Disney is held up by several massive pillars at the moment. One of them is Star Wars, the second is Marvel and lately, one of their huge cash cows has been live-action adaptations of animated classics. That is something the Mouse House will be pursuing in the future and one of the projects they have on the burner is a live-action adaptation of Dumbo from director Tim Burton. In an interesting turn of events, it looks like Disney is trying to court Will Smith to star in the movie.
Deadline is reporting that Will Smith is currently circling the lead role in the movie and that Disney is currently moving "aggressively" toward a production date. Assuming they can get the Suicide Squad star to sign on the dotted line, production will probably ramp up fairly quickly. Tim Burton has been attached to the project for some time and given the success that The Jungle Book enjoyed last year, it seems likely that Disney is very eager to get while the gettin' is good in terms of these live-action remakes. At the moment, the studio is also working on live-action versions of Mulan, The Little Mermaid a Cruella De Vil spinoff/prequel starring Emma Stone and a "retelling" of The Lion King which will be done in the style of The Jungle Book, which also has a sequel in development.
Will Smith has always had a great sense of humor about the size of his ears, and has said before that Dumbo is one character he can identify with. That said, there is no mention of whom Will Smith may be playing in the movie, if he is playing a human character, or if he is indeed taking on the title role of elephant Dumbo via Motion Capture and CGI. Disney's Jungle Book had a stellar line-up of big name actors playing all of the animals in that blockbuster, and Dumbo could certainly be following in its footsteps. On the other hand, Smith could also be playing a circus trainer or a human character involved in Dumbo's life. That is a little murky at the moment.
Will Smith has had something of a career resurgence over the past couple of years, but his new efforts are still struggling in a lot of ways. His latest, Collateral Beauty, certainly hasn't done very well with critics, to say the least and it definitely wasn't the box office success that Warner Bros. was hoping it would be. To date, it has made $60 million worldwide from a $36 million budget. On the flipside, despite terrible reviews, Suicide Squad was one of the most successful movies of 2016 and grossed $745 million worldwide. Going back to 2015, Concussion, though not a big money maker, was critically well-liked and many felt Will Smith deserved an Oscar nomination. So, in a lot of ways Will Smith is back and Disney wants in on it.
That could be problematic in terms of scheduling, though. Currently, Will Smith is filming the Max Landis written Bright with director David Ayer for Netflix. He is also gearing up to shoot Bad Boys 3 for Sony, so he is definitely busy. Tim Burton has had mixed results with his last few movies, but his live-action take on Alice in Wonderland back in 2010 grossed more than $1 billion worldwide for Disney and helped set up this run of very successful live-action adaptations. With that, they are probably eager and confident to get his take on Dumbo going. We don't know anything about his potential role, but with a star like Will Smith, it could only benefit the appeal of the movie.
Will Smith is definitely an in-demand star again, but he comes at a high price. Forbes recently named him the second most overpaid actor in Hollywood, bringing in just $5 at the box office for every $1 he is paid. But Disney apparently thinks he is worth it. At the moment, there is no release date set for the Dumbo live-action movie, but it is going to be based on the 1941 animated featured and has a script from Ehren Kruger, who wrote Who wrote the last three Transformers movies prior to the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight. We will be sure to keep you up to date as more information becomes available.