UPDATED – March 27, 2017: Universal Pictures’ Untitled Doctor Dolittle project, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the title character, will be released on Friday, May 24, 2019.
Directed by Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan, the film is based on the enduring tales imagined by Hugh Lofting, with Gaghan writing the most recent draft of the screenplay from an earlier draft by Tom Shepherd.
As of now, the movie will be going up against Warner Bros’ Minecraft: The Movie, based on popular video game Minecraft. Earlier in the month, Disney’s Untitled Avengers movie will be released, followed by an Untitled DC Film set for June 14, 2019.
PREVIOUSLY – March 20: Universal Pictures won an auction for The Voyage Of Doctor Dolittle, with Robert Downey Jr. playing the title character and Stephen Gaghan directing and rewriting a Tom Shepherd script based on the 1920s children’s books by Hugh Lofting. Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum will produce for their Roth/Kirschenbaum Films, alongside Susan Downey from Team Downey.
Several studios chased this one hard. I’d heard 20th Century Fox — which made the 1967 Rex Harrison film and the redo films that starred Eddie Murphy — and Sony were in the mix at one point or another over the weekend.
A package for a branded family tentpole starring Downey — who has propelled two big franchises with his Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes characters — understandably doesn’t come cheap. Most studios don’t play in the first-dollar gross sandbox anymore, but I’ve heard this was the exception, a throwback auction where the ask was a first-dollar gross outlay around 25% on a film that will carry an event-film budget possibly north of $160 million. The dealmakers at CAA — which reps Downey and Gaghan and shopped the deal — chose a good weekend to go market with a potential global family franchise, as Disney’s Beauty And The Beast was breaking records and demonstrating what happens when a family film catches the global zeitgeist. The intention is to start production on Dolittle early next year, once Downey has completed back-to-back installments of Avengers: Infinity War.
Roth has experience producing such public domain-derived family fare as Alice In Wonderland, Maleficent and Snow White And The Huntsman. Gaghan is new to the family-film arena. He most recently directed the Matthew McConaughey-starrer Gold and helmed Syriana. He won an Oscar for scripting the Steven Soderbergh-directed Traffic. CAA repped Gaghan, Downey and Roth/Kirschenbaum; Gaghan and Downey are lawered by Hansen Jacobson and Roth/Kirschenbaum by Ziffren Brittenham. Shepherd is WME, Think Tank Management and Jackoway/Tyerman.