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'Atonement' Director Joe Wright to Take on Peter Pan Origin Film

Nov 12, 2013 | 12:42pm EST

Joe Wright director for new Peter PanFocus Features via Everett Collection

A beloved fairytale classic is about to get the superhero treatment: Warner Bros. is developing a new film that would focus on the origins of Peter Pan, and follow his journey from an ordinary boy to the only child who never grew up. Esteemed filmmaker Joe Wright has been tapped to direct the film, which will feature a script written by Jason Fuchs and will be produced by Greg Berlanti.

Not much is known about the movie at this time, but it will have to compete with two other Peter Pan-inspired films that are also in the works. The first is Peter and the Starcatchers, which is also an origin story and is based on the book and stage play of the same name. Gary Ross is set to direct it as his follow up to The Hunger Games, but it seems like it may still be some time before that film enters production. The second Peter-based project is called Pan, and has Channing Tatum attached to star. 

Fuchs' best known script to date is Ice Age: Continental Drift, which doesn't necessarily bode well for the film, as the Ice Age films are usually critically panned despite making lots of money at the box office. However, it could be an advantage if the film is intended for a younger audience, rather than being a more adult story. Another advantage that the film has is Berlanti, whose work on the CW show Arrow means that he has experience with projects that develop and re-work backstories. On the other hand, both Ice Age and Arrow are considered to be "guilty pleasures," which doesn't seem to fit well with Wright's more serious credits. If this Peter Pan tale is intended to be for children, though, they have the past experience to ensure that the film will entertain both the young audience and the parents who accompany them. 

Wright is a bit of an unusual choice for a Peter Pan film — after all, the vast majority of his film credits are period pieces starring Keira Knightley. His projects are aimed at an adult audience, although he has also been rumored to be attached to a new retelling of The Little Mermaid, so there is a chance that Wright is intending to start making films aimed at children. But his experience with period pieces will be an advantage for him on this project, as the story of Peter Pan requires, if not a period setting, multiple period elements. The original story was set in the early 1900s, so the film would need to be set earlier than that in order to explore the origins of Peter. 

Although Wright's films are always more grounded in reality than a film about Peter Pan might call for, his style of directing would allow him to insert some of the magical and fairy tale elements quite easily. His penchant for sweeping landscapes, elaborate costumes and carefully choreographed ballroom scenes make an ideal environment to weave magic into a film, and he's proven with Atonement that he is adept at weaving together disparate storylines that are intended to mislead the audience, which will be helpful for a story like Peter Pan. It's likely that Wright will take a highly stylized approach to the film, like he did with Anna Karenina, which was shot almost entirely on sets built in a dilapidated London theater, in order to represent the fact that the characters all lived their lives like a performance on a stage. The story of Peter Pan naturally lends itself to a  metaphorical shooting style, and so it would make sense for Wright to attempt something similar for this film.

It's also likely that Wright's take on Peter Pan will have a darker tone, as both Atonement and Hanna — his only films to feature a young leading character — were darker takes on the typical coming-of-age tale. Wright's Peter will also probably have a similar feel to the character of Hanna, and feature elements like her intelligence, fearlessness and physicality. His experience with the teenage-warrior character will likely be relevant for this project, as every adaptation fo Peter's story features at least one instance where the character needs to fight or outsmart an adult, a villain, or an adult villain in order to survive.

The only thing that really remains in question when it comes to this new take on Peter Pan is whether or not Wright will be able to find a role for Knightley in it.


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