Given that he directed one of the most successful French films of all time, in the shape of 2001’s still-delightful “Amelie,” it’s surprising that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet hasn’t worked in Hollywood more. But then again, given that his only English-language picture to date was the woeful “Alien: Resurrection,” perhaps it’s not so surprising after all. Hollywood has come calling, of course: the director was courted to make films including “Life of Pi,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Mirror Mirror,” but he’s generally preferred to march to the beat of his own drum, with two French-language pictures in the last decade, the underrated “A Very Long Engagement,” and the slight, but enjoyable, “MicMacs.”
But finally, Jeunet is about to cross the Atlantic again: since last year, he’s been working on a second-English language feature, a 3D adaptation of Reif Larsen‘s cult 2009 novel “The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet.” The film’s now gearing up to get before cameras at the end of next month, with a new title, “The Young and Prodigious Spivet” (watch that change again, “Hugo“-style), and it looks like he’s locked down his principal cast, with Variety reporting that Helena Bonham-Carter, Kathy Bates and Canadian character actor Callum Keith Rennie (“Memento“) have all signed on to the project.
The plot seems like a good fit for the director: it revolves around a 12-year-old cartography enthusiast in an eccentric family, who travels across country hidden on board a freight train after being invited to the Smithsonian Institute. Young actor Kyle Catlett has been cast in the title role, while Rennie will play his father; there’s no word at the moment as to who Bonham-Carter or Bates might be playing. Are there any fans of the novel out there who might take a guess?
Jeunet’s bringing along many of his key collaborators from “Amelie” and beyond, including screenwriter Guillaume Laurant, while Demetri Portelli, who was behind the 3D for “Hugo,” will act as stereographer. It might sound like a piece of whimsy, but Jeunet say it’s actually fairly grounded, telling the trade that “it’s a very touching story,” albeit one with heavy VFX elements. Filming gets underway in Alberta, Canada, on June 30th, and an October 2013 delivery date is currently being targeted.