As reported back in January, Warner Bros. have finally hit on an idea for King Arthur that they like. Word that Guy Ritchie has returned to the project, having left it once before, is this morning thoroughly borne out by the fact that his King Arthur now has a release date. Warners have nabbed the otherwise unoccupied tentpole summer slot of July 22, 2016, proving by divine providence (or at least studio edict) that Guy Ritchie is to carry Excalibur.
Back in 2010 when he was working on it before, Ritchie's thrust was thought to be very much based on Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, the 15th Century text that assembled most of the popular tales of Arthur (the Knights of the Round Table, the Holy Grail, Merlin, Gareth, Lancelot and Guinevere, Arthur's battles with Rome, Tristan and Isolde and so on) into a single narrative. The implication was that, in contrast to Antoine Fuqua's 2004 King Arthur and Jerry Zucker's 1995 First Knight, Ritchie's King Arthur would be reinstating the magic and fantasy elements of the story.
That version was cooked up in cahoots with Trance writer John Hodge, before Warners opted to ditch it completely in favour of Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin's Arthur And Lancelot, about the titular pair's younger days. Dobkins' take got as far as casting Kit Harington and Joel Kinnaman as the leads, with an offer out to Gary Oldman as Merlin, before budget disagreements shut everything down.
So here's Ritchie again, this time working with writer Joby Harold (hitherto more known as a producer on the likes of Edge Of Tomorrow). Whether Harold's approach has retained the Malory basis of Hodge's work remains to be seen, but initial reports that this King Arthur is intended as the first of six instalments, suggests the plan is to work through the whole saga, giving each chapter plenty of running time.
The current release date would see King Arthur open a week after Ice Age 5 and a week before Matt Reeves' as-yet untitled Planet Of The Apes threequel. There's no start date or cast yet, but Ritchie will presumably get properly cracking as soon as he's finished up The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is out in the UK on January 16 next year.