By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 9, 2011 at 2:22AM
Relativity has landed Julia Roberts to star as the evil Queen in Tarsem Singh's untitled contemporary comedy adventure based on the Grimm fairy tale Snow White. The neophyte distrib starts principal photography in April with a planned June 29, 2012 release date, which puts it ahead in the race to start two rival Snow White projects. Charlize Theron is in talks to play the wicked Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman for Universal, which is negotiating to sign Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart. Meanwhile, The Playlist reports that Famke Jannsen is joining the Paramount fairy tale remake, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner.
Roberts' willingness to sign onto this Snow White means several things: she's impressed with the script by Melissa Wallack (Meet Bill) and Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher), Relativity's Oscar-contender The Fighter, and her pay check. This Snow White's evil stepmother kills her father and destroys the kingdom, forcing Snow White to bring together seven dwarfs to reclaim her domain.
This raises the issue of whether Relativity chief Ryan Kavanaugh, who bills his company as an alternative to the bloated studios, will continue to keep a lid on production costs, as he did on The Fighter, or will overpay for star power, as many upstart distribs tend to do.
Paramount developed The Fighter before Relativity took it on; the company has invested in many films produced by others. While Kavanaugh is a wily businessman with great showman instincts, he will now have to prove that he can produce and release commercial movies. Singh has style to burn (The Immortals, The Cell), but he does not have a stellar track record with critics and audiences.
Stated Kavanaugh: "Julia was our first and only choice to play the Queen. She is an icon, and we know that she will make this role her own in a way that no one else could.”
Kavanaugh will produce the film with Bernie Goldmann and Brett Ratner. Exec producers are Tucker Tooley, Jeff Waxman, Tommy Turtle, Jamie Marshall, Josh Pate and John Cheng.
[Photo of Julia Roberts by Gabriel Bouys, AFP/Getty Images.]