Director Tim Burton traveled a rocky road this year, what with his latest Johnny Depp collaboration (the Dark Shadows reboot) prompting lots of complaints about their style having grown stale; not to mention, the Burton-produced Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie failed to establish the literary mashup as either an artistically-credible or bankable genre. However, he did partly regain his footing with Frankenweenie, which failed to light up the box office – but still managed to convince a lot of people that Burton still has his old creative spark.
Point being, this is an ideal time for Burton to shake off his recent disappointments and dust the cobwebs off his now-trademark warped Gothic creative approach – though, the news that he’s circling a Pinocchio re-telling for Warner Bros. seems less encouraging at first, given his spotty record when it comes to re-imagining beloved stories that were not his original creation (a la Frankenweenie).
Still, what is encouraging about Burton eyeing Pinocchio is that the project (based on Carlo Collodi’s classic dark cautionary children’s story) would see the filmmaker infused with new creative blood. That is, he’s planning to collaborate with people outside his usual circle (re: not Depp), including Robert Downey Jr. starring as the elder toymaker Geppetto. In fact, both Burton and RDJ have been dancing around Pinocchio for almost a year now, so the duo are clearly eager to work together.
Bryan Fuller (creator of the now-defunct Pushing Daisies and Mockingbird Lane) penned the first script draft for Pinocchio, but Heat Vision is reporting that fan-fave screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, Woman in Black) is in negotiations to revise Fuller’s screenplay. Moreover, Goldman is incorporating notes from Downey, as a means to “bring the courtship to a close and initiate commitments” from Burton and RDJ.
Goldman seems like a great candidate for this job; not only since she would lend a dark wit to Burton’s project (similar to her work on Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust), but also because she has a pre-established connection to the filmmaker – having come aboard last year to adapt the spooky photography and story of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for the big screen (which is also a project Burton has been rumored to direct somewhere down the line). Not to mention, it’s hard to imagine that Fuller’s draft needs much touching up, as Pinocchio is very much a demented fairy tale up his alley. Thus, as a whole, this project is shaping up well and stands to benefit from Burton joining the party (bringing his signature mixture of creepiness and heart with him).
However, for those keeping track: there’s also a developing stop-motion Pinocchio adaptation that Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and is going to co-direct for the Jim Henson Company (after he wraps post-production on Pacific Rim) and a prequel titled The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto, with Shawn Levy (Real Steel) loosely attached to direct. Hence, Warner Bros. needs to get Burton and RDJ to commit sooner rather than later, before the project gets knocked back by the competition (like what happened to Disney’s own Snow White-inspired Order of the Seven).
On a related note: it would be nice to see RDJ take a break from just playing Tony Stark in the foreseeable future, as right now he’s only certain to appear in Iron Man 3 and The Avengers 2 over the next couple years (officially, at least). The role of the humble Geppetto would also be a good reminder for people that RDJ can play characters other than eccentric geniuses (ie. Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes).
More on Pinocchio as the story develops.