I have no problem buying Robert Downey Jr. as a guy who talks to animals. Even if the animals don’t talk back, they’ll make a snort or something, and then he’ll make a wise-ass remark, we’ll all laugh, and Downey will collect his paycheck. So it’s not too much of a surprise that Downey is set to star in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle where he’ll play the eponymous physician who can communicate with animals.
What’s more surprising in THR’s report is that Stephen Gaghan, the writer and director of Syriana and Gold, is set to pen the script with an earlier draft by Tom Shepherd and helm the movie. Universal won the rights to the package after a competitive bidding war.
Doctor Dolittle is no stranger to the big screen. While his 1967 debut was critically panned, it still managed to score a Best Picture nomination at the Oscar, a sign of the Old Hollywood trying to fight back against the New Hollywood that had wrought films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate (for more, I highly encourage you to check out Mark Harris’ excellent book, Pictures at a Revolution). The character made a comeback in 1998 when Eddie Murphy took on the role in Doctor Dolittle, which turned out to be the 6th-highest grossing film that year.
There are no details on what the plot of the new movie could be beyond Dolittle talking to animals, but Gaghan is a surprising choice. His films have tended to be more grounded and serious, so unless Dolittle stumbles upon a dying elephant begging for the sweet release of death after being attacked by poachers, this will probably be a change of pace for the filmmaker.
It also remains to be seen where the film will fit in with Downey’s busy schedule. While the actor is spending most of 2017 on Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel, he’s also planning to make his directing debut on the TV show Singularity. He’s also working on an HBO series based on Perry Mason and he’s planning to team up with Richard Linklater on a film about John R. Brinkley. There’s also Sherlock Holmes 3, which may or may not happen some day.
As for Gaghan, while Gold was a flop, he’s already moved on to an adaptation of the video game franchise, The Division with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain.