[Update: Gillespie has officially landed the job of directing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Scroll down for more details.]
Progress on Lionsgate's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been slow during the past six months or so. First David O. Russell bailed on the project, then writer/director Mike White signed on as his replacement - only to drop out of directing the project about two months later.
Now, previously rumored frontrunner Craig Gillespie is reportedly on the verge of closing a deal to helm the literary/horror mashup. Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the source novel, has admitted he's up to direct the film as well.
Deadline says negotiations will soon begin formerly between Lionsgate and Gillespie for directorial duties on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Russell reportedly completed a well-received draft of the film's script prior to his departure; the combination of his screenplay with the commercial potential of the project is generally cited as the reason why so many filmmakers have expressed interest in directing.
Gillespie recently completed post-production duties on DreamWorks' upcoming remake of the horror-comedy Fright Night, and is otherwise known for helming quirky comedy fare like Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Woodcock, and several episodes of Showtime's United States of Tara.
In that regard, Gillespie certainly sounds like a more fitting choice to make the darkly comical Zombies flick than his predecessor, Mr. White - whose work experience is largely restricted to scripting broad comedies that eventually became Jack Black vehicles.
While the currently-filming adaptation of Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will play out as a straightforward biopic with bloody vampire violence and Wanted-style action thrown into the mix (courtesy of director Timur Bekmambetov), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is expected to be much more darkly humorous in orientation - with lots of gory undead killing added for good measure.
The Zombies novel was an immense best-seller when it hit bookshelves back in 2009, but it's arguably the least creative of Smith's mashup/parodies - since the majority of the story is literally just Austen's text, which was then altered and transformed into a horror adventure via the bits penned by Smith.
Here are some thoughts from Smith on the matter, from back in the day (via The Daily Beast):
"[In 'Pride and Prejudice'] you have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there... It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence. From my perspective, anyway."
It's definitely a good thing that Gillespie is likely to paint Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in a far less serious light than its author, all things considered.
UPDATE: Lionsgate has confirmed that Gillespie is onboard to helm the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adaptation. Here is an official statement on the matter from Lionsgate president Alli Shearmur:
"We are so excited to have Craig Gillespie on board this film. His sensibility spans from genre bending horror to elegant character driven comedy, which is perfect for this movie. 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' is precisely the kind of movie I came to Lionsgate to make: sophisticated yet youthful and edgy. Our movie will be all of those things – with zombies- and it will benefit enormously from Craig's unique perspective."
So - how does the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie look to you now?