Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper & more circling PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES!

After losing both it's star Natalie Portman (she exited because at 30, she thought she was too old to play 20 year old Elizabeth Bennett) and director David O'Russell in the span of a week - all the signs pointed to the quiet death of 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'. But with Seth Grahame-Smith's novel having sold multi-millions of copies in just 18 months of shelf life and with the zombie fad so hot right now, Lionsgate are instead aggressively looking to re-adjust the talent of their tentpole in the hope they can still move in front of camera's next year. Deadline report that Mike Newell, who sucked the franchise life out of 'Prince of Persia: Sands of Time' at Disney -- is the early front-runner for the director's chair. That's the boring, safe choice who would be much more suited with a straight adaptation of Jane Austen's classic, not a bloody one filled with the walking dead. Neil Marshall ('Doomsday', 'Centurion') is also circling. Marshall is an interesting, and much more fitting choice but after four tonally flat movies amongst his talent of great visuals, you wonder whether he is ever going to be able to grow that extra mile to become a really interesting filmmaker. David Slade ('30 Days of Night') could also be in contention. Interestingly, Scarlett Johansson (as Bennett) and Bradley Cooper (as Darcy) were O'Russell's chosen leads in the few days post-Portman's exit, but whether they stay interested now their director is gone might depend on his replacement. They played opposite each other in the romantic comedy 'He's Just Not That Into You' and enjoyed decent chemistry. Pajiba have also heard that 'Alice in Wonderland' actress Mia Wasikowska (who is actually playing Jane Eyre in a forthcoming biopic, so that would be a crime of repeating herself surely?) is also in the mix. Meanwhile, Tilda Swinton is being linked with Lady Catherine, and Catherine O'Hara as Mrs. Bennett. Replacing Portman and O'Russell won't be easy for Lionsgate, and although I do like Johansson/Cooper... I'm not sure I can buy them in period pieces, even one that is a tongue-in-cheek revisionist piece. As I said when this project was originally announced, the smart way for Lionsgate to go is casting this movie as if it were a straight Jane Austen adaptation, which would then make the horror will feel that much more genuine and authentic. And fun. The hiring of Portman was a good one because we knew she can fit into this universe. But Johansson, not so sure. Keira Knightely (obviously) and Carey Mulligan would be much more fitting and if I were Lionsgate, I would be making big plays for them. In fact, either of those with their 'Never Let Me Go' director Mark Romanek helming would be glourious.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.