Next Disney Fairy Tale Blockbuster? How About ‘Trance’ Scribe Joe Ahearne Reimagining ‘Beauty And The Beast?’

EXCLUSIVE: Hot on the heels of another splashy revisionist fairy tale opening in Oz The Great and Powerful, Disney is in talks with UK-based writer Joe Ahearne to reinvent its Beauty And The Beast franchise. Ahearne most recently scripted Trance, the film that Danny Boyle directed and then completed between his production of the Opening Ceremonies of the last Summer Olympics in London. This will be live action, and most certainly 3D.

Disney is calling this film The Beast, and considering the subject matter of Trance — an art auctioneer is pummeled so badly by his criminal cohorts that a hypnotherapist is needed to coax out the memories of where he hid a priceless painting — indicates that this revisionist take on Beauty and the Beast could be a bit on the dark side.

The film will be produced by Mandeville’s David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman and Disney’s LouAnne Brickhouse will steer the project. Ahearne is repped by Resolution and United Agents in the UK. He’s managed by Thruline and Principal Entertainment.

I thought Hollywood’s infatuation with public domain fairy tales would have abated by now, because they are running out of good titles. I figured they’d be looking at limericks by now, with development titles like There Once Was A Man From Nantucket and There Once Was A Man From Ealing. But these fairy tales seem to be hotter than ever. Despite lukewarm reviews, Oz The Great And Powerful was an absolute triumph for producer Joe Roth — the closest thing Hollywood has to a Grimm Brother — and for Sean Bailey’s production team at Disney. I read what had to be the dumbest Wall Street Journal article in a long time, the one that hailed new Disney film chief Alan Horn for making his mark on that blockbuster by suggesting that the talking flying monkey speak earlier in the film. Horn’s great gift was being in the right place at the right time.

Knowing how much pressure that production chief Bailey and his exec team were under after the mammoth failure of John Carter that cost Rich Ross his job (I still think Ross’s Big Mistake was not making that Andrew Stanton-directed disaster a Pixar film since Stanton’s animated success and clout with John Lassiter gave him a blank check he wasn’t ready for as a live-action director), I’m giving a shout-out here to Bailey and his production team even though they will probably be diving under the couch cushions when they read this, but what the hell. Horn should certainly have his share of victories at Disney eventually. Despite this ill-advised WSJ piece by a reporter who should know better (Horn seems too classy to overtly seek credit for something he was hardly involved in), Horn doesn’t deserve the credit for Oz The Great And Powerful, a film whose 3D format has a chance to crack the billion-dollar worldwide gross mark, like Alice In Wonderland.

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