Update: Apparently this story isn’t completely accurate. MTV informs us that they have removed the story because Randall Wallace did script work on the McG version of 20,000 Leagues, but that project is dead.  The Fincher is something totally different…

Few upcoming projects have quite the promise that Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea does, and much of that is due to it having David Fincher at the helm. If ever there were a director capable of delivering the visual splendor, attention to detail, and focused intensity and excitement that a tale like Jules Verne‘s classic deserves, it’s Fincher.

And between claims that Fincher wants 20,000 Leagues to be his Empire Strikes Back and this latest update from co-writer Randall Wallace, the likelihood of that promise being realized continues to grow.

In an interview with MTV (it’s been taken down for unknown reasons, but here’s a mirror), Wallace provided some insight into the project when discussing the week he spent doing rewrites on the script.

I loved that project. I think they were developing it in a really smart way. They were developing it, at least I believe this is why they asked me to work on it, they were developing it in a way that had more heart and a more realistic lucidness than what we would think of as the normal fantasy fare. It’s not my project to direct, [but] I can tell you… I am not a great fan of pixels. I understand they’re a tremendous moviemaking tool but what happens to me in most current movies, my actual emotional connection to the story and the characters is removed when I know — like everybody else in the audience knows — that I’m not watching human beings in a physical world.

I think most of us can agree that Wallace (who in addition to penning the screenplays for Braveheart and Pearl Harbor is the writer/director of films such as We Were Soldiers and the upcoming Secretariat) has the right attitude here, and I would hope that he brought as much of it into his draft of the script as possible.

The more I hear about the approach that Disney is taking with this property, the more it becomes clear that they know what they’re doing. The source material may be firmly rooted in elements of fantasy, but it’s not so fantastical that it can’t translate to a fully believable cinematic world. All it needs is the right person to give it that realistic edge, and Fincher is more than suited for the job. If anything, this is playing to his strengths, since even with a movie like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button he didn’t seem too keen on embracing the fantastical side to the story. With 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, he doesn’t need to; the fantasy elements are there, but the more practically realized they are, the better.

Previously:

As you might recall, the project was previously titled Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and was setup with director by McG with a script by Bill Marsilli’s (Deja Vu), with rewrites by geek screenwriter Justin Marks (Masters of the Universe, Super Max) and Randall Wallace (Braveheart). The project was shut down a few weeks after Disney chairman Dick Cook left Disney. Apparnetly the dark tone of McG’s version was a big concern of new studio head Rich Ross and prodution head Sean Bailey.

Fincher approached Disney production head Sean Bailey a few weeks into his job this winter, which is around the same time Disney announced they had dropped the project from their slate. The project was developed under the radar and it was only in the past few days that the official deals were put on the table. Fincher developed the new take on the franchise with Bourne Ultimatum/The Informant! scribe Scott Z. Burns, which “will aim to be visually dazzling” and is being described as “being in the vein of Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back.”

The previous screenplay was to tell the origin story of Nemo and his warship, the Nautilus. The unofficial logline read:

“A fugitive whaler teams up with a naturalist, a mysterious woman and a captain of a futuristic submarine, to search for a lost underwater civilization that holds libraries of vast knowledge and a weapon with the power to destroy mankind.”

Of course, this storyline will probably be completely abandoned. No details about Fincher’s take are known at this time. Burns will start writing the screenplay immediately, and Fincher will likely have enough time to tackle another project before going under the sea (probably the much talked about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the first live action film in Walt Disney history, and is considered by many to be the most mature film they have ever produced. Based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name, the 1954 film told the story of a ship sent to investigate a wave of mysterious sinkings encounters the advanced submarine, the Nautilus, commanded by Captain Nemo.

The film is best remembered for the giant-squid battle and for the Nautilus itself. It won two Academy Awards in 1955 for Best Effects and Set Decoration, and was also nominated for Best Film Editing.

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