UPDATE: I’ve begun hearing directing candidates to replace David O Russell for Lionsgate’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies: Mike Newell (Prince of Persia) is the early front runner, but they are still meeting filmmakers and I am hearing Descent’s Neil Marshall is in the mix. Details below.
EXCLUSIVE: One of Hollywood’s biggest directing gigs looks done. Darren Aronofsky’s deal to direct 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2 is close enough that discussion has turned to shooting the sound stage portions of the film in New York so the filmmaker and Hugh Jackman don’t have to inconvenience their families. A March start date is being eyed so that Aronofsky has time to open Black Swan and be available for the inevitable awards season obligations. When the New York scenes are completed, they’ll head to Japan to shoot the bulk of the Christopher McQuarrie-scripted movie. Deadline told you last week that Aronofsky had set his sights on Wolverine after passing on the Warner Bros period crime drama Gangster Squad.
With the Wolverine job all but sealed, what’ll be the next hot job helmers will compete for? I’m told a lot of directors are lining up for Lionsgate’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, the Seth Grahame-Smith revisionist novel that enhances Jane Austen’s tale of class and manners in 19th Century England with the much-needed infusion of bloodthirsty brain-eating zombies. I’m told that after Natalie Portman backed out of playing Elizabeth Bennet, David O Russell had Scarlett Johansson ready to play the heroine and Bradley Cooper to play Mr. Darcy. Then, Russell himself left to focus on his collaboration with Vince Vaughn Old St. Louis and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune at Sony.
Lionsgate claims no cast is set and that other actors are in the mix too. And certainly a new director might want to pick their own leads. So consider them front runners, and Johansson showed she can handle the action when she played Black Widow in Iron-Man 2. Directors are lining up because the Pride, Prejudice and Zombies script that Russell leaves behind is strong. Don’t be surprised to see David Slade in the mix here. He was a finalist for not only Wolverine 2 but also Lionsgate’s Hunger Games, a job that went to Gary Ross. And beyond scoring a hit last summer with Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Slade’s got a distinguished horror credit in 30 Days of Night.