Johnny Depp May Play Dr. Seuss in Biopic He’s Producing with Illumination Entertainment

     October 6, 2011

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Johnny Depp is developing a Dr. Seuss biopic through his production banner Infinitum Nihil in collaboration with Illumination Entertainment.  Risky Business says Depp is producing “with the potential to star as Seuss.”  I am not sure where this falls on the spectrum of attachment, so please keep your expectations—be they positive or negative—in check.

Illumination is currently animating the finishing touches on an adaptation of one of Seuss’s books, The Lorax, for a March 2, 2012 release.  The biopic, however, will be live-action.  Mostly, at least.  The studio did not rule out incorporating some animation into Keith Bunin’s screenplay.  Universal—another studio with Seuss experience bringing How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat to the big screen—will distribute the movie.  Depp’s Infinitum partner Christi Dembrowski as well as Illumination’s Christopher Meledandri and David Kennedy are also on board as producers.  More, including background on the life of  Theodor Seuss Geisel, after the jump.

Excerpts from Wikipedia:

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[Seuss] published 46 children’s books, which were often characterized by imaginative characters, rhyme, and frequent use of trisyllabic meter. His most celebrated books include the bestselling Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Numerous adaptations of his work have been created, including 11 television specials, three feature films, a Broadway musical and four television series. He won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

Geisel also worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, most notably for Flit and Standard Oil, and as a political cartoonist for PM, a New York City newspaper. During World War II, he worked in an animation department of the U.S Army, where he wrote Design for Death, a film that later won the 1947 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

I never knew about the man’s involvement in WWII—I am fascinated.  More on that era:

As World War II began, Geisel turned to political cartoons, drawing over 400 in two years as editorial cartoonist for the left-leaning New York City daily newspaper, PM. Geisel’s political cartoons, later published in Dr. Seuss Goes to War, denounced Hitler and Mussolini and were highly critical of non-interventionists (“isolationists”), most notably Charles Lindbergh, who opposed US entry into the war. One cartoon depicted all Japanese Americans as latent traitors or fifth-columnists, while at the same time other cartoons deplored the racism at home against Jews and blacks that harmed the war effort. His cartoons were strongly supportive of President Roosevelt’s handling of the war, combining the usual exhortations to ration and contribute to the war effort with frequent attacks on Congress (especially the Republican Party), parts of the press (such as the New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune and Washington Times-Herald), and others for criticism of Roosevelt, criticism of aid to the Soviet Union, investigation of suspected Communists, and other offenses that he depicted as leading to disunity and helping the Nazis, intentionally or inadvertently.

Perfect.  This is the biopic I did not know I was dying to see.  And I theoretically like Depp as an actor, but…

My initial reaction to reading the headline “Johnny Depp to Become Dr. Seuss for Illumination and Universal” involved an eye roll.  After a decade of Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland, I’ve had my fill of Depp as a larger-than-life weirdo.  A Dr. Seuss biopic doesn’t need to be more of that, obviously.  I only know Seuss through his whimsical work—I have no idea who Geisel, the man, is.  Hopefully, this will be more grounded, like the last time Depp played a beloved author on screen in Finding Neverland.  2004 just seems like a long time ago in Depp Years.

Or maybe Depp will stay behind the camera—his presumably infinite wealth and power will be put to good use if he tells us the story of the man who taught us all how to rhyme.  I advised at the beginning of this article to keep your expectations in check, and I’m trying really hard to heed  my own advice.  At this point, I’ll settle for anything that keeps him off the set of another Tim Burton project.

Speaking of which, Dark Shadows opens on May 11, 2012.  Depp will next be seen playing an eccentric writer in The Rum Diary, scheduled for release October 28.

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