For a few months now it’s been known that Steven Spielberg was going to direct a remake of Harvey, the 1950 film starring James Stewart as a mild-mannered man who just happens to be best friends with a six-foot tall imaginary rabbit. Spielberg’s film was actually to be an adaptation of the original Pulitzer Prize-winning play that spawned the 1950 film, but it was still a remake in a sense.

However, news comes today from Variety that even though we’ll still likely see a Harvey remake, it won’t be with Spielberg at the helm. Even though he’s spent the last half year developing it, Spielberg delivered the news himself to 20th Century Fox this week that he won’t be helming the film. A spokesperson confirmed his quitting the project, although she wasn’t specific about the reason.

One of the biggest challenges for Spielberg was finding a suitable actor to play Elwood P. Dowd, played in the ’50s film by the late-great Jimmy Stewart. Naturally for Spielberg, the go-to-guy was Tom Hanks, however Hanks didn’t want to play a role that was filled by the iconic Hollywood actor. For several months, Spielberg and Fox had been trying to get Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., to take the role and although the actor never committed to anything, he did make some suggestions with regards to the script, written by Jonathan Tropper. Supposedly Spielberg and Tropper couldn’t get into any sort of “creative sync” on the script, and now the director has exited the pic.

This is certainly a disappointment for Fox, which already had been identifying sound-stages for a shooting start date of early 2010 for Harvey. 20th Century Fox topper Tom Rothman got the script from Fox 2000 execs Elizabeth Gabler and Carla Hacken, and when he showed it to Spielberg he got a “yes” in a matter of days. It seems strange to me that Spielberg would walk from the project, especially since he hasn’t directed a movie for the reconstituted Dreamworks, something which he is apparently “itching” to do now they have a funding partnership with Reliance. Fox 2000 is going to continue to develop Harvey, and could re-approach both Spielberg and Downey Jr. at some point (whether Spielberg would consider it again is another matter…).

So, if Spielberg won’t be directing Harvey, what will be his next project? Well, after recently wrapping the upcoming 3D motion-capture flick, Tintin, his next film appears to be his long-gestating Lincoln biopic, which has Liam Neeson attached to star as the former President. The last we heard, even though the project had been postponed due to budget and locations restraints, Spielberg hasn’t forgotten about it.

There’s also a project called The 39 Clues, scripted by Jeff Nathanson, who’s worked with Spielberg many-a-time, having written several of his movies over the last decade such as The Terminal, Indiana Jones 4 (the story, anyway) and Catch Me If You Can. You may think that makes The 39 Clues most likely to be Spielberg’s next, but the most recent Lincoln script was written by Tony Kushner, who wrote Spielberg’s Munich. If I had to guess, I’d say Lincoln will be next, but it could go either way.

I just wonder where Indiana Jones 5 fits into Spielberg’s priority list…

Spielberg was the big reason I was looking forward to another Harvey (along with the possibility of RDJ starring in the lead role), but with him gone I don’t have much interest in it anymore. I’ll probably still see it, if nothing else, to see how the story translates into the modern movie age, but my excitement will only rise way up again if Spielberg happens to change his mind.

Are you disappointed Spielberg has left the Harvey remake/new adaptation? Are you still interested in seeing it without the mega-director/producer’s involvement? Who do you think should take his place in the director’s chair?

It’s not known whether the planned early 2010 production start still stands. Stay tuned.

Source: Variety