By Mack Chico
He’s already tackled Huckleberry Finn and Mowgli, so let’s see what Stephen Sommers can do with Tarzan.
The “Jungle Book” director is in negotiations with Warner Bros. to bring a new version of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs creation “Tarzan, Lord of the Apes,” to the big screen. “Collateral” screenwriter Stu Beattie will write the project with Sommers.
Jerry Weintraub (“Ocean’s Eleven”) is producing through his Jerry Weintraub Prods. Jessica Goodman and Jesse Ehrman will oversee for the studio.
Guillermo del Toro had been attached to direct a script written by John Collee (“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”) when the project was announced two years ago. But “The Mummy” director will get his shot now that Del Toro is committed to a four-year stint choreographing dwarves in New Zealand for the MGM-Warner Bros. two-fer of “The Hobbit.”
With the first two “Mummy” movies, “The Scorpion King” and “Van Helsing,” Sommers, who is repped by WMA, has become a connoisseur of the big-budget, effects-driven spectacle. He recently finished shooting the summer 2009 Paramount tentpole, “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra,” which Beattie came in to write for him.
Over the decades, Tarzan has come in for any number of epic treatments, from John Derek’s 1981 Jane-driven “Tarzan, the Ape Man,” to the 1984 drama “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes,” which famously earned pseudonymous screenwriter Robert Towne’s dog, P.H. Vazak, an Oscar nomination. Disney released its take on the jungle king in 1999, replete with an incongruous (but Oscar-winning) Phil Collins soundtrack.
Beattie and Sommers do not plan to work from the original 1914 Burroughs tome or any previous film. An entirely new approach is in the works, though more details beyond that are being kept under wraps tighter than Tarzan’s loincloth.
Beattie, has “Australia” coming out in November, which he co-wrote with director Baz Luhrmann.