By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 20, 2011 at 12:32AM
Well, that didn't last long. Only two months after surprise hire Mike White took over as director on Lionsgate's adaptation of "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies," replacing the newly redeemed David O Russell (who's spent the intervening time attaching himself to half-a-dozen projects, most notably the video game adaptation "Uncharted"), Deadline bring news that the director and Lionsgate have parted company on the project, based on Seth Grahame-Smith's book, which introduces the undead into Jane Austen's classic romance.
The word is that White, a veteran screenwriter of the likes of "Chuck & Buck," "The Good Girl" and "School of Rock," whose sole directorial effort to date was the Molly Shannon indie "Year of the Dog," had a clash with a prior commitment to HBO -- with Lionsgate making the project a major priority, presumably they weren't willing to wait for him. It's possible that the schedule clash is spin to cover the old classic of 'creative differences,' but we're inclined to believe the party line here: White is writing and directing the Laura Dern-starring show "Enlightened" for the cable channel, and the show's expected to debut soon. White released a statement, saying "I loved the project and looked forward to working with Lionsgate. Unfortunately, the timing could not be worked out. I wish them the best with the movie."
In the meantime, there's now a vacancy in the director's chair for the second time in only a few months. Will the studio go back to some of the previously rumored names -- "Let Me In" helmer Matt Reeves was reportedly close to landing the gig, while Mike Newell ("Prince of Persia"), David Slade ("Twilight: Eclipse"), Neil Marshall ("The Descent"), Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") and Phil Lord & Chris Miller ("Cloudy With Chance of Meatballs") all had their names bandied about.
However, some of those names have moved on (Lord & Miller will be helming "21 Jump Street," for instance), and even those who haven't may not take kindly to being public second choices, in which case a new name may be sought out. There's one name who seems like an obvious fit, close to the project -- Darko Entertainment, the production company of "Donnie Darko" director Richard Kelly, are behind the film, and with Kelly badly needing a hit, he may be tempted to take the reins himself, assuming Lionsgate let him.
The project originated with Natalie Portman, who co-wrote the script and was originally set to play Elizabeth Bennett -- the actress dropped out shortly before Russell, although she remains a producer on the film. Since then, various names have been mentioned for the film, including Scarlett Johansson, Mia Wasikowska, Bradley Cooper, Catherine O'Hara, Tilda Swinton, and, most recently, Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy, although Hathaway is surely out at this point, with today's news that she'll play Selena Kyle in "The Dark Knight Rises."
Still, with Lionsgate hot on the project, we're sure it won't be long before another shortlist of directors appears. Followed by an offer story. Followed by an 'in talks' story. Followed by a confirmation story. Assuming it can land another director tout suite, "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" will hit theaters sometime in 2012.