Buried in a Hollywood Reporter article about the current status of several franchises is a little bombshell that Universal Pictures is courting Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, Magic Mike) to take the lead in their Van Helsing reboot. The relaunch will be part of the studio’s ever-evolving Dark Universe, which got off to a rough start this summer with the Tom Cruise box office underperformer The Mummy. Cruise was originally courted for the Van Helsing role back in 2012 under writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and director Rupert Sanders.
The most recent movement on the project was back in February, when Wrath of the Titans scribe Dan Mazeau took over scripting duties from Arrival‘s Eric Heisserer and Doctor Strange‘s Jon Spaihts. At the time, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan were still attached to produce, which may change after the disappointing reception of The Mummy, which Kurtzman also directed. As of now the plan is to continue moving forward with the expensive talent deals they already have in place to keep the Dark Universe train moving, unified by Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll and the Prodigium organization.
Abraham Van Helsing was created in 1897 by Bram Stoker for his novel Dracula. The arch enemy of the undead count, Van Helsing was both a fount of occult knowledge and a fearless vampire slayer. Over the past century, the Van Helsing character has been reimagined time and again, portrayed first by Edward Van Sloan in Universal’s original 1931 classic. Since then he has been portrayed by Peter Cushing in the Hammer Dracula movie series, by Laurence Olivier in 1979’s Dracula, by Anthony Hopkins in 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and by Hugh Jackman in the 2004 blockbuster, the latter in which Van Helsing is depicted battling all manner of monsters.
Dark Universe was begun by core creatives Alex Kurtzman (The Mummy) and Chris Morgan (The Fate of the Furious). Also joining the enterprise are Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible series, The Usual Suspects) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds, Jurassic Park). The studio has confirmed that Oscar winner Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast) will direct the next Dark Universe movie, Bride of Frankenstein, from a screenplay by Koepp. It opens on Thursday, February 14, 2019.
While the studio is still courting Angelina Jolie to play the titular Bride of Frankenstein, it is already confirmed that Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem will star as The Invisible Man and Frankenstein’s monster, respectively, in the shared universe. They are joined by Tom Cruise as soldier of fortune Nick Morton and Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, who lead the all-star cast of The Mummy, along with Sofia Boutella, the actress who embodies the title role in that film. Dwayne Johnson has previously been rumored to be under serious consideration to play The Wolfman, while Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame are also being eyed to take part in the monster mash. It has also been mentioned in the press that Universal is mulling over doing some of these films as lower-budget horror-skewing entries in the Blumhouse mold.
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