One big project that many people are eager to see leap to the big screen has been moving along in fits and starts, without picking up enough steam to move forward. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has had an interesting development history so far. In late 2009, David O. Russell was brought on board to write and direct the picture, with Natalie Portman producing and set to star. Then in October last year, Russell left the picture, with Portman following suit shortly afterward (but staying on to produce). In November, Mike White filled in the empty director’s chair only to vacate the position last week, just over two months after he signed on. At the time Russell left the picture, it appeared he was simply switching over to one of his own projects, the road-trip dramedy “Old St. Louis,” but recently, he reveals he had some other reasons for leaving.
Talking with the WSJ Speakeasy blog, Russell says that disagreements over the budget of the pic played a factor in his departure. “I thought at $40 to $50 million was a bargain price to make a ‘Sherlock Holmes‘-style period action romance that happened to have zombies in it,” Russell said. “The studio budgeted it as a genre zombie movie and gave me $25 to $28 million. I was like, that’s not cool. We have crazy big action sequences in it. It’s very commercial; we have a major romance. It’s a period film. And we’re doing it on the budget that we did ‘The Fighter?’ It made no sense to me. That I found was frustrating.”
While White cited scheduling issues for the reason he left the project (he is writing and directing the Laura Dern-starring show “Enlightened” for HBO) one wonders how much of that is also a cover-up for other issues the project may have. Certainly $25-28 million for a period zombie with big action sequences is a bit on the conservative side, but not impossible either. At any rate, it was a figure that Russell wasn’t comfortable working with, but he’ll still have a chance to get a big action spectacle into theaters as he’s currently working on adaptation of the video game “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.” No directors have yet been named to take over “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” but it’s still a hot project and we figure more names will circle soon.