While Disney is, and has always been, best known for their animated work the studio has also produced many live action classics as well. Disney’s very first live action film, 1954’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” stands as one of those classics. The studio has lined up meticulous director David Fincher to direct a remake of the film, but there has not been much word on the project since Fincher was attached. In a quick sit down with Cinema Blend screenwriter Scott Z. Burns gave some information on the status and direction of the project.
Burns first talked about the sheer scale of the project. He described it as “really big” and also pointed out that the amount of pre-visualization that Fincher will have to do will likely take some time. Fincher has shown in the past that he likes to pre-visualize and carefully plan out as much of his films as possible before the cameras start rolling. Burns also brought up the fact that he wasn’t really hired to adapt Jules Verne’s book. Instead it was hired to take the general premise and characters and let them inspire a new story. Burns says he hopes to stay true to the characters but that “very little” is being lifted directly from the book.
This revelation about diverging from the book shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to any who have been following the development of this project. Disney has been trying to get this new version of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” off the ground for quite some time. It’s usually the case that films with lengthy development tend to change quite a bit from their original conception, especially if the production has changed hands. Several years back director McG was attached to the project and was vocal about wanting Will Smith for the role of Captain Nemo. Smith reportedly passed on the role and McG eventually moved onto other projects.
The other reason this divergence from the book shouldn’t come as a surprise is that Disney already made the best know film version of the story. Despite being over 50 years old that film still holds up very well thanks to wonderful underwater photography, effects and sets. The scene that should look dated, the iconic giant squid attack, still works thanks to the use of rain, wind and darkness to conceal any failings of the puppetted monster.
The 1954 film made some changes from the book to give the story a more discernible climax, including borrowing some elements from the book sequel “The Mysterious Island.” However for the most part it stuck closely to the novel. Given that, it makes sense for Disney to allow Fincher to create a more liberal adaptation so that the new film becomes its own experience and feels less like a remake.
It will be interesting to see if the character of Captain Nemo will be cast true to the novel or not. In Verne’s original work Nemo is an Indian prince. However thanks to the casting of English actor James Mason in the 1954 film Nemo is almost always shown on screen as European. Of course casting news is unlikely to start emerging until after Fincher finishes work on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which is releasing later this year.
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