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Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is one of those books that will be adapted and re-adapted until the end of time, both on television and in film. Most recently it was announced that director David Fincher and writer Scott Z. Burns would be working on a new version of the story, but with the Fincher working on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Burns heading around the world for the Steven Soderbergh-directed Contagion, we haven’t heard too much about the project’s status. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to sit down with Burns earlier today and he provided an update on the project’s status.
While discussing his upcoming scripts, the screenwriter told me that the movie is on a similar timetable to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which he hopes will start shooting in the spring, but there's still a lot of pre-production work that needs to be done. "Because of the amount of pre-vis work that David would have to do we wouldn’t probably start shooting for a little while later and David is so buried in Dragon Tattoo, that’s where his focus is," Burns said. "For now I’ve done writing for both of them [The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea]. They’re sort of waiting to get cast and move forward."
Burns also confirmed that the scale of the project is "really big," but don't expect the movie to be the exact same story from Verne's novel. Saying that there's "very little" that goes directly from the page to the screen, he said that his job "isn’t to turn a book into a movie, it’s to be inspired by the book and then go write a movie." The inspiration that Burns took largely come from the three main characters: Captain Nemo, French marine biologist Professor Pierre Aronnax, and master harpoonist Ned Land. "David and I had a really cool idea for the relationship between Nemo, and Aronnax and Land," Burns said. "That’s really what we kind of got into. But I think it’s very, very true to the spirit of the book."
Given that Fincher hasn't worked on a large scale movie since Alien 3 it will be fascinating to see what he does with this project. The relationship between Nemo, Aronnax and Land so rich that in the hands of filmmakers like Fincher and Burns it could be brilliant. With Contagion set to be released on September 9th, look out for my full exclusive interview with writer Scott Z. Burns soon.