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Zhang Yimou Circles Notre-Dame
He may direct Quasimodo for Warners

01 August 2013  |  Written by Owen Williams  |  Source: Variety

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Zhang Yimou, despite huge international success, has yet to make a film outside his native China (although he imported Christian Bale recently for The Flowers Of War). That may be about to change, however, with the surprising news that he's in talks with Warner Brothers to direct Quasimodo, their long-planned new adaptation of Notre-Dame De Paris, better known as The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

This is the same version of Victor Hugo's classic novel that once had Tim Burton involved, just post-Alice In Wonderland. Whether Burton is still attached as a producer is unclear, but the screenplay Zhang is considering is, as before, one by Kieren and Michele Mulroney (Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows). Josh Brolin seems still to be aboard as the Hunchback, despite his previous less-than-triumphal experience under make-up for Warners in Jonah Hex. Hey, maybe we'll get Megan Fox as Esmerelda.

Hugo's tome has, of course, been filmed many times before, significantly as various silents: the heartbreaking 1939 Charles Laughton version; a decent TV movie with Anthony Hopkins and the 1996 Disney animation with Tom Hulce as 'Modo's voice. Terry Gilliam also plotted a version in the '90s, but said Disney beat him to all his best shots.

The book has never been very faithfully adapted, however. In most versions it focuses on the weird and tragic love quadrangle between beautiful gypsy Esmerelda, dashing soldier Phoebus, twisted Catholic priest Frollo, and lovelorn bell ringer Quasimodo. But the book's ending, in which Quasimodo essentially walls himself up with Esmerelda's corpse, is not one you can imagine will ever fly in Hollywood.

Still, whatever decisions the adaptors have taken, Zhang is a fascinating possibility at the helm. The director of Raise The Red Lantern and The Story Of Qui Ju certainly knows his way around an intimate and affecting character-led drama, and his staggering wuxia trilogy - Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and Curse Of The Golden Flower - proved he also had a gift for lavish spectacle. His talks are only in the early stages so far, but this project suddenly got a lot more interesting.

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