Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman spinoff, The Huntsman, has found a new director, shortly after Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) was reported to have stepped down as the project's helmsman over "creative differences." The most recent script draft for the film was penned by Darabont, but it remains to be seen if his screenplay gets a significant revision before production starts to make a Spring 2016 release date.
The Huntsman will (according to the film's official logline) reveal how the Huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) met before the events of Snow White and the Huntsman, but right now it's not entirely clear if this movie is a full-blown prequel... or a sequel with flashbacks, but no Snow White (Kristen Stewart). Either way, Emily Blunt is currently in talks to play Ravenna's sister in the fairy tale-inspired action/adventure.
Schmoes Know broke the story that Snow White and the Huntsman's Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, has been recruited to take over as the director on Huntsman now that Darabont has stepped down; Deadline's sources have also reported this to be the case. If Troyan's name is familiar, that might be because he's reportedly attached to direct Summit's slow-developing Highlander reboot; whether that's still accurate, is not clear yet.
This latest development means that the Huntsman spinoff, like its predecessor, is going to be directed by someone who's making their feature-length debut. Still, Troyan brings a good deal of experience to the table - including, nearly twenty years of visual effects work on such franchises as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring, as well as his filmmaking knowledge from having served as a second unit director on both Snow White and the Huntsman and 2014's Maleficent.
... But, on the hand, it's certainly disappointing to learn that The Huntsman won't be directed by Darabont; his very involvement was what resuscitated this project and got (some) film buffs interested in the first place. Moreover, in a time where more and more acclaimed filmmakers with established voices are getting their chance to play in the blockbuster sandbox (be it Rian Johnson with Star Wars: Episode VIII or David Ayer on Suicide Squad), it's all the more frustrating to see someone like Darabont get sidelined, for the time being.
However, even had Darabont stayed onboard, The Huntsman wouldn't have been a surefire hit for Universal. Snow White and the Huntsman grossed some $400 million worldwide in theaters, but didn't exactly leave the masses eager to see a followup - not one with just half its namesake, at that. And, of course, there's also the question of whether or not these sorts of big-budget revisionist takes on classic fairy tales are the "events" they were just a couple years ago.
Similarly, as we saw this past weekend with Blackhat, Hemsworth's not invulnerable at the box office, so Huntsman will need to make all the strong an impression with its marketing. Either way you cut it, this film seems a likely contender to make our list of "riskiest" features arriving next year (see also our rundown of Riskiest 2015 Box Office Bets).
The Huntsman is scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on April 22nd, 2016.