There's a historical precedent for similar film projects reaching theaters around the same time, but even by Hollywood's standards, next year's dual Snow White movies present an odd situation. Relativity Media's still-untitled fairly tale pic and Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman are both positioning themselves as revisionist takes on the famous Brothers Grimm story - and in many respects, both seem virtually identical.
Relativity's Snow White picture began filming this week, with a cast that includes up-and-comers like Lily Collins and Armie Hammer, an established A-lister as the Evil Queen (Julia Roberts), and a collection of sturdy character actors as the famous seven dwarfs.
Snow White and the Huntsman, in comparison, also features a big name as the wicked stepmother character (Charlize Theron), but includes franchise leads like Kristen Stewart (Twilight) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) in the two lead roles. However, Universal is apparently also going with established character actors to portray the dwarfs, starting with Golden-Globe winner Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). He will be transformed into a man of smaller stature via camera trickery - similar to how John Rhys-Davies was able to portray the dwarf Gimli in Lord of the Rings.
Heat Vision says that McShane will portray Caesar, the leader of the dwarfs, in Huntsman. That means the former Deadwood star will be appearing in two action-oriented fairy tale re-imaginings next year, including Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Killer.
Huntsman will also reunite McShane with his Pirates of the Caribbean 4 co-star Sam Claflin, who is playing the Prince Charming to Stewart's Snow White. Here is to hoping the final product will be more exciting and less derivative than the last period fantasy adventure pic that featured McShane and Claflin in important supporting roles.
Whereas Relativity's Snow White project is being sold as a comedy-adventure, Snow White and the Huntsman is expected to be more a mix of romance and action. It's been speculated that Hossein Amini's rewrite of the Huntsman script will incorporate more of a love triangle between Miss White, her beloved Prince, and the rough n' ready Huntsman - and that idea really does welcome comparisons between this film and Stewart's Twilight movies.
Not helping matters is that Relativity's Snow White pic will be directed by Tarsem Singh, who's well renowned for his visual prowess and colorful sense of mise-en-scène; Huntsman, on the other hand, it will feature newcomer Rupert Sanders at the helm. That by no means guarantees that Sanders won't prove himself to be the more capable director at the end of the day, but it does raise the question: Will that many people even be interested in Sander's Huntsman, with Singh's Snow White still fresh in their minds?
Universal is clearly hoping the answer is "yes" - and chances are good the studio will sell Huntsman as more a dark and dangerous fantasy tale that offers a different kind of eye candy (re: Stewart, Hemsworth, and Claflin) than Singh's movie. Whether or not moviegoers will take that bait is another matter.
Snow White and the Huntsman will arrive in theaters on June 1st, 2011.