Do we really need another movie version of Pinocchio? Well, I don't think it's about necessity. While Disney's animated version is a stone-cold classic and Luigi Comencini's Italian TV mini series is pretty much essential too, there will always be room for one more on top if the work is well turned and the artists have found their own way in to the story.
A couple of years back, Tim Burton became attached to direct a movie based on a new, excitingly fresh Pinocchio script by Pushing Daises and Hannibal writer Bryan Fuller. At the time I singled out one climactic scene as indication of how Fuller had created new material for the story, and memorable stuff at that:
Pinochhio is being expected to crawl into what essentially amounts to his grave and to lie there until he sprouts back into a tree. It's potentially quite nightmarish, in a may-I-sew-buttons-into-your-eyes way.
We soon learned that Robert Downey Jr. was attached to the project, reportedly set to play Gepetto, Pinocchio's maker-father. Downey is a bona fide movie star and his clout is considerable so I'm sure his involvement in this picture could be enough to get it made… but at the same time, I don't think Downey would step into anything where he doesn't have a good dealof control.
So at the moment Downey became attached, things would have started changing for Pinocchio.
Somewhere along the line, Jane Goldman was hired to do a rewrite on the screenplay – one might assume this was while Tim Burton was attached, seeing as they had already been collaborating on other projects – but that's not certain; nor do we know quite what part Downey might have played in her selection.
And that was the last we heard for a while.
But a few months ago, after the trail had been cold for a while, Downey spoke about the film during the Iron Man 3 junket.
I want to make Pinocchio as a live action film and not resorting to 'animation. I would like to do it with Ben Stiller…
Stiller was since reported to be in official negotiations to direct the film and while it never became crystal clear if he signed up or not, or just became attached," it seems he's pressing on with development. I understand that the project is very much a going concern at Warner Bros., and more drafts of the script will be incoming, working to new ideas by Downey and Stiller.
I've been able to learn a few details about the bearing that the project is now on. The plan, at least for today, is for Downey Jr. to play both Gepetto and Pinocchio.
It's a younger Gepetto than you might expect – not really with any need for any ageing makeup. As for Pinocchio, I assumed that it might be a performance capture role, but that seems to be still up in the air. It could be just a voice role, if earlier plans to have Pinocchio's physical form be an actual physical form still live on, and there was certainly a lot of discussion about how that might work.
But whatever the approach, it's an interesting prospect. At least the way Fuller wrote him in his draft of this screenplay, Pinocchio was a naughty boy and Downey does mischief.
But he was also very charming, and Downey can most definitely do that too.
Stiller's next film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, mixes the romantic and the melancholy, the fantastical and adventurous. It's apparently a really ambitious film, and also quite the promise that something like Pinocchio would be very safe in his hands.
Here's hoping this all comes together. Everything I've been able to dig up on the film – and I'm sure I'll be telling you a lot more as things movie forward – make it sound like a potentially breathtaking mixture of the sweet and sad, the rousing and heart-tugging. Sounds like a great night out at the movies to me.