Originally, Steven Spielberg planned to jump from directing his Oscar-winning historical memoir Lincoln right into making Robopocalypse: a sci-fi thriller that pits humanity against the rising machines, starring Chris Hemsworth and Anne Hathaway. It would've been released in summer 2014, and thus completed a trifecta of high-minded sci-fi projects this year, alongside Wally Pfister's A.I. feature Transcendence and Christopher Nolan's space exploration flick Interstellar.
That ended up not happening, and though Spielberg still (reportedly) intends to direct Robopocalypse, it's on indefinite hold until further notice. In the meantime, the legendary filmmaker may instead press forward with Montezuma - a project that's been in the making for around 50 years now (... literally).
Montezuma is a script that multiple Oscar-winner Dalton Trumbo - author of Johnny Got His Gun and writer of Spartacus among other iconic novels/films - completed in 1965 (11 years before his death), but Deadline says that Spielberg has his eyes on directing a revised draft penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian (who adapted the book Schindler's List for Spielberg over 20 years ago). Trumbo's 205-page screenplay will be revised as necessary, but the story will ultimately be told from the perspective of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro (a.k.a. Cortes, for short).
The historical drama will explore the emotional conflict, physical violence and terrible aftermath of what happened when Cortes led the Spanish infiltration of Mexico in 1519 - offering an intimate examination of the relationship between Cortes (a role that Oscar-winner Javier Bardem is circling) and the Aztec leader Montezuma, both before and after warfare erupted between their respective nations.
Bardem - who appears in The Gunman later this year - is a fine choice to play Cortes, a figure who (in a film that is directed by Spielberg and co-written by Trumbo and Zaillian) would likely make for a very complicated protagonist. There've been a number of Cortes portrayals over the last century, but the one that most people are familiar nowadays may well be... well, the Jim Cummings-voiced one in The Road to El Dorado. So yeah, there's definitely room for Bardem to own this role.
Trumbo's work in the 1960s was certainly informed/influenced by his experience of being black-listed in Hollywood, after he refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee during the communist witch hunts of the mid-20th century (he was a member of the group called the Hollywood Ten).
That is to say, the themes and ideas that are likely examined in his Montezuma script (persecution, intolerance, etc.) are chronicled in a fashion that is still quite powerful and resonant today, even before you account for any of Zaillian's revisions that are necessary to produce an 'updated' draft, per Spielberg's approval (anyone taking bets that either Cortes and/or Montezume will have daddy issues?). It'll sound all the more promising if Spielberg commits to directing, assuming that this initial report pans out - unlike the scoops on potential Spielberg projects from the past year, like the Biblical epic Gods and Kings and the true-story feature American Sniper.
We'll keep you updated on Montezuma's progress as more information is made available.