Is that a record for how long something's been in development? Because Hollywood's been trying to figure out how to make a "John Carter Of Mars" movie for damn near a century now, and today, principal photography on Andrew Stanton's feature film began in London, according to a press release sent out by Walt Disney Studios. Which means that sometime in 2012, we're going to finally see the amazing world created by Edgar Rice Burroughs brought to life, and that news makes me dance and sing.
Literally. I'm scaring the kids.
If you're not familiar with the property, it's going to sound a little familiar on the surface after the omnipresence of "Avatar" for the last month. It's the story of a Civil War-era soldier on Earth who finds himself transported to the surface of Mars, where he finds a complex and chaotic civilization known to its inhabitants as Barsoom, eventually winning the love of Dejah Thoris, a princess, and becoming a hero in a planetary conflict. It's rip-roaring pulp material in the best sense of the term, high adventure and alien monsters and scantily-clad women with both red and green skin. Burroughs was one of the guys who created the template that filmmakers and storytellers have been telling for decades now, and one of the things that has made the production of a film version trickier as time has passed has been the way elements of it have been borrowed and re-borrowed by other films. I have no doubt that some people will see "John Carter Of Mars" as a reaction to "Avatar" when it's released, but I also have no doubt that the impression will last all of about five seconds into whatever Andrew Stanton has planned for us.
Stanton's work on his Pixar films like "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E" is impressive in terms of storytelling and imagination, and he's assembled a typically strong team of collaborators to help him realize the project. Here's the text that Disney sent out earlier today:
Principal photography is underway in London for Walt Disney Pictures’ “JOHN CARTER OF MARS.” Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton brings this captivating hero to the big screen in a stunning adventure epic set on the wounded planet of Mars, a world inhabited by warrior tribes and exotic desert beings. Based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Barsoom Series,” the film chronicles the journey of Civil-War veteran John Carter, who finds himself battling a new and mysterious war amidst a host of strange Martian inhabitants.
Produced for Walt Disney Pictures by Jim Morris (“WALL•E,” “Ratatouille”) and Colin Wilson (“Avatar,” “War of the Worlds”), the live action/animation film marks Academy Award®-winning director/writer Andrew Stanton’s (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E”) first foray into live action. Stanton directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Disney•Pixar’s “WALL•E,” which earned the Academy Award and Golden Globe® for Best Animated Feature (2008); Stanton was nominated for an Oscar® for the screenplay. He made his directorial debut with Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” garnering an Academy Award-nomination for Best Original Screenplay and winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature (2003). He has worked as a screenwriter and/or executive producer on Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life” (which he also co-directed), “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Ratatouille” and “Up.”
"I have been waiting my whole life to see the characters and worlds of 'John Carter of Mars' realized on the big screen,” says Stanton. “It is just a wonderful bonus that I have anything to do with it."
The stellar ensemble cast is led by Taylor Kitsch (NBC’S “Friday Night Lights”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) in the title role, Lynn Collins (“50 First Dates,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) as the warrior princess Dejah Thoris and Oscar® nominee Willem Dafoe (“Spider-Man 3,” “Shadow of a Vampire”) as Martian inhabitant Tars Tarkas. The cast also includes Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways,” Spider-Man 3), Polly Walker (upcoming “Clash of the Titans,” “Patriot Games”), Samantha Morton (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “In America”), Mark Strong (“Sherlock Holmes,” “Body of Lies”), Ciaran Hinds (“Munich,” “There Will Be Blood”), British actor Dominic West (“300,” “Chicago”), James Purefoy (“Vanity Fair,” “Resident Evil”) and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”). Daryl Sabara (“Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” “Spy Kids”) takes the role of John Carter’s teenaged nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The creative team includes Oscar®-nominated production designer Nathan Crowley (“Public Enemies,” “The Dark Knight,” “Batman Begins”), costume designer Mayes Rubeo (“Avatar,” “Apocalypto”), cinematographer Daniel Mindel (“Star Trek,” “Mission Impossible III,” “Spygame”) and video effects supervisor Peter Chiang (“The Reader,” “The Bourne Ultimatum”).
When Harry Knowles and Jon Favreau were trying to get their version of the film made at Paramount, I saw a ton of the artwork that they were generating, and it rekindled my itch to see the project finally brought to life. There's so much potential here, and if Stanton pulls it off and we get a trilogy of films out of this, we're looking at one of the great geek properties of all time.
I hope we get a chance to bring you some advanced looks at what Stanton and his team are up to in the months ahead.
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