EXCLUSIVE: Legendary Pictures’ Paradise Lost isn’t the only film being readied on the Warner Bros lot to face a budget crisis. Arthur & Lancelot, the David Dobkin script that Warner Bros paid $2 million to acquire last summer, won’t get made unless the budget drops dramatically. I’m told that even though Warner Bros dated the film for a March 15, 2013 release and cast Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington to play Arthur and The Killing‘s Joel Kinnaman to play Lancelot, the back and forth on budget has gotten to the point that the studio has invited Dobkin to set the picture up elsewhere if he can. I’ve heard that what started as a $90 million (other sources said Warners would make it for $110 million) contemporary style re-imagining of the Sword And The Stone tale has a budget the studio fears could reach $130 million. The studio feels that is just too much for a movie with two unproven leads. After the year’s wild box office swings and last weekend’s paltry performance, who can blame Warner Bros for being cautious?
It is obviously a Warner Bros goal to tell the story of Arthur, Lancelot and the Knights of the Roundtable, because the Dobkin spec supplanted two others that the studio had in development. The studio is keen to see through Dobkin’s version of the film (the spec deal allowed Dobkin to take it elsewhere if he and Warner Bros disagreed), but I’ve heard that if Arthur & Lancelot doesn’t figure it out, Ritchie might once again be trying to pull the sword out of the stone. His Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows opens Friday and is expected to shake the box office out of its recent doldrums. Warner Bros recently gave Ritchie and his new producing partner Lionel Wigram The Man From U.N.C.L.E., after halting the version that Steven Soderbergh was working on because the studio didn’t like the budget and the casting after George Clooney dropped out.
This budget crisis news follows last night’s news that Legendary’s Paradise Lost has been halted from starting production in January because the large amount of green screen visual effects in the epic battle of good and evil swelled the $120 million budget by 10%-15%. Legendary, which has Bradley Cooper and Benjamin Walker starring, is now looking at May or later to start production in Australia on the Alex Proyas-directed film, which Warner Bros will distribute.
2011 has been a year of studios moving warily on green lights even at the risk of alienating cornerstone producers, directors and stars. Disney halted the Johnny Depp-Armie Hammer-starrer The Lone Ranger until director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer figured out how to take a budget upwards of $250 million down to $215 million. Universal jettisoning an ambitious adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series that Ron Howard was to direct with Javier Bardem starring, with three feature films and two TV series runs planned. More shocking was Universal’s decision to unplug At the Mountains of Madness, the Guillermo del Toro-directed adaptation of the HP Lovecraft tale that had Tom Cruise poised to star, because Universal would not make a $150 million horror film without a guarantee from the director that it would be PG-13 and not R rated.
Other Knights Of The Roundtable projects previously considered by WB was a remake of the 1981 John Boorman pic Excalibur that had Bryan Singer attached; there was a version that Sherlock Holmes helmer Guy Ritchie was working on with Trainspotting scribe John Hodge. There is also a Harry Potter-style take being produced by Donald DeLine that isn’t really impacted by any of this. Warner Bros would not comment on the Arthur & Lancelot situation.