Hard as it may be to believe, a few years ago, Disney was developing a movie with David Fincher—a large-scale adventure movie, in fact. Fincher was attached to direct a new iteration of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which he envisioned as an epic, 3D retelling of the classic Jules Verne story, one described as a “reinvention” with an entirely different look at Captain Nemo. Unfortunately, Fincher and Disney disagreed on casting (Fincher wanted Channing Tatum, Disney wanted Chris Hemsworth), and the filmmaker ultimately parted ways with the project.
But now Disney has resurrected the idea of reinvisioning 20,000 Leagues in the form of Captain Nemo, with Deadline reporting that The Wolverine director James Mangold has signed on to take the helm. Fincher’s iteration had drafts by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion) and Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en), but the latest draft of Captain Nemo has Sebastian Gutierrez (The Eye) working on the script. The project is described as an origin story for the character as he creates his Nautilus.
Mangold is next directing Hugh Jackman’s final go-around as Wolverine, which is set to begin production this year, but one imagines he’ll turn his attention to Captain Nemo once that’s done. Disney has some competition in the form of X-Men: Apocalypse director Bryan Singer’s own take on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which he’s making for Fox with filming getting underway later this year.
Mangold is a solid filmmaker with films like Knight and Day and 3:10 to Yuma under his belt, so it’ll be interesting to see him tackle a high seas adventure. He was previously set to direct Christian Bale in The Deep Blue Good-By early last year, but Bale injured his leg and that project was postponed indefinitely. Still, it’s hard not to be disappointed we’ll never get to see Fincher’s iteration of the 20,000 Leagues story, which he described thusly:
“Dude, it was fucking cool. It was smart and crazy entertaining, with the Nautilus crew fighting every kind of gigantic Ray Harryhausen thing. But it also had this riptide to it. We were doing Osama bin Nemo, a Middle Eastern prince from a wealthy family who has decided that white imperialism is evil and should be resisted. The notion was to put kids in a place where they’d say, ‘I agree with everything he espouses. I take issue with his means—or his ends.’”
Ultimately, Fincher said Disney wasn’t crazy about tackling a non-hero’s journey on a budget of $200 million without a star that could carry the film internationally. So while I’m curious to see Mangold’s version of the story, we can probably expect something a bit more traditional.