With Robert Downey Jr. returning as Iron Man in Avengers: Infinity War next year, and another Sherlock Holmes movie in the works, the actor has still found time to pick up yet another potential franchise. Universal Pictures has landed the rights to Doctor Dolittle, bringing Robert Downey Jr. in as the title character in a new project entitled The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle. The studio picked up the rights to this franchise in a competitive bidding situation, with a number of studios vying for this film package last week.
The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Stephen Gaghan (Gold) has signed on direct and write the script, which had an earlier draft written by Tom Shepherd. The story will be based on the series of children's books by Hugh Lofting, which followed the title character who could speak with animals. The book series kicked off in 1920 with Doctor Dolittle, and was followed by The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle in 1922. It wasn't specifically mentioned if this movie will be a direct adaptation of the second novel, or if the film will take elements from several of the books.
The first Doctor Dolittle movie debuted in 1967, starring Rex Harrison as the title character, which won two Oscar awards for Best Original Song and Best Special Effects, and it was also nominated for Best Picture. The franchise then shifted to the small screen, with a short-lived animated TV series, with Bob Holt voicing Dr. John Dolittle. The franchise was dormant for nearly 30 years, until Eddie Murphy starred in Doctor Dolittle, which was a big hit, earning $144.1 million domestic and $294.4 million worldwide. Eddie Murphy returned for the sequel, Dr. Dolittle 2 in 2001, although it didn't fare quite as well, earning $112.9 million domestic and $176.1 million worldwide, from a $70 million budget.
The next few movies went the straight-to-video route, with Dr. Dolittle 3 debuting in 2006, starring Kyla Pratt, reprising her role from the first two movies as Maya Dolittle, the daughter of Dr. John Dolittle. She also starred in 2008's Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief and 2009's Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts. The Hugh Lofting book The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle won the prestigious Newberry Medal in 1923, and part of this story was used in the original 1967 film, which was also adapted from The Story of Doctor Dolittle and Doctor Dolittle's Circus. Hugh Lofting wrote 12 Doctor Dolittle books in total, the last two of which were volumes of short pieces that were published after his death in 1947.
No production schedule or release date was given for The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, but with Robert Downey Jr. signing on to star, this upcoming adaptation may be moving forward sooner rather than later. Robert Downey Jr. is currently shooting Avengers: Infinity War, and it isn't clear what the actor plans on tackling next, once he finishes filming both Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers sequel, which are both shooting back-to-back. The actor is also set to reprise his title role in Sherlock Holmes 3, and he will next be seen on the big screen as Tony Stark/Iron Man in this summer's Spider-Man: Homecoming, arriving in theaters July 7.