Just because Hollywood gets excited about a movie, doesn’t mean they’re actually in a rush to make it. Studios flipped out over Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – which took the original, impassioned romance of Jane Austen’s novel and added zombies to it – and picked up the rights almost immediately after its publication in 2009. But since then the project has changed directors and stars and production companies multiple times, and an adaptation of another Grahame-Smith novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, came and went and barely made its money back.
But you can’t keep a good zombie (concept) down. Variety reports this week that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is back in the works at Universal Pictures, from Cross Creek Pictures (Black Swan). The latest attempt to adapt the novel will be directed by Burr Steers (17 Again), a filmmaker who also played “Flock of Seagulls” in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The screenplay is credited to Steers and Oscar-nominated filmmaker David O. Russell (American Hustle), who had previously been attached to direct an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with Natalie Portman starring as Elizabeth Bennet.
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That lead role has now been cast with Lily James (“Downton Abbey”). Sam Riley (Maleficent) and Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows) has also been added to the lineup. Riley will play Elizabeth’s stubbon love interest Mr. Darcy, a role previously played by such heartthrobs as Colin Firth (twice!) and Matthew MacFadyen. Heathcote will play one of Elizabeth’s four sisters, most likely Jane, whose own romantic adventures make up a decent portion of the story… when the Bennet family isn’t slaying the walking dead, of course.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies requires a distinctive blend of sincerity and whimsy to work on camera, something we thought Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter pulled off pretty well, but audiences didn’t really agree. With the latest Seth Grahame-Smith adaptation do a better job of capturing the imagination of audiences, or will the Jane Austen parts turn off horror lovers and the horror parts turn off Jane Austen lovers, leaving a film that – regardless of its quality – has a hard time filling theaters?
Time will tell. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set to begin filming in September, 2014.