Chabon Scripted 20,000 Leagues Shelved

Walt Disney has pulled the plug on a $150 million remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea after only recently bringing Michael Chabon on board to rewrite the script, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision came from new Disney Studios chief Rich Ross less than four months before the movie was to begin shooting. Disney had only recently brought on Chabon to help rework the script for the movie, called Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The movie was to be directed by McG.

The decision, according to the paper’s sources, was out of concerns the movie was going to be too dark.

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Love to Screen at Toronto Film Fest

Don Roos’s film adaptation of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is set to premier at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film, based on Ayelet Waldman’s novel and staring Natalie Portman, will be one of 335 films from 64 countries that will screen at the festival, which runs from Sept. 10 through 19. Seventy-one other films will also have their world premier at the festival.

Here’s how the film is described in TIFF’s press release, which was issued last week:

“Emilia Woolf (Natalie Portman) is a Harvard law school graduate and a newlywed, having just married Jack, her high-powered New York lawyer boss (Scott Cohen). Her life takes an unexpected turn when the couple loses their newborn daughter. Emilia struggles through her grief to connect with her precocious new stepson William (Charlie Tahan), overcome a rift in her relationship with her father caused by his infidelity, and cope with the constant interferences of Jack’s angry, jealous ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow). An adaptation of an Ayelet Waldman novel, this tearful and terrific tale by writer-director Don Roos proves that even with a pursuit like love, nothing is impossible.”

Chabon Lectures on Poe

Following the news that he’d been hired to revise the script for Disney’s John Carter of Mars, Michael Chabon took to Northwestern University on Monday to deliver a lecture on — what else — Edgar Allen Poe.

The Daily Northwestern reports that Chabon recited Poe’s poem “Ulalume,” “his rendition was more performance than presentation.” A blog maintained by three MFA graduates in Montana says Chabon then went on to discuss how to instill horror into writing. He also could relate to Poe, the Northwestern reports.

“Bookish, homely, clumsy, bright, friendless, arrogant and self-pitying - I was all those things at the same time,” Chabon said. “The tag of ‘nerd’ did not come into general use in the school corridors of my hometown until the following year and words like ‘geek’ or ‘fanboy’ or even, in its full derogatory richness, ‘loser’ remained years away from finding their way onto the ‘kick me’ sign I wore taped to my back.”

The Chicago Tribune, in an article previewing the lecture, asked Chabon why he chose to lecture on Poe.

“Well, it was either Poe or Robert Ludlum,” Chabon said. “In the end, I just pulled the trigger and picked Poe. [Laughs] I’m totally kidding. The writers I tend to like are the writers who meet you at any point you return to them. So, you know, when you read Poe when you’re a kid, you notice the obvious, surface appeal of Poe — a lot of the gothic horror and the extreme states of consciousness and the macabre imagery. But when I go to Poe now, at the age of almost 46, I’m a lot less interested in that sort of stuff now. When I go to Poe now, there’s the incredible sense of loss. The ache of loss that permeates Poe.”

The Tribune diverged from Poe to ask Chabon about other topics. The author says he thinks a Kavalier & Clay movie will “eventually” get made, despite past road bumps. Asked if he was worried if the Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie might give a new life to questions about his sexuality, Chabon said he “didn’t care.” The reporter then asked if he was “uncomfortable” being identified as a bisexual author.

“Yeah, well, uncomfortable because I’m not bisexual,” Chabon said. “Uncomfortable isn’t even the right word. It would be like if I was identified as a Mennonite novelist. To quote Seinfeld – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not the case. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter one way or the other.”

‘Mysteries’ Finally Opens in Theaters

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is finally opening today in limited release. If you are in New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, then you too can go and see Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, and Peter Sarsgaard bring Michael Chabon’s first movie to the big screen.

But should you?

Let’s face it, the reviews, well, they ain’t that pretty. And there’s a reason it’s taken more than a year since it opened at Sundance in 2007 for the movie to finally to get distribution. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gives the film only two out of five stars, calling it “artificial” and says “to call it ‘inspired by’ [Chabon’s novel would be a stretch.” Ebert has some good words for the cast, noting “some well-developed performances for such an underdeveloped screenplay” thanks to Sarsgaard and Mena Suvari, among others. But still, Ebert doesn’t sound thrilled.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times says “even the most passionate fan of Pittsburgh-in-the-’80s-crazy-summer-coming-of-age stories is likely to be disappointed” by Mysteries, “a clumsy and confused adaptation” of Chabon’s novel. David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle calls it an “earnest but unconvincing film” missing “the edge, charm and drily pointed cultural observations that made Chabon’s 1988 debut so auspicious.”

Almost all the reviews compare Rawson Marshall Thurber’s film to last weekend’s other coming-of-age flick, Adventureland, with the implication being your money is better spent watching that over what Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls a “slick” but ultimately “fake” film. Indeed, out of 139 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes says 88 percent were positive for Adventureland; of the 16 reviews for Mysteries, only 11 percent were good.

If you want to judge for yourself, you can find the trailer over at Apple. I myself will probably go this weekend just to see for myself if it’s as bad as it sounds. But don’t say I didn’t warn you in advance.

Chabon Revising ‘John Carter of Mars’ Script

In yesterday’s item by Deadline Hollywood Daily about Michael Chabon switching agents, it mentioned that he was attached to write a script for Disney’s John Carter of Mars. Having never heard that before, I checked in with Chabon to see if it was accurate. The answer is yes.

“I’ve been hired to do some revisions to an already strong script by Andrew Stanton and Mark Andrews,” Chabon said. “I wrote my original screenplay The Martian Agent back in 1995 because I wished I could do [Edgar Rice] Burroughs’s Barsoom. So this is pretty much a dream come true for me.”

Disney got the option rights to Burrough’s 11-volume series in 2007 after the rights lapsed at Paramount Pictures. Andrew Stanton, the writer and director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E, is set to direct. It’s expected to hit theaters in 2012.