Disney Fast-Tracks Live-Action Cruella With Fifty Shades Scribe


As Disney toils to update its extensive library of animated classics with a huge slate of reimaginings, reboots and origin stories, the studio has zeroed in one of its most famous (and fur-loving) villainesses for a live-action origin story: 101 Dalmatians‘ Cruella de Vil.

Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel, best known for penning Fifty Shades of Grey, is attached to write Cruella for Disney, which views the origin pic as a priority and is fast-tracking it as such. Marcel will collaborate with Steve Zissis, the co-creator of HBO’s Togetherness, on the story. Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) previously worked on a version of the script.

Cruella de Vil, who appeared in both the 1961 animated original and its 2003 direct-to-video sequel, is one of Disney’s most widely recognizable villains, from her ostentatious fashion to her distinctive red-and-black automobile, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Disney is interested in fleshing out the aptly named evildoer with a movie all her own.

That Maleficent, which laid out the early days of the Sleeping Beauty antagonist in blockbuster fashion, became a runaway hit and grossed over $750 million worldwide last year surely influenced studio execs as they mulled a green light for Cruella. And Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella hauling in $542 million only confirmed that there’s a tremendous public appetite for well-made takes on iconic fairy tales.

The Cruella project is one of many in the works at Disney that dust off familiar titles from the studio’s overstuffed animated library. Next up is Jon Favreau’s gorgeous-looking reimagining of The Jungle Book, which will open April 15 next year; meanwhile, Tim Burton is hard at work on Alice Through the Looking Glass, which has been dated for May 27, 2016, and Bill Condon is tackling Beauty and the Beast (March 17, 2017).

Other old-made-new pics on the way include Dumbo (also to be directed by Burton), Tink (starring Reese Witherspoon as the Peter Pan sidekick – no word yet on whether the train-wreck opening for this month’s Pan will influence that project at all), Genies (an Aladdin prequel explaining how Genie got into that lamp), Maleficent 2Mulan and Pete’s Dragon.