UPDATE: This story is not accurate. MTV has taken down their original story because the facts were wrong. Randall Wallace did some work on the now-canceled Disney version of 20,000 Leagues, and the David Fincher version is something completely different. So, accordingly, this is non-news. Sorry about that.
Just when I thought I couldn't be any less excited about David Fincher devoting a year of his life - at the height of his creative powers - to the dull world of Stieg Larsson, Randal Wallace comes along and gets me all excited about the project Fincher should be tackling right now. MTV recently sat down with Wallace to chat about his equine biopic Secretariat and his recent decision to walk away from the potential blockbuster Airwalker due to conflict with star Vincent Chase (wait, you're telling me that Entourage is not a documentary told in real-time?). Wallace - who wrote Braveheart, and is rumored to have also done some other stuff with his life - spoke briefly about his involvement with Fincher's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea re-make, and had a few very encouraging things to say about the direction in which the project is developing.
Fincher has previously described the project as a "Gigantic steampunk science fiction movie from 1873," and has mentioned that he'd like for 20,000 Leagues to be his Empire Strikes Back, which means... potentially nothing. I think every director begins a project hoping that it'll be their Empire Strikes Back - I'm pretty sure that the directors of Vampires Suck went into production hoping that the film was going to be their Empire Strikes Back (mission accomplished, guys!). But Wallace's recent comments help clarify the matter.
His claim that "[Disney] is developing it in a way that had more heart and a more realistic lucidness than what you would think of as the normal fantasy fare" suggests that all involved parties are hoping to marry the scale inherent to the project with the detailed and compassionate character work that has made Empire such an enduring fan favorite. Wallace went on to suggest that Disney is allowing Fincher to explore practical effects in an effort to maintain a physical and emotional weight, saying that "I am not a great fan of pixels. I understand they're a tremendous moviemaking tool but what happens to me in most current movies, my actual emotional connection to the story and the characters is removed when I know - like everyone else in the audience knows - that I'm not watching human beings in a physical world."
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea might be a story of sea monsters, cannibals, and Peter Lorres, but anyone familiar with either Jules Verne's source novel or the beloved 1954 Disney film of the same name knows that the tall tale is much more than simple spectacle. Captain Nemo and his gang have traditionally been threaded through stories of stirring adventure and comradery, but also great socio-political heft, and there's no reason that - given the forthcoming film's growing pedigree - it couldn't be a serious Oscar contender if imbued with the grounded gravitas Wallace claims to have brought along. I just wish that we'd be seeing this in December of 2011 and not that Rooney Mara vehicle we keep hearing so much about. I mean, I don't want to bum you guys out or anything, but an inside source tells me that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo doesn't even have any dragons! It's just a lot of Swedish people standing around talking about rape. Thanks, but I liked that better when it was called Every Lars von Trier Movie Ever Made. Fincher, the Nautilus is waiting.