Sharlto Copley has become very popular (and busy) in a short period of time. Just this past week, the District 9 and A-Team star was confirmed to not only play the antagonist in Spike Lee’s Old Boy remake/re-interpretation, but also headline the upcoming thriller Open Grave from director Gonzalo López-Gallego (Apollo 18).
The South African actor has now reportedly entered talks to play the male lead in Disney’s Maleficent, which is a post-modern take on the Sleeping Beauty story, re-examining the fairy tale from the perspective of the titular sorceress (as portrayed by Angelina Jolie). Production is slated to begin this summer.
Deadline says that Copley, should he sign on, would play King Stefan, whose slight of Maleficent inspires the fairy to curse his daughter, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning, possibly), to an enchanted slumber. The film is based on a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, the writer behind the Mouse House’s Beauty and the Beast and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
A cast that potentially features Jolie, Fanning and Copley is nothing to sneeze at, as far as acting talent goes. That lineup is also yet another testament to the quality of Woolverton’s Maleficent script, which previously attracted the attention of David O. Russell (The Fighter) – and was being eyed as a directing vehicle for Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), after Burton took a pass.
One can only hope the casting of Copley in Malefient won’t prove tantamount to Sean Bean being hired for Mirror Mirror – wherein the respectable actor was cast to play a kingly role in that proto-feminist fairy tale retelling, only to be severely underused.
Woolverton isn’t the only Maleficent crew member with experience at refashioning classic stories. Producer Joe Roth has made that practice his trade, with Alice in Wonderland and this June’s Snow White and the Huntsman – not to mention, next year’s prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful from Sam Raimi – plus the Peter Pan origin story project Neverland (still in development).
That may be for the best, seeing how Maleficent is going to be overseen by an untested director in the form of visual artist Robert Stromberg – a two-time Oscar-winner for his art direction on Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, who also served as a production designer for Oz: The Great and Powerful (Coincidence? Definitely not.)
In other words, it’s clear that Roth has established a set approach for restyling classic fantasy literature. That includes: hiring on someone with a keen eye for cinematic imagery (Burton, Raimi, etc.) to work from a script penned by some solid screenwriting talent (Woolverton, Hossein Amini with Snow White, etc.). Hey, it’s served Roth well so far, right? (See: Alice‘s $1 billion worldwide gross.)
Maleficent is scheduled for theatrical release in the U.S. on March 14th, 2014.