Guillermo Del Toro is being shrewd about his dream project "At The Mountains Of Madness," and that's clear as the first concrete casting conversations about the film have become public.

Word is that Del Toro wants Tom Cruise to star in the long-gestating adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft's greatest stories.  In it, a team of archeologists and scientists head to Antarctica at the dawn of the 20th Century, looking for what they presume will be fossils of a long-dead culture.  What they find is far more upsetting, and alive, and possibly apocalyptic.  It's an epic, surreal story, and the screenplay by Del Toro and Matthew Robbins is duly thought of as one of the best unproduced scripts in town.

Now that James Cameron is onboard to produce, and the film is planned as a huge-budget 3D horror epic, something we've never really seen a studio roll the dice on.  And considering the beating Universal's taken on some of their more ambitious films recently, I commend them for pushing forward with risk and innovation instead of retreating to safety.  This is the sort of film that will kick off a rash of imitations if it works, and I think there's a great chance it can.

For one thing, Del Toro's aiming high with the casting.  According to a report on Collider, Tom Cruise is Del Toro's first choice for the role, and after meeting with the actor on the since-scrubbed "Van Helsing," Del Toro decided he wants to see Cruise play the part of a young explorer who finds an opening to a world of hellish reality-bending horror when he heads to the bottom of the Earth.  Universal seems to favor James McAvoy for the role, though.  Since both McAvoy and Cruise are booked for giant studio movies right now, the earliest either of them could start work for Del Toro would be next summer.

Knowing Guillermo, he's probably already got an art team hard at work on his vision of Antarctica and its secrets, and he's probably hard at work with Cameron on the way he'll approach designing 3D horror set pieces.  If he's going to pin down a major movie star to try to help open this bleak, unforgiving nightmare, then now's the time to do it.  I hope we hear a definitive answer on who's playing the role soon, and who Del Toro plans to fill out the rest of the supporting cast with, since this could be a great ensemble movie.

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