Michael Keaton’s already playing one of 2017’s biggest bad guys as Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and he’s now in talks to repeat that as the villain of the Dumbo remake. Tim Burton’s live-action version of Disney’s fourth animated feature has been a strange proposition; on the one hand, the director was the catalyst for the studio’s recent move into readaptations of its classics with Alice in Wonderland, but on the other his distinct style is a bold one for such a wide-eyed classic tale.
How the director will realize the story is unclear, but what we can expect is strong, eclectic casting. Burton alums Eva Green and Danny DeVito are in talks to play trapeze artist Collette and circus owner Medici respectively, while Colin Farrell is circling the lead role. Now another big name is linked in the form of Keaton.
Variety is reporting that the actor is in talks to star as the film’s villain, who per a previous report will be Vandemere, an exploitative businessman who buys Dumbo’s circus from DeVito (an expansion of the original Ringmaster). This role was previously offered to Tom Hanks, who has presumably passed for Keaton to be in the running.
Keaton’s experienced something of a comeback recently, starring in the Best Picture-winning film two years on the trot with Birdman and Spotlight, and now with Spider-Man is segueing that into being a serious blockbuster presence. Dumbo fits with that career direction, especially given Keaton and Burton’s history; the actor’s breakout role came in Beetlejuice and he played Batman in both of the director’s takes on the Caped Crusader. This development would also see him once again starring against DeVito, who played Penguin in Batman Returns.
Like the 1941 original, Dumbo will tell the story of a big-eared elephant’s coming-of-age in a circus, specifically his ability to fly. The Ringmaster is typically regarded as thoughtless rather than an all-out villain, possibly leaving open the door for Vandemere to be a more complicated character than the source would suggest. Indeed, as both Green and DeVito’s rumored characters are additions to the base story then there’s room for a lot to be changed in the adaptation (fitting of Burton’s Alice but in contrast to the more faithful remakes since like Beauty and the Beast).
Based on his exemplified range, Keaton is a solid fit for such a character and it has little overlap with his jealous Adrian Toomes audiences will see take on Peter Parker later this year. For sure, his inclusion in the project highlights the caliber Disney’s trying to amass. Currently none of the rumored castings have been made official, but with the film set to start shooting later this month expect a proper announcement soon.