opportunity to make a science fiction film set during the Civil War. Burns said that their goal was to create a bold clash of personalities and ideologies.

"I think both of our goal was to make Captain Nemo, as he is in the book, a very complicated character, because there's some things that he say says and explores that are really profound and amazing but there is some behavior that he engages in that is horrific and criminal," Burns said. "And there's a really interesting triangle, between him and Ned Land and the Professor, of three things that continue to march through time since the Industrial Revolution, and that's technology and commerce and humanity. And these three things tugging at each other inside a submarine is what I wanted to get at."

Sounds pretty awesome and ambitious. And in 3D! "Yeah, in 3D no less," Burns confirmed.

So we'll how it develops, but if you need a fix of Fincher, "House Of Cards" is available on Netflix right now. Meanwhile, "Side Effects" opens on Friday.

This article is related to: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Captain Nemo, David Fincher, Scott Z. Burns


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