20000_leagues

When Disney chairman Dick Cook got the boot (or quit) a few weeks back, many guessed that the first high-profile casualty of his exit would be the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. Not likely, as that’s a film that Disney will keep afloat at almost any cost. As it turns out, the first big picture to shut down in the wake of Cook’s exit was another big oceangoing effects film he’d championed. Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, previously to be directed by McG from a Randall Wallace script, is no more. At least for now.

My understanding is that the fate of this version of the movie was essentially sealed the moment the door closed on Cook’s last day at Disney. Variety is reporting the film’s demise — or placement on ‘indefinite hold’ — now, but unless what I’ve been told was quite wrong (always a possibility to some extent) this one has been bobbing in the shallows for the past two months. Variety does say that event films like this, Pirates 4, Tron and John Carter of Mars remain a priority at Disney under the leadership of Rich Ross, so what makes Nemo different?

Bottom line: of that pack of films, it was the farthest from the finish line. Nemo hadn’t been 100% greenlit when Cook left. Yes, McG was signed and scripts had been commissioned, but my understanding is that the final budget was not agreed upon, and deals were not set in stone. Combine that with any number of other factors and this origin story of the Nautilus had an increasingly slim chance of actually coming together. (Possible factors include lack of a bankable cast attachment, dithering on the script, regime change politics, etc.)

That doesn’t mean that we won’t see another version of this film down the line, and perhaps even rather soon. The title has a rich history at the studio, where it was one of Disney’s early live-action films and a double Oscar winner for effects and set decoration. There will almost certainly be a Captain Nemo film at some point; the question now is how much resemblance it will bear to the current Randall Wallace draft, which followed a Justin Marks rewrite of the Bill Marsilli draft that kicked the project off in the first place. I’d think that it goes without saying that whatever does get made will be in 3D.

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