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In these days, where books frequently have their film rights acquired months before hitting bookstore shelves, it’s fairly rare for a popular novel to face obstacles on its way to the big screen. Yet Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has had its fair share of open graves to crawl through on its way to the big screen. Thankfully, that ends now, with Cross Creek Pictures stepping in and acquiring domestic distribution rights, and hiring an actual cast. Jane Austen can begin rolling in her grave anew.
Downton Abbey‘s Lily James is set to take on the female lead as the witty Elizabeth Bennet, which had been rumored for quite a while (the role was formerly set up for producer Natalie Portman). Maleficent star Sam Riley will play her dashing suitor, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Dark Shadows‘s Bella Heathcote will star as one of the other Bennet sisters, though Deadline doesn’t specify which one. Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) is also reportedly in talks for an undisclosed role. The story follows the same basic plot of Austen’s classic novel, only with zombie attacks and a bigger focus on survival.
Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was one of the instigators behind the literary mash-up subgenre that’s been thriving over the past few years, not to mention capitalizing on the zombie craze. It seemed destined for Hollywood gold when director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) signed on to direct and write the script. He ended up having to drop out due to scheduling issues, but his script has remained central to the project, and directors Mike White and Craig Gillespie came and went before Burt Steers was officially hired to take the helm. (His feature debut Igby Goes Down is one of my favorite movies.) There are enough good things here to assume that the final product will have been worth the wait, assuming it does indeed get filmed and released.
Let’s not even talk about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, okay? Yes, I know that film’s failure probably had a lot to do with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies‘ awkward shambling on the road to theaters.
Lily James, who first broke into features with 2012’s Wrath of the Titans, is currently filming John Well’s culinary comedy Adam Jones with Bradley Cooper and Jamie Dornan. She’ll be seen by presumably everyone in the world next year as Disney’s live-action Cinderella. Bella Heathcote, who got her start on the Australian soap Neighbors, will soon be seen in the Bret Easton Ellis-scripted horror The Curse of Downers Grave and Marc Lawrence’s romantic comedy The Rewrite. Having broken out in roles where he played Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and Beat author Jack Kerouac, Sam Riley recently led Andreas Prochaska’s western The Dark Valley and will be seen later this year in Saul Dibb’s war-set romance Suite Française.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set to go into production in September.