City That Sailed (a.k.a. The City That Sailed) is a project that’s had Will Smith’s attention for more than three years now, going back to right before he committed to making Men in Black III. The project now has the A-lister officially set as its lead, while 20th Century Fox has gone ahead and tapped Shawn Levy – director of Real Steel and the Night at the Museum franchise – to take the helm on this original fantasy-adventure.

An earlier script draft for City That Sailed was penned by writer/director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Host), with a story about a (divorced?) New York street magician separated from his young daughter. The girl ends up being moved to London, where she finds magic candles (as you do in England) that grants her every wish. Problem is, that pesky plot device takes her desire to be closer to her dad way too literally, when it causes the entire island of Manhattan to separate from the North America continent and drift across the ocean.

Deadline reports that a new script draft for City That Sailed is being written by Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun, The Game Plan), though the site doesn’t mention whether she is starting from scratch or will be revising Niccol’s previous screenplay. Levy will begin shooting Night at the Museum 3 by early 2014 for a Christmas release date later that year, but it sounds as though City That Sailed could enter production not long after Levy wraps Ben Stiller’s latest family-friendly romp.

Credit where credit belongs, City That Sailed is an original and intriguing venture, as well as being a film in keeping with Smith’s desire to keep himself from being pigeon-holed in the sequel-making business. Further case in point: he will next play a small role in Akiva Goldsman’s Winters Tale adaptation and then appear in Crazy, Stupid, Love filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s con artist rom-com, Focus. (Of course, it’s still possible that Independence Day 2 awaits Smith down the line, so…)

Levy’s wheelhouse includes good-natured action and/or comedy fare and inoffensive entertainment for all ages; it’s a fair bet that City That Sails falls into the latter category. That said, nowadays Levy is arguably a step above comparable filmmakers such as Chris Columbus – director of the first Percy Jackson movie and two Harry Potter installments – with regard to his craft. That’s even coming off an uneven year, where Levy directed the Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn bust The Internship, yet also produced the critically-accclaimed coming of age drama The Spectacular Now.

The chemistry between Smith and the actress who plays his daughter may impact the success (or lack thereof) of the fantastical scenario in City That Sailed, much like the solid dynamic between Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo elevated the father-son premise (read: “heart”) of Real Steel. And don’t worry, chances are good that it won’t be Willow Smith acting opposite her dad in the movie, for the same reason that she isn’t headlining the new screen version of the Annie musical (i.e. even the Smith children don’t think it’s a good idea for them to have performing careers right now).

We’ll provide you with more information about City That Sailed as it becomes available.

Source: Deadline