Franchise-building is the name of the game in Hollywood and, for their part, Warner Bros. has multiple DC comic-based movies (Batman vs. Superman) and TV shows (Gotham, The Flash) cooking in the kitchen. However, the studio has also been planning to dust off one of the longest-running cinematic properties in film history, with a new Tarzan movie installment; that is, despite having delayed the project earlier this year, in order to (what else?) cut down the cost and avoid potential scheduling conflicts.
David Yates – who directed the fifth through eighth installments in the Harry Potter series (another prosperous franchise that WB is revisiting, with the Fantastic Beasts spinoff) – is onboard to helm the film, which stands to be the first studio-backed Tarzan live-action movie released in the 21st century (a telling qualifier, yes, but moving on…). True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgård is still lined up to headline as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ iconic “ape-man,” but previously-rumored cast members like Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Chastain do not appear to be either tapped for and/or circling the project at this time.
Variety is reporting that Oscar-magnet (when he’s in a Quetin Tarantino movie, anyway) Christoph Waltz has entered talks to play the villain role, as featured in the most recent script draft written by Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan). Things may’ve changed significantly over the past ten months, but here is how Variety described the plot for the Tarzan reboot (back when the site reported on Skarsgård being wanted for the lead role):
Years after he’s re-assimilated into society, [John Clayton III, a.k.a. Tarzan] is asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a fierce warlord who controls a massive diamond mine.
Again, if we assume that Cozad’s draft hasn’t been completely abandoned, then it sounds as though Waltz could be up to play the “fierce warlord” looking to exploit Africa’s natural resources for his own gain. Interestingly, the George Washington Williams role was the one that Jackson has been considering; that is, before Waltz’ Django Unchained costar Jamie Foxx (reportedly) began circling the role. Once again, for the time being, there’s no indication that either of those lauded stars are (or, alternatively, are not) still in the running.
Meanwhile, Yates is taking meetings with actresses about the female lead role of American Jane Porter, with the two names mentioned so far being Emma Stone – who will reprise as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014 – and Margot Robbie, whose career is on the rise (after a stumble with her Pan Am TV series being canceled last year) with her upcoming roles in Richard Curtis’ About Time, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Crazy, Stupid, Love directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s con artist comedy Focus (costarring Will Smith).
The Tarzan reboot’s prospective buddy-adventure setup is reminiscent of this year’s Lone Ranger reboot, yet it looks as though the former has more going for it than Disney’s costly western misfire. Not least of all, because Yates seems more likely to deliver a full-blooded serial adventure throwback with good character and thematic development – rather than, attempt to blend a rumination on genre within the format of a tentpole that studio heads are more willing to get behind (a la Lone Ranger).
Tarzan has not yet been officially given a greenlight, but that is expected to change before the year ends (with a Summer 2014 production start date in mind). We’ll keep you posted.