Features and Columns

A Brief History of the Slow Lurch of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ to the Big Screen

By  · Published on August 13th, 2014


The last time we covered the apparently-always-gestating big screen version of Seth Grahame-Smith’s send-up of the classic Jane Austen novel of (kind of ) the same name, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” it was to include it in a list of eight promised films that still have not been made. The timing was especially compelling, as the January post arrived just one month before the five-year anniversary of the film’s first announcement. Five years.

During those five years, the film has been through a number of incarnations, be it in the form of new directors or new cast members, and we’d long accepted (and, in my case, rejoiced) in the fact that it seemed like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to be made. We were wrong. The film has recently ensnared an entirely new cast – hey, and a director, too! – and looks to finally be on the way to the big screen. It’s the feature that just won’t die, the zombie of the Jane Austen world (a world where, let’s be honest, monsters of this sort just plain don’t belong), lurching ever onward. But how did we get here?

February 2009: Natalie Portman is rumored to star in the film, a cinematic adaptation of Grahame-Smith’s yet-to-be-published novel (the book was published in April of that year).

December 2009: Portman is confirmed to star in and produce the film, whole years before the star/producer combo would blow up for the Oscar winner in a major way. Things seem to be on track.

December 2009, later: Director David O. Russell is set to direct the feature. This is literally the best version of the film that will ever exist, and it’s one that ultimately doesn’t come to fruition.

March 2010: Grahame-Smith’s other send-up spin-out take on a beloved character (this time, a historical one!), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” is snapped up for its own film adaptation. (The film will arrive two years after this announcement, while its zombie brethren languishes.)

October 2010: Russell leaves the project.

October 2010, later: Portman leaves the project.

November 2010: Filmmaker Mike White is set to take over directing duties (aided by a Russell-drafted script).

January 2011: White leaves the project.

February 2011: Craig Gillespie is rumored to direct the film. It’s been two years since the feature was first announced.

April 2011: Gillespie is reportedly close to signing on for the feature, and is apparently ready to get moving on it. Hey, this could happen!

April 2011, later: Gillespie chats about the film, talking about its big action set pieces (snore) and the classic love story at its core (heartening!).

June 2011: Emma Stone is rumored to star in the film.

June 2011, later: Stone doesn’t join the film.

August 2011: Gillespie is rumored to be off the film, a claim that Lionsgate swiftly refutes. The project is still searching for a leading lady, with names like Mila Kunis, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde tossed around. Dominic Cooper appears to be set to play Mr. Darcy.

September 2011: Blake Lively is offered the lead role. She does not accept it.

October 2011: Gillespie officially leaves the project.

December 2011: Grahame-Smith sells yet another mash-up novel to a studio, this time it’s his “Unholy Night,” an action-adventure about the three wise men. It will probably be made before Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

March 2013: The project is sort of resurrected, thanks to the addition of yet another producer: Panorama Media.

May 2013: Burr Steers (Charlie St. Cloud) signs on to direct the film.

August 2014: Deadline reports that the film really is back from the dead, thanks to the addition of a mess of casting. Lily James is set to play Elizabeth Bennett, Sam Riley is on board as Mr. Darcy, and Bella Heathcoate will play a Bennett sister (we presume Jane). Deadline later reports that Jack Huston has also joined the film as Wickham, which is actually a very good piece of casting. The film is slated to start shooting in September.

Do we really think it’s going to happen?

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