Director Joe Wright has built a respectable résumé during his career, calling the shots on well-received films such as Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Hanna. However, his track record suffered a major blemish earlier this month when his Pan flopped at the box office and was ripped by critics for being a misguided retelling of J.M. Barrie's classic story (read our review).
The failure of Pan has some serious implications for Warner Bros., as it's reported the project will lose $150 million for the studio. And WB may not be the only ones stuck dealing with the fallout, as Wright has now lost his next directorial gig.
The Wrap is reporting that Lionsgate is no longer negotiating a deal with Wright to helm their Julius Caesar picture Emperor. When Wright went to Los Angeles on the Pan press tour, the job was all but his. But after Pan bombed commercially and critically, Lionsgate abruptly ended talks with the director.
It seems like too big of a coincidence, and many believe that Wright was "removed" (it should be noted, he never officially signed on) from Emperor once his latest film failed. Given that Wright has a solid filmography to his name (including a Golden Globe nomination), and it seems harsh to judge him based on one movie's performance. It reads as an extremely knee-jerk reaction by Lionsgate, who is now taking Emperor "back to the drawing board" as they reboot their director search. Something caused them to change their mind, and Pan seems like the most plausible monkey wrench.
Whether that's fair or not will be debated. It's hard to pin the shortcomings of Pan completely on Wright. Yes, he was the director, but he was working with a $150 million budget from a major Hollywood studio. With that much money at stake, Wright (who never made a film of that scale before) most likely did not have free rein and was watched over carefully by WB executives. That's not to absolve Wright from all the blame, but Pan is more of a mishap on WB's part than Wright alone.
Emperor is expected to be more of a character drama than an effects-driven blockbuster, so it's a project that might have been better suited for Wright's talents as a director. Some might say he was out of his element while making Pan, and tackling the story of Caesar and Marcus Brutus in Ancient Rome is something that on-paper could have taken Wright back to his roots. However, Lionsgate is viewing Emperor as a potential franchise starter, so they want to play it completely safe when it comes to putting the film together. They'd rather hire a director on a winning streak.
It will be interesting to see who Lionsgate brings on board, and also what becomes of Wright. Fumbling a huge tentpole like this is something that can take years to recover from, and rightly or not, Pan certainly sullied Wright's reputation. Someone will give him another shot, since he still has a considerable amount of talent, but when that will happen remains to be seen. Even though Pan's failure wasn't entirely Wright's fault, WB will be fine in the future, while Wright's still licking his wounds.
Pan is now in theaters. We'll keep you updated on Emperor as more information becomes available
Source: The Wrap