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New Disney movie chief pulls plug on costly 'Captain Nemo'

November 17, 2009 | 12:15 pm

Nemo UPDATED:

In one of his first major creative moves as Walt Disney Studios' new movie chief, Rich Ross has made the costly decision to pull the plug on the planned $150-million production of "Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" -- the last project approved by his predecessor, Dick Cook.

The family adventure movie -- a high priority for Disney that the
studio envisioned as potential franchise along the lines of the
"Pirates of The Caribbean" -- was scheduled to begin shooting in
February in Mexico. Disney had already spent about $10 million hiring crews, who were prepping the movie and planning to build
elaborate sets in Rosarito Beach. Artwork and construction of
models were already underway.

Just a few weeks ago, Disney spent generously to hire writer Michael Chabon to quickly rewrite the script. The studio had recruited Chabon, author of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," to rework "Nemo" after he had recently written a draft of its forthcoming production "John Carter of Mars," the first live-action film to be directed by Pixar Animation Studios director Andrew Stanton.

The "Captain Nemo" project is one of many under evaluation by Ross and his boss, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger, since Cook's ouster in mid-September.

One person close to the filmmakers of “Nemo” said that in recent weeks Iger and Ross had signaled that they had serious reservations about moving forward with the project.

In a meeting Monday with "Captain Nemo" director McG and producer Sean Bailey, Ross told them that the project was being halted. While neither McG nor Bailey returned calls, people familiar with their thinking said the duo was disappointed with the decision.

According to one person familiar with the situation, Ross made the decision based on creative concerns and plans to redevelop the movie, a new adaptation of Jules Vernes' classic novel, which the studio first brought to the big screen in 1954.

The news was first reported in Variety.

--Claudia Eller and Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: James Mason as Captain Nemo in Disney's 1954 version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Credit: Wide World Photo.

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