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Robert Zemeckis Turning 'Charles Fort' Into Period Occult Adventure Picture

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 7, 2011 at 1:26AM

Robert Zemeckis hasn't had a particularly good year. The veteran director of "Back to the Future" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" finally hit a performance capture wall when "Mars Needs Moms," the animated Disney feature from his Imagemovers company, became one of the biggest money-losers of the year, taking under $40 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. It caused the end of the deal between the Mouse House and Imagemovers, and the (blessed) cancellation of his planned remake of Beatles pic "Yellow Submarine."
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Robert Zemeckis hasn't had a particularly good year. The veteran director of "Back to the Future" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" finally hit a performance capture wall when "Mars Needs Moms," the animated Disney feature from his Imagemovers company, became one of the biggest money-losers of the year, taking under $40 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. It caused the end of the deal between the Mouse House and Imagemovers, and the (blessed) cancellation of his planned remake of Beatles pic "Yellow Submarine."

But it seems to have given the director something of a kick up the ass, as after a decade of working solely on his own dead-eyed CGI movies, he's become attached to a whole host of projects. Some, like the 3D Tom Hanks adventure "Major Matt Mason," seem to be firmly in his wheelhouse, but others, like period sea monster flick "Here There Be Monsters" or his next, the Denzel Washington-toplining drama "Flight," which has attracted a top-notch cast, seem to be slightly more of a stretch. And on the eve of "Flight" getting before cameras, he's just listed another film on his dance card.

Heat Vision reports that Zemeckis, who's made a new home for Imagemovers over at Universal, has set up "Charles Fort," a period fantasy adventure that's an adaptation of a limited Dark Horse Comics series called "Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained," which was written by Peter M. Lenkov (who also created "R.I.P.D," which is being turned into the currently filming Ryan Reynolds/Jeff Bridges actioner).

Fort, born in 1874, was a real figure, a novelist and journalist who dedicated much of his life to research in "anomalous phenomena," things like teleportation (a phrase coined by Fort), ghosts, aliens, spontaneous combustion and whatnot. He's been hugely influential in the field, with followers known as Forteans (perhaps best-known for the long-running magazine Fortean Times), and, crucially, wasn't necessarily a believer; a noted skeptic, he saw himself as a scientist offering alternate possibilities.

The idea's being sold as a "period 'Ghostbusters,'" likely to follow the comic's lead in portraying Fort as an investigator of the weird, battling aliens in 1900s New York, aided by a young H.P. Lovecraft. Evan Spiliotopoulos, writer of a big Universal 2012 project, "Snow White and the Huntsman," is penning the script, and while Zemeckis is currently only on board as producer, it's not unthinkable that he could make it his next directorial project after "Flight."

This article is related to: Films, Robert Zemeckis, Charles Fort, Evan Spiliotopoulos


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