With his new film Welcome to Marwen arriving in November, director Robert Zemeckis has lined up his next project, writing and directing an adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches. Zemeckis is reportedly in final negotiations for this project, with sources claiming a deal will be finalized shortly. Warner Bros. is distributing this adaptation, with the project in development for more than a decade, with Guillermo del Toro once attached to direct back in 2006.
The Witches was published by Roald Dahl in 1983, centering on an eight year old Brititsh boy who is sent to live with his Norwegian grandmother after his parents are both killed in a car accident. The grandmother has a gift for storytelling, and the boy becomes particularly intrigued with her stories about witches. She tells him about the little boys that witches look for, and the "witchophiles" that hunt them, before the boy returns to England to live in the house he inherited from his parents, with his grandmother, who warns him that witches in England are crueler than anywhere else in the world. The boy learns this fact for himself when he comes across a group of witches, including their leader, the Grand High Witch.
The book won the Whitbread Book Award (now known as the Costa Book Awards) in 1983 for best children's book, and the novel was later adapted into a 1990 feature film, directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now) and written by Allan Scott (The Preacher's Wife). The film was considered a loose adaptation of the novel, turned into a familiy adventure comedy starring Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch, with Jasen Fisher and Mai Zeterling portraying the boy and his grandmother, and Rowan Atkinson portraying Mr. Stringer. This new adaptation is said to be much more faithful to the original Dahl novel.
Like many of his books, The Witches was quite controversial, being banned from a number of libraries due to its portrayal of misogyny, with one critic even stating that this book teaches boys to grow up and hate women. Others, however, think it's an unlikely inspiration for feminists. Regardless, the book was on the American Library Association's 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 1983 to 1999, at number 22. If this adaptation is a more faithful adaptation, that could mean its release could be more controversial than the original 1990 adaptation.
This new report from Variety reveals that Warner Bros. had been specifically looking for a project to work with Robert Zemeckis on, after he briefly met with the studio to direct their stand-alone Flash movie. While that project never panned out, the studio and filmmaker were still hopeful to find the right project to work on, and now it seems they've found it. Zemeckis' new film Welcome to Marwen, starring Steve Carell, opens in theaters November 21. No production schedule or release date has been given yet for The Witches, but hopefully we'll have more updates soon.