20th Century Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes released in 2011 to critical and box office success, and left moviegoers eager to see how the story would develop in subsequent films. More importantly, though, audiences were curious to see how this relatively innocuous story of an intelligent ape would eventually tie into the Charlton Heston original.
Director Rupert Wyatt - while a relative unknown at the time of Apes' release - has since grown in popularity, lining up several future projects, including a Rise sequel titled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, it looks like Wyatt may no longer be attached to the project, and the blame may rest with 20th Century Fox's desire to churn out a sequel too quickly.
Back in May, the studio announced Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2 would be releasing in two years' time on May 23rd, 2014. This would put the sequel in a prime summer position, a far cry from its predecessor's August release date.
Unfortunately, it appears that Wyatt wasn't prepared to commit to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes so soon, and might have pulled himself off the project as a result. The scoop comes to us from Deadline who reports that - much like Gary Ross and the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire - Rupert Wyatt didn't think he could deliver a worthy Apes sequel in such a short time span.
There's no official confirmation from Fox or Wyatt's people at this time, but if this news is true, it means Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is in need of a new director, and fast. Earlier in the year, Fox announced the film would begin production this summer, but that was before they revealed the 2014 release date. Obviously, production has yet to begin, but it's expected to relatively soon.
Given the success of the first film, which grossed $176 million domestically, it's not surprising that Fox wants to get rolling on a sequel as soon as possible. Rise of the Planet of the Apes' surprise success provided the ailing Fox with a successful franchise that featured some of this decade's most impressive effects work. Andy Serkis and WETA's creation of Caesar the ape was enough to warrant further exploration of the film's world, but the promise of a massive ape uprising could prove just as compelling
Aside from the fact that the script is being handled by Rise's original screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amada Silver, along with Scott Z. Burns (Contagion), not much is known about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The assumption is that it will expand on the story from the first film, but given the way Rise concluded, that could mean any number of things. Whether there will be a massive jump in time - or if stars like James Franco will return - remains unclear, but we'd bet Fox wants to stick to the first film's winning formula as closely as possible.
Stay tuned for an official confirmation about Rupert Wyatt's departure, and for potential news on a replacement for the director.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is slated to release in theaters on May 23rd, 2014