There are two ways to look at the news that Paul Thomas Anderson will write and possibly direct a live-action Pinocchio starring Robert Downey Jr. The first way to take this report from THR is to feel morose that not even an auteur like Anderson can escape the black hole of live-action adaptations of children’s tales that were previously adapted into Disney movies. Anderson will be creating something that will have to compete with the likes of Tinkerbell, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, Pinnocchio, and a twist on Jack and the Beanstalk all in the pipeline.
However, this one isn’t from Disney, and PTA might get a bit more freedom since this is coming from Warner Bros., which, judging by the trailers, let Joe Wright go wild with the Peter Pan prequel, Pan. Furthermore, Downey could be running defense since he’s producing and will want to make sure Anderson gets his creative vision on screen (assuming Anderson directs). It’s worth noting that the two almost worked together on Inherent Vice, but Downey had to drop out because of a scheduling conflict with Avengers: Age of Ultron. The two have wanted to work together for a while, and Downey has been developing Pinocchio for years, so this one is important to him.
It’s worth noting that Anderson is a radically different choice from previous directors who were courted for the job, Tim Burton and Ben Stiller. Again, this could just be a writing gig for Anderson, but it’s hard to imagine him divorced from his own script. He has never written a feature screenplay he also didn’t direct. If he does decide to helm the picture and it moves forward, it could potentially be a huge development in his career. A Pinocchio movie starring Robert Downey Jr. is a long way from a certified hit, but if it is a success at the box office, it gives Anderson room to tackle bigger, more daring projects.
I don’t think Anderson is “slumming it” with this because that assume it will be low material. If you like Anderson, then you should believe that he’s going to elevate what would otherwise sound like a forgettable project. Either way, if the project gathers steam, Warner Bros. is going to have to move fast. Disney also has a live-action Pinocchio in the works.