Paddington 1 & 2 helmsman Paul King is in final negotiations to direct a Willy Wonka movie for Warner Bros. Pictures, with the studio’s Guillermo del Toro penned The Witches script similarly attracting interest from directors. Both projects are of course based on children’s novels by the beloved author Roald Dahl, and have been adapted to film in the past. Eccentric candy maker Willy Wonka in particular was famously portrayed by the late Gene Wilder in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, before Johnny Depp played him thirty-four years later in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation.
The Witches was adapted by director Nicolas Roeg and the Jim Henson Company in 1990, with Angelica Huston (in an award winning performance) donning elaborate prosthetics in order to portray the child hating Grand High Witch in the film. A fresh cinematic interpretation of The Witches has been a del Toro passion project for a long time and was believed to have been abandoned awhile ago, given the lack of updates in the past five years. However, it seems that both del Toro’s vision for The Witches and a new Willy Wonka movie (another Dahl adaptation that appeared to have stalled) are now moving forward again.
According to THR, King is in active discussions to direct Willy Wonka from a script written by Simon Rich (creator of Man Seeking Woman), and reunite with his Paddington series producer David Heyman. At the same time, del Toro’s screenplay for The Witches is attracting filmmakers at WB and is reportedly being considered as a potential directorial project by no less than Robert Zemeckis, among other high-profile names.
Back in 2016, Heyman said that Willy Wonka could “possibly be an origin story” and emphasized that, if nothing else, it wouldn’t be a straightforward re-telling of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story that has already been twice adapted to film. King is coming off back to back adaptations of the late Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear character, both of which have been exceptionally well received by critics and general audiences (with Paddington 2 being the best reviewed movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes, no less). The filmmaker’s Paddington movies have been celebrated for their blend of whimsy, idiosyncratic humor, and heartfelt storytelling, making it easy to understand why WB would want him to take a go at adapting Roald Dahl next.
The Witches is similarly a project that lies in del Toro’s wheelhouse as a storyteller, with its darker style of whimsy and macabre narrative that follows a young boy who learns about the secret underworld of witches that spend their days plotting to do terrible things to children. Although del Toro had ideas about directing the movie himself once upon a time, he is going to be spending much of the next several months preparing to shoot his Fantastic Voyage remake this fall. Willy Wonka is much closer to locking down a director than The Witches right now, but with such names as Zemeckis (who has yet to decide on his next directorial effort after this November’s The Women of Marwen) circling, that could end up changing sooner than later.
We will bring you more details on Willy Wonka and The Witches adaptations as they become available.
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