Warner Bros. is preparing to launch its Shared DC comic book movie universe in 2016, but the studio also has a couple of noteworthy projects in development based on comic titles released under DC's Vertigo imprint. One is The Sandman, which creator Neil Gaiman is helping director Joseph Gordon-Levitt to develop, while the other is Fables, based on the dark fantasy/Noir graphic novel series created by Bill Willingham.
Fables gained a helmsman in Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) back in 2013, but there's not been much progress to report on since then. However, thanks to a fresh update from the project's producer, David Heyman (who's recently been out and about doing promotional work for Paddington), we can now confirm that Arcel is still onboard as director and is currently working on the Fables movie script with a very geek-friendly screenwriter.
Fables is a comic series that began its run in 2002 and revolves around various well-known folklore and fairy tale characters (Snow White, Jack Horner, Goldilocks, Prince Charming, and so forth), who now reside in a New York community that is known as Fabletown, having been forced to leave their Homeland by a mysterious villain known as "The Adversary" some years ago. The Fables universe begs comparison to that of Once Upon a Time, but is overall more Noir-inspired and adult in nature than ABC's popular TV series.
CBR (via Empire) has learned from Heyman that Arcel penned a draft for the Fables screenplay, but that now a fresh script draft is being written by scribe Jane Goldman. The latter is perhaps best known for her multiple (not to mention, critically-acclaimed) comic book adaptation collaborations with filmmaker Matthew Vaughn; including, on the movies Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and the rapidly-approaching Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Goldman's also well-versed in the practice of adapting darker and more mature fantasy material, having scripted the Gaiman novel adaptation Stardust (also with Vaughn), The Woman in Black, and the upcoming Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children adaptation that Tim Burton is directing. Both First Class and Miss Peregrine's Home deal with themes about social outsiders and prejudice (as does Kingsman to a degree), which makes Goldman all the better a fit to adapt Fables to the big screen - something also indicated by the following comment from Heyman:
I’m drawn to stories about outsiders, and I think the Fables are outsiders. They’re people torn from the place where they were raised, by The Adversary. They arrive in a New York City-type place, and how we’re approaching is that they’re people who are all separate, and how they ultimately have to form the community in order to survive. They’re all inhabiting their own little universes within this world. But they have to form this community, and that really appealed to me. And I just think the characters are so vivid. And I also think the farm is, again, it’s very human. That’s what I like. It’s a challenging film.
Heyman also served as a producer on the Harry Potter movies and is working on the upcoming spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; each of which share certain ideas and elements in common with the universe of Fables. Both Heyman and Goldman are bringing their knowledge of pop art to the table here, which ought to blend well with Arcel's fresher perspective from working outside the studio system on such similarly dark pop culture adaptations as the Swedish-language Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie (which Arcel co-wrote).
The Warner Bros.-backed Vertigo comic adaptations, generally-speaking, are expected to be the arthouse film equivalents of DC comic book movies, and that's shaping up to be true with both Fables and The Sandman; both of which sound quite promising right now.
If all goes well on these projects, then it could help to open the door for more Vertigo properties (which tend to be more varied and eclectic in their content than regular DC brands) to make their way to the big screen in the future. After all, TV networks have already begun to peruse through the Vertigo library of material, what with The CW launching an iZombie TV show this year and AMC actively developing a Preacher TV series to premiere in the foreseeable future.
We'll bring you more information on Fables when we have it.