Warner Bros. has been working hard to get a new live-action Tarzan movie into production, going back to two years ago when the studio hired screenwriter Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan) and filmmaker Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Footloose (2011)) to write separate scripts.
The studio eventually decided to move forward with Cozad’s screenplay, attaching David Yates (the last four Harry Potter movies) to direct and eying True Blood actor Alexander Skarsgård to play the famous man-ape, opposite Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain as the prim and proper Jane, and possibly Samuel L. Jackson in an important supporting role.
Filming was expected to begin this summer, but Deadline has learned that WB is (for the time being) closing the production offices for the project. It’s possible that a combination of incomplete casting and bad timing contributed to the studio’s decision, as none of the aforementioned actors have formally committed to Yates’ new take on Tarzan yet; indeed, in recent interviews, Skarsgård has been pretty vague about his involvement, telling Crave Online “It’s a really, really good script but it’s also a very big movie so it’s not super easy to just get a project like that off the ground.”
Meanwhile, Chastain recently joined the cast of Guillemo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (which begins shooting in early 2014), and Deadline is reporting that WB has been looking at Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx – who is working on Amazing Spider-Man 2 right now - for the role that Jackson circled last year. In other words, a Summer 2013 start date might’ve been wishful thinking, as far as getting all of these people together goes; not to mention, giving everyone the proper amount of time to prepare for their roles.
It sounds like the other major factor holding up progress on Tarzan is the budget, as (not surprisingly) WB is reported to not be comfortable with current estimates for the high-cost period adventure tentpole. The studio hasn’t been afraid to hit the brakes on its “risky” big-budget projects Arthur & Lancelot and Akira over the past year, based on a lack of confidence in the films’ box office prospects.
After all, you have to remember: the Tarzan live-action movie franchise has been around for a century, but the most recent installment was the 1998 feature Tarzan and the Lost City, which only took in $2 million at the U.S. box office (not kidding) – and while Yates’ version would (definitely? Hopefully?) bring in a larger box office haul, WB has all the more reason to plan ahead so they don’t end up with a John Carter-sized financial debacle on its hands (indeed, it seems that movies based on author Edgar Rich Burroughs’ literature are very much not in style right now).
However, WB is abandoning all hope for a new Tarzan installment just yet, as the studio is apparently keeping Yates around and (according to insiders) hopes to get all the casting and budgeting wrinkles smoothed in a timely fashion that allows for the cameras to begin rolling sometime in 2014 instead.
One possible scenario is that WB and Yates spend the next several months getting the cost down to a more approachable size, much like Disney and the filmmakers on The Lone Ranger did back in 2011 – by trimming the estimated $250 million budget down to a “manageable” $215 million (still ridiculous, I know), which then allowed shooting to begin during the first quarter of 2012.
That similar project – a modern blockbuster re-fashioning of a told-and-retold tale – has become one of the most anticipated 2013 Summer movies, and that’s despite a whole lot of controversy and production woes that Tarzan shouldn’t have to deal with. Hence, there’s hope yet that we’ll get to see Yates’ version of that quintessential vine-swinging jungle man realized on the big screen (assuming no one decides to reboot George of the Jungle first, anyway).
We’ll keep you updated on Tarzan as more information becomes available.