Why David Fincher never made his version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Sep 15, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT (Updated)

Director David Fincher came this close to making an epic new version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -- but then it fell apart. He's now revealed why.

In an interview with Little White Lies, Fincher explained that disagreements over casting for the movie became a major roadblock for him and the studio behind it, Disney. Fincher initially wanted Brad Pitt -- who starred for Fincher in Seven and Fight Club -- in the film (we presume as sailor Ned Land, the part played by Kirk Douglas in Disney's classic 1954 version). But when Pitt passed, things got tricky:

"You get over $200 million -- all motion picture companies have corporate culture and corporate anxieties. Once we got past the list of people we could cast as the different characters in the film, once we got past one or two names which made them very comfortable, making a movie at that price, it became this bizarre endeavour to find which three names you could rub together to make platinum."

Fincher was also interested in Channing Tatum for the movie (again, we're assuming to play Land), but he wasn't available either. As for other roles, like the French professor Aronnax who narrates the original Jules Verne novel, there were apparently more disagreements:

"I wanted Aronnax to be French, God forbid! It got to be a little too confusing to me. I had this argument with a studio executive one time where he said to me, 'why is it that the actors always side with you and we're paying them?' And I said, 'I think it's because at some level, they know that my only real allegiance is to the movie.' And because that's very clear and it never wavers, they may not agree with the image of the movie I have in my head, but they know that's what I'm after."

He added:

"I think that when you're trying to put together a handful of people to deliver all those facets of humanity and who work well together, it has to be in service of the narrative and not in service of the balance sheet. It became very hard to appease the anxieties of Disney's corporate culture with the list of names that allowed everyone to sleep at night. I just wanted to make sure I had the skill-sets I could turn the movie over to. Not worrying about whether they're big in Japan."

Fincher got as far as scouting locations in Australia and even getting tax breaks from that country's government to shoot the movie there, but the casting obstacles seemed insurmountable. And while it's sad that we probably will never see Fincher's take on the classic adventure story -- which is far different from the psychological thrillers he is known for, like next month's Gone Girl -- at least we probably won't get the McG version starring Will Smith as Captain Nemo, either.

Should Disney have let Fincher cast who he wanted and make the movie? Who would star in and direct your ideal version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?

(via The Playlist)

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