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A few weeks back I got a chance to talk with Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. After seeing the movie it would be hard to imagine it not being a Disney movie, but many of you might be surprised to learn that Saving Mr. Banks was originally written on spec outside of the mouse house. So “outside” in fact, it was written across the pond in England.

Marcel has a fascinating history as an aspiring British actress who found herself writing screenplays while working at a London video store. One of her television ideas got the attention of Steven Spielberg, and was made into a series that she was not proud of. We talk to Marcel about her career, how she developed Saving Mr. Banks outside of the Hollywood system, the opportunity to dig deep inside Disney’s vault, and the dramatic license of brining a true story to the big screen.

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SAVING MR. BANKS

There’s a certain kind of stress that comes with watching a favorite book get adapted into movies, and I can only imagine that the process must be even more nerve-wracking for the authors of those books. It can’t be easy for them to see their work chopped up and rearranged, or to find that what soars on the page drops with a thud on the screen.

In Saving Mr. Banks, writer P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) tries to save herself that grief by refusing to hand over the film rights to her Mary Poppins books. But Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) doesn’t give up easily, and, well, if you’ve ever tried to wrap your mouth around the nonsense word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” you can probably guess how that goes. Watch the first trailer for the fact-based drama after the jump.

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Tom Hanks / Emma Thompson

Watching Disney’s Mary Poppins as a small child, I remember being amazed by the (in my view) radical technology that allowed real movie stars to stand alongside cartoon critters. Little did I know that combining animation and live-action was the least of the struggles in getting the picture made.

The upcoming drama Saving Mr. Banks chronicles Walt Disney‘s fourteen-year effort to convince P.L. Travers, author of the original Mary Poppins books, to give over the movie rights. The film’s got “awards season” written all over it: John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) directs from a Black List script by Kelly Marcel, with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in the leads. The first official image has just hit the web, and you can check it out after the jump.

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The Little Mermaid

Like Cinderella, Snow White, and her other fairy tale sistren before her, the Little Mermaid is getting her very own cinematic live-action adaptation. And happily for the iconic fish-woman, she’s got some seriously promising talent backing her up.

Kelly Marcel has just been tapped to rewrite The Little Mermaid for director Joe Wright. Though the most famous incarnation of the tale is likely the 1989 animation, pictured above, Wright and Marcel won’t be telling Disney’s version of the tale. Instead, it’ll draw from the Little Angel Theatre’s stage production, based on Hans Christian Anderson‘s classic story. Hit the jump for more details.

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Gus Van Sant / Fifty Shades of Grey / Alex Pettyfer

It was around this time last year that Universal forked over $3 million or more to pick up the movie rights to Fifty Shades of Grey, author E.L. JamesTwilight fanfiction-turned-erotic bestseller. Despite the rumors that have been flying around since the beginning, though, the project still doesn’t have a director or stars attached. But apparently one guy who wants in is Gus Van Sant.

In a bid for the directing gig, Van Sant has shot a test reel of a steamy sex scene, with Magic Mike actor Alex Pettyfer playing kinky billionaire Christian Grey. This is by no means a confirmation that either of them will be involved in the final product. However, it may suggest that Van Sant is the kind of filmmaker Universal is looking for. Hit the jump to keep reading.

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Book lovers often worry that their favorite tomes won’t translate perfectly to the big screen, but fans of E.L. James‘ Fifty Shades of Grey have more reason to be anxious than most. The erotic bestseller has attracted a lot of attention for its explicit portrayal of S&M sex — not generally an activity that translates well to blockbuster movies. But screenwriter Kelly Marcel says Fifty Shades lovers needn’t fret.

According to her, Focus Features’ Fifty Shades film will be so steamy, it’ll be rated NC-17. It’s a surprising move by the studio if true, but that might be a big “if.” More details after the jump.

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Despite its humble origins as a bit of Twilight fanfiction, E.L. JamesFifty Shades of Grey is picking up some interesting talent on its road to the big screen. The Social Network producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti signed on back in July, and have been looking for a writer to adapt the erotic novel ever since.

A shortlist revealed in August suggested an unexpected mix of names in the running, and as of today, Saving Mr. Banks writer and Terra Nova co-creator Kelly Marcel has emerged as the winner of the highly coveted gig. Sorry, Bret Easton Ellis. More after the jump.

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Plenty of high-profile actors and filmmakers have devoted time to deflecting Fifty Shades of Grey movie rumors in recent months, but one industry figure who’s made no secret of his burning desire to bring the S&M novel to life is Bret Easton Ellis. The American Psycho author has been pushing hard for the screenwriting job over the past couple of months, calling lead character Christian Grey “a writer’s dream” and floating casting ideas via Twitter.

Alas, it seems this particular dream is out of reach for Ellis. A shortlist of possible scribes for the Universal and Focus Features adaptation has just been revealed, and Ellis’ name is nowhere to be seen. What’s more surprising may be the writers that are. Producers are reportedly eyeing writers behind Cars 2, The Killing, and Saving Mr. Banks. More details after the jump.

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