Hunchback of Notre Dame Re-telling Esmeralda in Early Development

Hunchback of Notre Dame retelling Esmeralda in the works

Live-action movie retelling of literary classics, especially fairy tales, seem to be all the rage right now. Whether it’s an age-old tale retold with real-life actors, such as the 2015 Kenneth Branagh directed Cinderella, or an entirely new film centered on a popular character from a fairy tale, such as Maleficent, there seems to be a market for modern revisitations of stories perhaps most famous for their animated film adaptations.

Another such project, a Hunchback of Notre Dame re-telling titled Esmeralda, is now moving forward. In Victor Hugo's source novel (published in 1831), Esmeralda is a Romani girl who performs dances and plays the tambourine as a way to make money. She is the human heart of the story; the only person to show kindness to the eponymous hunchback, Quasimodo, offering him water after he is flogged. She is the subject of the villainous Claude Frollo’s predatory sexual advances, and his subsequent rage when she rebuffs him.

Tracking Board is reporting that Peter Chernin will produce Esmeralda under his company’s banner, Chernin Entertainment. The film is described as being a retelling of the classic Victor Hugo story from Esmeralda’s perspective; as yet, though, there are no further details regarding possible production dates or a potential writer, director, and/or star.

Chernin Entertainment is no stranger to book to film adaptations; their next release will be Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children adaptation, and they are currently shooting the newest Planet of the Apes sequel: War For The Planet of the Apes. It is unclear how closely they will stick to the novel of The Hunchback of Notre Dame though; especially since there is an indie version in the works, The Hunchback, which is set to star Max Ryan, set to be released some time in 2016.

Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame animated film (released in 1996) cleaned the story up somewhat; making it suitable for a family audience by eliminating certain plotlines such as Frollo’s raping of Esmeralda in the church and her untimely death by hanging, which Frollo laughs at before Quasimodo pushes him from the top of Notre Dame to his death. Given that Chernin’s version will be told from Esmeralda’s point of view, there is scope to expand her backstory and give audiences a better look at how she developed such compassion and kindness in the face of such hostility.

As far as live-action spinoffs go, this is a good choice. The Disney film version of Hunchback was not wildly popular with audiences, yet is now regarded by many to be one of its better pieces of storytelling in the 1990s. It is certainly one of their darkest films to date, and that’s even after they censored much of the original material in order to receive a G rating. There is huge potential here for a really great film to be made and one which, at last, will give greater insight into one of 19th century literature’s best female characters.

However, as mentioned before, Esmeralda isn't the only classic story re-telling in the works. Disney has Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book due to arrive in April 2016, followed by Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, in 2017. Elsewhere, Andy Serkis is plotting a darker Jungle Book re-telling for 2017, titled Jungle Book: Origins, and Universal Pictures has a fresh version of The Little Mermaid in development, too.

We'll bring you more information on Esmeralda as it becomes available.

Source: Tracking Board

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