Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the (hopefully) soon to be started Lionsgate flick, has undergone a turbulent year of different directors, rumours and actors in-and-out. So, I bring you another potential director Craig Gillespie known mostly for some episodes of that series The United States of Tara (which I disliked) and Oscar-nominated Lars and the Real Girl. He’s also doing the 1985 Fright Night remake that should be hitting the screens in August.
But why has it been so difficult for this venture to find a director? Particularly when it has a high cult following, and is almost guaranteed to make some big numbers at the Box Office? Is it, as frequently suggested, scheduling problems?
(Trailer: Lars and the Real Girl)
As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with the lack of fans. The reason, I have been led to believe, can be seen on why the previous directors have bailed. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, previously named director David O. Russell said:
“I thought at $40 to $50 million was a bargain price to make a “Sherlock Holmes”-style period action romance that happened to have zombies in it… The studio budgeted it as a genre zombie movie and gave me $25 to $28 million. I was like, that’s not cool. We have crazy big action sequences in it. It’s very commercial; we have a major romance. It’s a period film. And we’re doing it on the budget that we did “The Fighter?” It made no sense to me.”
A true shame because Sherlock Holmes-style would have been epic.
Let us break this down a bit. $25 mill seems like big bucks to mere mortals (aka me), but upon asking a few of my friends in the film-world what sort of budgeting an average zombie film needs (I mean really, think about all the special effects, makeup and other action sequences that require hundreds of people to collaborate on). Taking a very simple zombie style (not too many action sequences, not that many special effects in terms of zombie limbs flying around) such as 28 Days Later and we are given a budget of 5 million pounds, or around 10-13 million dollars. Similarly, films like Shaun of the Dead were on 4 million pounds (around 10 million dollars). And that’s considering the lack of big-name Hollywood actors and actresses in both.
But what about the period drama part. Pride and Prejudice 2005, with Keira Knightley, had a $28 million budget. Now with historical pieces the big money is for costuming, locations, authenticity (hiring those experts!) and props. Becoming Jane, a relatively low-key flick, had around $17 million to spend. The Other Boleyn Girl (with Portman in) had a $40 million budget. Sense and Sensibility (the gritty Kate Winslet version) was at $16 million.
Let us also consider that the average film budget of a “wide release” (Blockbuster I suppose) of all genres is $65 million (according to The Numbers although personally I’m feeling a little suspicious about this claim- anyone know if it’s true?).
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has its own challenges. It has a tonne of locations, a freaking DOJO, a whole bunch of awesome weapons that you normally wouldn’t see in a zombie flick, more actresses in the main scenes than you can poke a stick at (a weird phrase) and several zombies with very specific injuries. There’s also the difficulties inherent in filming something that has romance, action, gore etc in while somehow maintaining a genre. And, it’s aiming for “ironic horror” apparently.
Thumbs up to whoever actually brings this to fruition. Also, who do we think should be cast as Lizzy? I’m steering away from Anne Hathaway and wishing for Rachel McAdams (NB: Don’t report that as truth, it’s entirely a hope I’ve come up with on my own!).