Universal had plans to franchise-ize its medieval fantasy/adventure re-imaginging of the Snow White fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, before the movie had even opened in theaters. The $170 million blockbuster grossed close to $400 million worldwide – numbers virtually identical to that of TRON Legacy, which also has a followup installment in development that, like Snow White 2, has been moving forward slower than originally expected. The Snow White sequel may gain a new director in the foreseeable future, though.

Snow White and the Huntsman 2‘s lack of real progress down the production pipeline can partly be chalked up to a lack of availability on the past of costar Chris Hemsworth – who’s been keeping especially busy of late, and is currently filming some obscure indie title called Avengers: Age of Ultron. Once the Avengers sequel is done, then Hemsworth is contracted to reprise his role as the eponymous Huntsman opposite Kristen Stewart – with the latter playing the newly-crowned queen Snow White, in the fairy tale sequel.

According to Deadline, it looks as though that will happen sometime next year, as Universal is now aiming to have Snow White and the Huntsman 2 (or whatever it ends up being called) in theaters by 2016; meaning, a 2015 production start date appears to lie in the cards, for this particular sequel. Moreover, the studio has drawn up a shortlist of directors for the project – one that includes such names as Frank Darabont (creator of The Walking Dead TV series), Gavin O’Connor (Warrior), and Andrés Muschietti (Mama).

Frank Darabont and Jon Bernthal filming ‘The Walking Dead’

Darabont hasn’t directed a feature-length film since The Mist in 2007; though, with such acclaimed Stephen King book-to-movie adaptations as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile under his belt – plus some of the better-received portions of the Walking Dead TV show – he would be a catch to have direct just about any project, much less a Snow White and the Huntsman sequel.

The same goes for O’Connor, who also reads as being the sort of director who would ensure that the Snow White character is better developed in the sequel – having helped to craft more complex female protagonists before, as director on the Sundance breakout drama Tumbleweeds, and as an executive producer/director on the FX TV series The Americans (he also just directed the upcoming Natalie Portman western, Jane Got a Gun).

Muschietti, by comparison, showed promise with Mama, though he only left the Universal-backed Mummy reboot a month or so ago, over creative difference; apparently, the split was fairly amicable, if the pair could potentially still work together in the future. Similar to Darabont, though, Muschietti’s proven adept at crafting horror genre fare that unfolds closer to a dark fantasy parable – the kind of approach that would be preferable, on a Snow White movie.

All three of the aforementioned filmmakers often have a hand in scripting the movies they direct, which could be another factor that Universal is taking under consideration, while sizing them up for the Snow White sequel helming job. David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man) penned an earlier screenplay draft for Snow White 2, but otherwise the film’s script status is currently unknown.

Additionally, this sort of director shortlist is becoming more commonplace nowadays, as studios have begun to recognize that there are benefits to hiring skilled directors – generally known for more intimate and/or personal films – to work on their larger-budgeted tentpoles, often based on pre-established properties that are considered to be more bankable (see: indie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts being eyed to helm the Metal Gear Solid movie).

Of course, the collaboration can be mutually-beneficial, as directors who make the jump to the big ocean of tentpole filmmaking can improve their own standing within the industry. If one of the above-mentieond directors does sign on for Snow White and the Huntsman 2, it might not only open new doors for them (less Darabont than the others) – it might also get more people interested in seeing a sequel to this particular version of the Snow White story.

We’ll keep you updated on the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel as more information is made available.

Source: Deadline