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Why Studios Raid Indies Like 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' Director David Lowery, Signed to Reinvent Disney's 'Pete's Dragon'

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 20, 2013 at 1:03PM

David Lowery, director of Sundance's buzzy Western "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," has been tapped by Disney to co-write with his producer Toby Halbrooks a reinvention of the Mouse House's classic family film, "Pete's Dragon." Reportedly it will not be a musical, as the 1977 original is, and at the moment Lowery has only been hired in a writing capacity.
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David Lowery
David Lowery

David Lowery, director of Sundance's buzzy Western "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," has been tapped by Disney to co-write with his producer Toby Halbrooks a reinvention of the Mouse House's classic family film, "Pete's Dragon." Reportedly it will not be a musical, as the 1977 original is, and at the moment Lowery has only been hired in a writing capacity. "Pete's Dragon" was a live-action film about a lonely orphan who moves to a  Maine fishing town with his often invisible--animated-- dragon pal.

This seemingly random departure from Lowery's wheelhouse actually fits a trend of hot indie directors -- often out of Sundance -- being signed on for a large studio property, presumably at an appealing price. They also tend to be more malleable than their A-list brethren. Colin Trevorrow, who helmed quirky time-travel comedy "Safety Not Guaranteed," was recently announced to direct Universal's "Jurassic Park 4," while James Ponsoldt ("The Spectacular Now," "Smashed") became attached to Fox 2000's YA property "Pure" back in January. 

Marc Webb's "Amazing Spider-Man" hit theaters this past summer, with the sequel currently filming; before those titles, the director had "(500) Days of Summer," starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to commend him. But for every Christopher Nolan, who swiftly moved from "Memento" to "Insomnia" to "Batman," there's a Darren Aronofsky or Lynne Ramsay, who abruptly left "Jane Got a Gun" just before the film was scheduled to start shooting. Some directors are not meant to give up their independence. Indie John Sayles for decades has accepted paychecks from the studios as a writer-for-hire while maintaining total control of his low-budget movies.

Multi-hyphenate Lowery has put in his 10,000 hours: he has long worked in the micro-budget indie sphere as producer, cinematographer and editor, and is in complete control as writer-director of his own films, which show style and a deft hand with actors. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," which stars Casey Affleck, Ben Foster and Rooney Mara, was picked up by IFC during the Park City fest, and will play best for art-house crowds when it opens this August. 



This article is related to: News, Disney , David Lowery, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Walt Disney Pictures, News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.