Walt Disney Pictures began work on a Kung Fu action-adventure flavored cinematic retelling of the Snow White fairy tale over a decade ago. In the wake of Relativity Media's colorful "modernized" spin on the story (Mirror Mirror) and Universal's own Medieval fantasy variation on the fable (Snow White and the Huntsman) both hitting theaters in 2012, the Mouse House has since wisely decided that a change of plans was in order.
The Disney flick - long known as Snow and the Seven - was eventually re-named The Order of the Seven in Summer 2011, based on the logic that the project (back then) was only slated to contain a handful of allusions to the original Brothers Grimm story. Now, the title has been truncated to just Order of Seven, with all direct references to the tale of Snow White having reportedly been exorcised from the film's current script draft.
Variety says that Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan is currently in final negotiations to headline Order of Seven, which Disney is now eying for a Fall 2012 production start date. The Atonment and Hanna starlet (who almost starred in Mirror Mirror) will therefore complete her leading part in Andrew Niccol's The Host adaptation before she begins work on the Disney flick - under the direction of former effects supervisor-turned-helmer Michael Gracey, who's also currently attached to team up with Hugh Jackman on The Greatest Showman on Earth in the future.
Order of Seven will star Ronan as Olivia Sinclair, a young 19th century Englishwoman who flees to Hong Kong in the hopes of finding protection from a centuries-old group of international warriors, as she is being pursued by
a beauty-obsessed queen "an ancient evil empress." The eponymous order has devolved over the years into nothing more than a cynical pack of outlaws; however, thanks to Miss Sinclair, the disgraced warriors are able to reclaim their honor and become the noble heroes they once were.
Disney's plan is to recruit famous actors from countries like China, Japan, and Russia, to portray the "Order of Seven," for both the sake of authenticity and (of course) to lend the film more appeal at the global box office. Don't be surprised to hear about cinematic martial arts icons who previously appeared in Disney-backed fare - like Jackie Chan (Around the World in 80 Days) or Yun-Fat Chow (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) - being sought out, for that very purpose.
All of these casting moves should especially help Order of Seven to better distinguish itself from Snow White and the Huntsman. After all, the latter already features both a Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven-inspired warrior version of the iconic seven dwarfs, along with an iteration of the famous fair-skinned princess who's been trained for combat - which was the original character template Disney had envisioned, with regards to its (onetime) direct Snow White martial arts epic re-imagining.
While earlier script drafts for Order of Seven were penned by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon (Spider-Man 2) and Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), the most recent version of the screenplay was handled by the little-known duo of Michael DeBruyn and Jayson Rothwell. Exactly how much material has been maintained from earlier versions of the script - ie. the Snow White-centric versions - in DeBruyn and Rothwell's draft, has not been officially revealed.
Seeing how Disney is still on the prowl for a new blockbuster that could kick off a successful franchise along the lines of the Pirates of the Caribbean series (with this year's John Carter being the studio's next attempt at doing just that), there's a strong possibility that news will eventually leak out about Order of Seven being envisioned as, say, a potential first chapter in a new trilogy. That's already the case with Snow White and the Huntsman, after all.
We will keep you up-to-date on Order of Seven as more information is released.