Let’s start with a little clarification, because there are currently two movies entitled Everest which are aiming to start production within the next six months, and though they both involve disastrous attempts to summit the highest point on Earth, they deal with different events.
The first of these pictures we reported on back in July, and deals with a 1996 summit attempt which resulted in the deaths of eight climbers. The events were chronicled in Into Thin Air by John Krakauer (though the movie won’t be a straight adaptation of the book, relying instead on multiple accounts), and the picture is currently set to star Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Josh Brolin. Despite some recent production hiccups (mostly involving funding), the pic still plans to start shooting next month.
Then there’s the movie Tom Hardy just left, which recounts the expedition of George Mallory, an Englishman who died on the slopes of Everest in 1924 while attempting to summit the mountain. (Some contend that Mallory made it and died on the way back down, although New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norgay are officially credited as the first to have made it, their expidition in 1953.) Hardy had been set to play Mallory, but the start date for the production was bumped up to next March, which conflicts with Hardy’s shooting schedule on other projects.
According to Deadline, Benedict Cumberbatch leads the shortlist of actors to replace Hardy, a list which includes just about every young British actor at work today so we’re not sure if this is coming from a studio source or if it’s just someone spitballing names. For the record, the list includes James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class), Tom Hiddleston (Thor), Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), Joel Kinnaman (the upcoming RoboCop), and Luke Evans (Fast and Furious 6).
It’s hard for us to believe Cumberbatch would take the role even if he’s topping the studio’s (Sony’s) list for the same reason Hardy left: scheduling. Putting aside for a moment the Star Wars rumors which, if true, would almost certainly interfere with his ability to join Everest, Cumberbatch already dropped out of Crimson Peak (where he was replaced, incidentally, by Hiddelston) and is apparently in for The Lost City of Z. He’ll also need to take time for publicity on The Imitation Game.
None of that signals a definitive nix on Everest, but it Sony’s being so bullish about its start date that it was willing to jettison Hardy, we’re betting it’s unlikely Cumberbatch’s schedule is going to be accommodated. But while, with the possible exception of Hiddelston or Cavill, none of the other names listed above represent anything close to the same box office draw that Cumberbatch possesses, it is a list of some top-notch actors. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one to see who nabs the part.