Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies mashup book is risky material for a movie just based on the content, which falls somewhere between satire and an exercise in giving a novel's text (and subtext) new meaning for kicks. That was before multiple actresses and directors either boarded or considered the project without committing, in addition to Smith going 0-for-2 on his writing efforts last year (Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).
Paranorma Media is confirming an intention to produce, finance and handle foreign sales on the project, teaming with Darko Entertainment's Sean McKittrick, Allison Shearmur Productions and Natalie Portman (who is a holdover from back when she was playing Elizabeth Bennet). The press release indicates they are moving ahead with David O. Russell's adapted script, as opposed to using the revisions that Marti Noxon (Fright Night) put together back when Craig Gillespie was directing.
A significant obstacle that's prevented Smith's weird take on Jane Austen literature from jumping to the screen is the cost, going back to when Russell was directing. The eccentric and talented filmmaker was a smart pick to make the goofy premise into something possibly brilliant. Furthermore, Russell has said he budgeted for a Sherlock Holmes-style blockbuster costing $40-50 million, but financiers then wanted the price under $30 million (by comparison, Fox spent $69 million filming Smith's Vampire Hunter adaptation in 3D).
Vampire Hunter has demonstrated that absurd genre mash-ups aren't an easy sell (it grossed $116 million worldwide, but only $37 million here in the States). That explains why studio heads have been stopping P&P&Z in its tracks until both a lower budget AND bankable leading lady have been locked down. Unfortunately, or thankfully depending on your feelings about this whole thing, every A-lister and/or rising star approached so far has passed, including Blake Lively and Emma Stone (back when Gillespie and Noxon were involved).
Paranorma's shopping the project around to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival this year, so it won't be too long until we have a better idea of whether this monster is lurching forward (pun) or spinning its wheels in place. If nothing else, it can be read as another sign that Smith's not washed-out in Hollywood just yet, between P&P&Z making headlines again and Fox hiring him for script revisions on the Fantastic Four reboot.
More on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as the story develops.
Source: Paranorma Media