Is the Jane Austen-zombie craze over?
Lionsgate's adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's horror and drawing room comedy mashup, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has just lost its third director in a row.
TheWrap has confirmed that Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) has now followed Mike White and David O. Russell out the door as directors of the once-hot project.
What's going on?
This was an idea that had everyone chomping at the bit a year ago -- Mr. Darcy! Flesh-eaters! -- and based on a best-selling novel to boot. But momentum has now slowed to a paralytic halt.
First Russell walked over budget issues (he needed more money), then White bowed out over scheduling, and now we're hearing that Gillespie is leaving with casting still a big hole to be filled.
Natalie Portman was originally attached to the film, but she has opted to limit her involvement to producing the film.
Several drafts of the script have now come and gone, including one by Russell and a recent polish by Fright Night writer Marti Noxon (brought on by Gillespie).
Without a major star -- and now a director -- attached, the project is now back in limbo, robbing Lionsgate of a hotly anticipated film on its upcoming slate.
Lionsgate wouldn't comment for this article. By the time the studio gets the project off the ground, the zombie craze may well be over.
The 2009 horror-comedy Zombieland is a few years in the rear-view mirror now, Shaun of the Dead from way back in 2004 is practically ready for Turner Classic Movies, and while The Walking Dead continues to be a ratings bonanza for AMC, zombies may have reached a critical mass.
Getting the book to screen has slowed to the point where the film of Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which hit bookstores after Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, will actually be released in theaters before its predecessor.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and starring Rufus Sewell and Benjamin Walker, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter debuts on June 22, 2012, at which point Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might finally have a director.
Lionsgate is often criticized for hedging its bets, most recently on the mixed martial arts movie, Warrior. The studio lost money on that film and on an even bigger bet, Conan the Barbarian. The Taylor Lautner film Abduction will break-even, but it's no break-out hit.
So it's no surprise that Russell jumped ship over budget disputes with the studio.
I thought at $40 to $50 million was a bargain price to make a Sherlock Holmes-style period action romance that happened to have zombies in it, Russell told the Wall Street Journal. The studio budgeted it as a genre zombie movie and gave me $25 to $28 million.
I was like, that's not cool. We have crazy big action sequences in it. It's very commercial; we have a major romance. It's a period film. And we're doing it on the budget that we did 'The Fighter?'