Guillermo del Toro has signed on to write and direct an original ninja movie titled Zanbato for Bad Robot, with J.J. Abrams serving as one of the film's producers. It's not clear yet if this will be del Toro's next project, seeing as he has several movies in development at the moment.
The Pan's Labyrinth filmmaker won his first Oscars last year, thanks to his Best Picture-winning monster romance The Shape of Water. As always, he's spinning multiple plates right now, including his slow developing stop-motion Pinocchio adaptation at Netflix and a remake of the cult classic 1947 noir film Nightmare Alley. The busy storyteller also co-wrote/produced this summer's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and produced Hostiles director Scott Cooper's supernatural horror film Antlers, which is expected to hit theaters either later this year or in early 2020.
While it was looking like Pinocchio would serve as del Toro's followup to The Shape of Water for a while there, a new report from Collider casts doubt on the idea. The site has discovered that del Toro and Bad Robot are teaming up on Zanbato, a movie said to focus on a young female ninja who's between 10-15 years old. Collider also says that Abrams is expected to produce Zanbato with Lindsey Weber, whose other credits include the Cloverfield sequels, Star Trek Beyond, and the WWII action horror-thriller Overlord.
UPDATE: Shortly after this news broke, del Toro took to Twitter to clarify that Zanbato is "NOT a Ninja project" and has been in development for the past six years, but probably won't be his next feature. However, he later confirmed that "there are ninjas" in the film.
Martial arts is one of the few genres that del Toro hasn't worked in, at this stage in his career (his credit as a producer on Kung Fu Panda 3 aside). The writer-director is best known for his monster films and supernatural horror movies like Crimson Peak, but is clearly a fan of genre and has worked on everything from comic book superhero adaptations (Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army) to gigantic robot blockbusters (Pacific Rim) and fantasy adventures, thanks to his animated Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia series on Netflix. The same could be said for Abrams, between his creative input on the Cloverfield movies and his direction on the Star Trek and Star Wars films over the past decade.
Abrams and del Toro sounds a winning combination, especially on a project like Zanbato. It helps that del Toro is also known for his well-crafted female protagonists, ranging from grown women like Mako Mori in Pacific Rim and Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water to Ofelia, the young female protagonist in Pan's Labyrinth. The premise for Zanbato should play to his strengths, in other words, and has the potential to be something special. We will bring you additional details on the project as the story develops.
Update Source: Guillermo del Toro