David O. Russell Script Still The Basis For 'Pride And Prejudice And Zombies'

After weeks of back and forth, Craig Gillespie was finally announced yesterday as the new — and hopefully final — director of the Lionsgate film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The movie has had a long and public development path, with Natalie Portman producing and originally starring in the film based on Seth Grahame-Smith's novel and David O. Russell writing the script and directing. Mr. Russell left a while back, Natalie Portman bowed out of the cast, and Mike White was hired to direct, then also left.

So Craig Gillespie is firmly in the director's chair, but we've wondered about the fate of the David O. Russell script, which was once said to be the thing that gave the project a lot of momentum. The film's new director says that script is still in play, and the film will shoot at the end of the summer.

Speaking to EW, Craig Gillespie said,

...we have a really great script that we're just going to do a polish on and then get going, really.... David Russell wrote the script off the book, and it has such a great mix of humor and horror. I just love being able to juggle those two aspects.

And as he tells it, the script was the selling point for him, as well:

I was still finishing up Fright Night, but in the meantime I called my agent and said, "I want to see that script." He said, "I'm not sure we'd be able to figure out the timing." But I read the first 30 pages and said, "I want to do this." It's just such a great combination between classic literature — Jane Austen, and meshing it with zombies. The challenge of meshing those two genres is really exciting to me.

From the rest of the interview, it sounds like we can expect a blend of the core love story from Jane Austen's novel, but also quite a bit of zombie action and "a lot of big set pieces." None of this really makes me waver from the basic position that the book sounds still as hell, but the idea of a compelling David O. Russell script based on the material is very persuasive. Sounds, too, like there will be more overt stylization in the Craig Gillespie version than we might have seen from another director. He explains,

There's going to be a strong gothic undertone, which ties the two genres together. It's more in the world of [Tim Burton's 1999] Sleepy Hollow, where it's somewhat stylized. We have that creative license because of the zombies. I'll certainly do my homework and explore genres to see what might work, but it's going to have that strong gothic sense, I think.