Akiva Goldsman Lands Russell Crowe and Will Smith for Directorial Debut WINTER’S TALE

     February 1, 2012

Exactly one year ago today, we reported that Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) was set to make his directorial debut with an adaptation of Mark Helprin’s novel Winter’s Tale. The fantasy tells the story of a thief, a dying girl, and a flying white horse in 19th century and contemporary Manhattan. The $75 million film was set up at Warner Bros., but we’ve heard practically nothing about the project since that announcement. Apparently the film has been languishing at the studio over financial issues (why wouldn’t WB want to pay $75 million for a drama starring a flying horse?), but now Goldsman’s project has gained a considerable amount of steam with two casting coups: Russell Crowe and Will Smith. Hit the jump for more, including a synopsis of the novel.

winters-tale-mark-helprinVulture reports that Goldsman “called in every favor he had” and nabbed Crowe and Smith to star in supporting roles in the pic (Goldsman wrote I Am Legend, which starred Smith). The scribe also shaved close to $20 million off the script, and the project is now back on track and could be shooting as early as this September or October. Crowe is in negotiations to play a gangster boss, while Smith would play a judge.

I’m intrigued to see how this flying horse business fits into the sprawling story, but I’m extremely wary given Goldsman’s track record. Yes, he wrote A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, but he also wrote Batman and Robin and Lost in Space. Nevertheless, Goldsman seems to be on a fantasy/sci-fi kick as of late. He’s a producer on Fox’s Fringe and has written several episodes, and he’s also behind the screenplays for Ron Howard’s stalled Dark Tower adaptation. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares on his own as director. The project intrigues me as I’m interested to find out what Crowe and Smith saw in the material that made them say “yes” to the film. Also, the flying horse.

Here’s the synopsis for Helprin’s book:

New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake–orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side.

Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying.

Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature. [Amazon]

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