We are going to do our best to keep the ‘back from the dead’ puns to a minimum, but it seems that the feature adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s popular genre mash-up novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is um . . . back . . . on again. According to a Deadline exclusive, production company Cross Creek Pictures has secured domestic rights to the movie, setting Lily James (Downton Abbey), Sam Riley (Maleficent), and Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows) to star. In case you’re still not convinced that it’s actually happening, production is scheduled to start next month, with Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) directing a script by David O. Russell (American Hustle).
Though the novel grabbed plenty of attention upon being published in 2009 and became an international bestseller, getting the movie made has proven to be quite challenging. A series of directors and leading ladies have come and gone over the years, making it seem as though the project would never come to fruition. The commercial and critical failure of 2012’s similar mash-up, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, probably didn’t help matters either. Russell wrote the first adaptation of Grahame-Smith’s novel and was originally attached to direct, but later dropped out. Mike White (Year of the Dog, HBO’s Enlightened) was then brought in to direct, followed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), and then finally Steers. Somewhat amazingly, it’s Russell’s original script that has remained intact all this time and will be used for this current version.
Of course, part of the problem has been finding the right actress to play heroine Elizabeth Bennett. Natalie Portman (Black Swan), who remains a producer on the project, was originally going to star before becoming busy with other projects. Emma Stone (The Help) was pursued but she passed on the project back in 2011. When Steers came aboard as director, Lily Collins’ (Mirror Mirror) name was floated about, but that never ended up working out either. Now it appears they are set, with the lead role going to James, whose career is starting to take off. She will next be seen in the title role of Disney’s live-action Cinderella, due out next year, and is rumored to be signing up for a starring role in the BBC’s epic mini-series War and Peace. In addition to Riley and Heathcote, it sounds like Jack Huston (Kill Your Darlings) is also coming aboard Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Keep checking back here for more casting news and other developments, as we’ll be monitoring this one closely to make sure it stays undead. (We said we’d try to avoid the puns, we didn’t promise).