By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist September 15, 2011 at 9:58AM
Meet Jason Keller, the last honest man in Hollywood. The writer recently attended the premiere of "Machine Gun Preacher" and the party hearty Vulture were there in attendance and couldn't help but ask Keller about the still untitled Snow White movie he penned for Relativity. You know, the one that has been competing bitterly with Universal's "Snow White And The Huntsman" over release dates, with Relativity so desperate to come out on top first that Tarsem is already filming for a release date of March 16, 2012. That's right, he's got less than a year to crank this sucker out. And according to Keller, when he was first hired in December last year, Relativity were so hungry to get things rolling that they started getting production departments open before he had even finished the script.
"'Snow White' I wrote in December 2010, and that is unheard of, in terms of writing a script and going into production when it did," he explained. "I'm just being very frank about it ... at the end of last year, [Relativity] looked around, and they saw Universal was coming out with a Snow White. But they had a script that wasn't really working, but they knew they wanted to try to keep that, so when they hired me, the first conversation we all had about that was, 'How do we beat that other project?' So it was literally something like, 'We want to beat that other project. We are very, very motivated to do a Snow White project.'"
"I pitched them a take on it," he said, "and in the same meeting I pitched them a take on it, Tarsem was in the room, he said, 'I like that take,' the studio was in the room, they said, 'We like that take,' and that minute, they commenced me writing — this is December — and they opened the art department, they opened the costume department, and they started scouting locations. All in the same minute! It hadn't even been written yet! It was all because there was a derby race. And it all happened to work. I happened to write a script that was good enough in a very short enough period of time to get Julia Roberts, and we didn't then have to wait for art and costumes because they were already going. So it was a super-cool way to write a movie."
With Roberts as the Queen, Sean Bean as the King and Armie Hammer as Prince Andrew Alcott, the story will strike a tone between adventure and comedy with Snow White teaming up with a pack of seven dwarfs to take on her evil stepmother who has destroyed the kingdom and killed her father. Keller insists the Relativity picture is far lighter and less intense than the Universal movie and the two pictures will be quite different from one another.
"Ours is not dark. I mean, I know 'Snow White and the Huntsman' is very intense, and lots of chain mail, and armor, and Kristen Stewart has a sword. Ours is an adventure, ours is funny — it's a comedic adventure! And there's some great action in it. It's stunningly gorgeous, and it's fun ... Ours will be PG or PG-13, and the other one will probably be a R. We don't know yet. But ours is nothing like theirs," Keller explained.
So the big question that remains is whether or not Tarsem's rushed film will do justice to Keller's script, which was good enough to grab the attention of Julia Roberts, or if the premise in general was so strong from the start that it could be thrown straight into production. Turning movies around on a dime is certainly nothing new -- "X-Men: First Class," "Green Lantern" and the upcoming "Hunger Games" are two recent examples of films that are being delivered under a severe schedule -- but given the public pissing match between the two movies the stakes are raised even higher for Tarsem's film not only to just be good, but great. If it flops there will be a lot of egg on faces and finger pointing, but if it's a hit, Relativity will be able to strut their stuff. Either way, Keller's frank assessment of what happened is pretty refreshing and we'll soon see if his script was worth the rush.