Now that the dust has settled around “The Hunger Games” helmer Gary Ross’ exit following the first entry in the multi-million dollar film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular book series, it looks as if he’s finally decided to start picking that next project he can use his 'Hunger Games' cachet on to get going. He did sign on for "Houdini" over at Summit, and while he was rumored to be eyeing "Tarzan" at Warner Bros., we were told the director would not be swinging from the jungle vines anytime soon. Instead, it was revealed Ross would be heading to Neverland with Disney, tackling the tale of another group of kids – albeit ones who never grow up.
Ross was negotiating to helm “Peter Pan and the Starcatchers” -- a Peter Pan prequel of sorts based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson – but now Deadline is reporting that not only is he a lock for the director’s chair, but it’s his next picture. The story takes place long before the events of author J.M. Barrie’s "Peter Pan," an adventure that starts when Peter leads a group of orphaned boys (Re: The Lost Boys) sent to work as servants for King Zarboff away from the tyrannical ruler. He winds up on a ship with a girl named Molly, who lures him in with a story of how she is an apprentice Starcatcher, which basically involves her capturing “starstuff” that falls to Earth, and is able to empower those who stumble upon it. They must keep it away from the king, as well as make sure it doesn't come in the hands of Black Stache (who later becomes Captain Hook). Obviously for Disney this is a good move, as the franchise potential is enormous, with three sequel-prequel books on shelves (sound familiar?), along with a Tony-winning Broadway production having already hit the stage.
Ross is apparently waiting on another draft of the screenplay by writer Jesse Wigutow, which is due in October. Disney probably wants to beat “Warrior” helmer Gavin O’Connor's “Neverland,” with a screenplay by Billy Ray and produced by “Magic Mike” team Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin, and we could potentially have a revisionist battle on our hands a la “Mirror, Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” (with 'Huntsman' producer Joe Roth on “Neverland” as well). We just hope that if he kickstarts another franchise, he can finally get sci-fi actioner “Outback” with Carey Mulligan in front of cameras soon after.