When you read through Academy award-winning screenwriter/producer Akiva Goldsman's writing resume, it's kind of like going on a roller coaster ride - complete with highs in film (A Beautiful Mind) and television (Fringe), along with solid-to-middle ground material (I Am Legend, The Client), weaker products (The Da Vinci Code, Practical Magic) - and some impressive busts, including both Lost in Space and Batman & Robin.
That's all to say: it's no wonder Warner Bros. has been somewhat hesitant about jumping headfirst into Winter's Tale, a literary adaptation being written and directed by Goldsman. The project originally had a $75 million budget and was slated to begin production after Goldsman finished scripting the (currently-stalled) movie/TV adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower.
Even though Goldsman ultimately wasn't held up by his commitment to the Dark Tower project - which may or may not be resurrected in the foreseeable future - Warner Bros. has been keeping Winter's Tale on the back-burner. However, now that the budget for Winter's Tale has been dropped by some $20 million and there are two A-listers attached to co-star, Goldsman's first directing effort is readying to move forward once more.
Vulture is reporting that two stars of previous releases scripted by Goldsman - namely, Will Smith and Russell Crowe - have been attached to Winter's Tale. The actors are on good working terms with the filmmaker, who supposedly "called in every favor he had" in order to get his stagnant literary adaptation moving down the production pipeline again. As it stands, filming on Winter's Tale could now begin as early as Fall 2012.
Crowe and Smith will actually be appearing in Winter's Tale in supporting roles, in part so as to make the film more bankable - and also because (most people would agree) the two are very talented actors. Smith is going to work next on M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth, while Russell Crowe is currently being pursued to headline Noah for Darren Aronofsky. However, neither project should conflict with Winter's Tale, as far as scheduling goes.
Here is a semi-official description of Mark Helprin's 1983 Winter's Tale novel:
New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake—orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying.
Winter's Tale is a magical realist work that is generally recognized as one of the greater pieces of American literature published during the latter portion of the 20th century. It's somewhat comparable to the novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" (a.k.a. the basis for Martin Scorsese's Hugo) in the sense that it tackles some very adult issues and complex thematic elements, within the context of a central narrative that somewhat recalls that of a modern fairy tale. It's for that reason that Winter's Tale has often been (mistakenly) described as more of a purely whimsical story, in the past.
Given the range in quality of Goldsman's previous work, it's difficult to say for certain that his adaptation of Winter's Tale will be more hit than miss. All the same, the filmmaker is putting together a solid cast - and has excellent source material to draw inspiration from - so that's definitely encouraging.
Expect to hear more about Winter's Tale over the upcoming months.