EXCLUSIVE: Bryan Singer recently got the green light to bring 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to the big screen via Fox, but now comes word that another film based on Jules Verne’s popular novel has bubbled up — and this one has Chinese backing. Bliss Media told Deadline that it will produce and finance their own 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which they say already has a deal in place to release in China. Christophe Gans (Beauty and the Beast, Silent Hill, Brotherhood of the Wolf) will direct the sci-fi adventure feature with pre-production starting this fall. Singer and Fox also plan a fall start on their film.
In addition, Disney also has a live-action Captain Nemo project in development with James Mangold attached to direct and Sebastian Gutierrez working on the latest draft. However, that one is an origin story of the Captain and not a straight adaptation of the novel.
The question now is how the competing project might affect a Fox release of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in the Middle Kingdom? Bliss CEO Wei Han will produce their version of the film alongside Eskwad’s Richard Grandpierre and Frédéric Doniguian, with Wild Bunch, TF1 and Pathé also on board to co-produce and distribute.
While the Chinese have remade western titles before, this is one of the rare times — maybe the only time — that it has taken a classic Western IP novel to adapt for local sensibilities. The production is looking to cast two Chinese actors to play lead roles in the movie. The film, whose script is being co-developed with Bliss Media, will move Verne’s narrative to a Chinese setting, and concept art indicates a fin de siècle, East-meets-West visual aesthetic. It will be multi-lingual.
The Jules Verne novel has been made into films and television shows and even a video game in the past, but doubtful any have made it into China before.
Word of this new version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea film comes after Gans visited different locations in the Shanghai area during the Shanghai International Film Festival. Gans spoke of both his and Jules Verne’s long-standing fascination with China during the festival.
Given that Disney just opened its theme park in Shanghai and Bliss has offices in Shanghai, it makes sense that the company would be looking for opportunities to capitalize on for the property. Disney long had a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride which was quite popular in its time (it closed in 1994 after 23 years at Walt Disney World) but has no 20,000 Leagues ride in Shanghai. At least not yet.
In addition to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Bliss is also developing Michael Mann’s Enzo Ferrari; has recently financed and executive produced Pablo Larraín’s Jackie starring Natalie Portman; and acquired the Chinese distribution rights to Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield.
The company also owns a stake in Insiders, alongside Wild Bunch and Cine France and launched the Yoozoo Bliss Film Fund (YZBFF), a $100M equity fund designed to finance ten international productions and Chinese co-productions over five years.
Bliss Media has offices in Shanghai and Los Angeles and is tasked with creating opportunities for Chinese companies to directly participate in the investment, production and distribution of international films, connecting the Chinese film industry with the international market.
Gans and Bliss are both repped by CAA, which is handling the domestic distribution rights.