One of the most promising projects of the past decade may have new life, though whether it still resembles its former iteration is unclear. Filmmaker David Fincher had been developing a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Disney for years, and it finally looked like he was ready to tackle the project after the back-to-back productions The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He worked hard to make the film happen, but his vision for an epic, adventurous retelling necessitated a massive budget from Disney, which in turn necessitated a bankable star in the lead. Fincher approached his pal Brad Pitt, but he opted to make Fury instead. Then Matt Damon and Daniel Craig were considered, but neither wanted to leave their families for a lengthy shoot in Australia. Even Channing Tatum was a possibility.
Last summer, after Fincher committed to Gone Girl has his next picture, word came that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was officially dead. However, it appears that the film may yet have life, as Disney is in negotiations with the Australian government for tax incentives that would pave the way for an early 2015 shoot on 20,000 Leagues. [Update: It's possible that Disney may actually be trying to use the pre-approved incentive for 20,000 Leagues on the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean 5. More after the jump.]
Update: A commenter hipped us to this Syndey Morning Herald story in which it is surmised that the initial report claiming that Disney was negotiating for a tax incentive to shoot 20,000 Leagues in early 2015 was mistaken, and that Disney is actually looking to put the incentive towards Pirates of the Caribbean 5. This makes more sense, as Pirates 5 has a pair of directors and a 2017 release date. Our original story follows below.
THR reports that Disney is asking the Australian government to increase its tax incentives in an effort to secure what’s planned to be the biggest film shoot in Australia’s history, adding that filming on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is planned to get underway in early 2015. Disney had a previous agreement with Australia that secured a $21.6 million incentive for 20,000 Leagues when Fincher was in active development, but the government has since changed and Disney was afraid they wouldn’t honor the previous agreement. In these current negotiations, Disney is now asking for an increase to 30% of the film’s budget to shoot 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Australia.
This is an incredibly curious piece of news since we haven’t heard a single word about 20,000 Leagues since it was rendered “dead” after Fincher left. As he’s finishing up Gone Girl and looking for his next project, has he now returned to 20,000 Leagues? Is Disney moving forward without Fincher and on the hunt for a new director? These questions remain unanswered, as THR’s report simply focuses on Disney’s negotiations with the Australian government.
I’m selfishly hoping that Disney and Fincher came to some agreement that would see him back onboard 20,000 Leagues (I’m dying to see what Fincher can do with an adventure story told on a massive scale), but that may be too optimistic. What’s more likely is that Disney is moving ahead on a new iteration of the project without Fincher’s involvement. From a business perspective, it makes sense that Disney would want to capitalize on the 20,000 Leagues brand and Australia tax incentive with or without Fincher, so I’m very curious to see where things go from here. Hopefully more light is shed on this situation soon.