Vulture has long been tracking next year's matchup of two rival Snow White movies — one an untitled project from Relativity Studios directed by Tarsem Singh with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, the other Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman, with Kristen Stewart as the ingenue and Charlize Theron as the villainess — so when we saw screenwriter Jason Keller last night at the premiere of Machine Gun Preacher (which he wrote), we had to know how he got involved with scripting the Singh version. Turns out, it all happened very fast. "Snow White I wrote in December 2010, and that is unheard of, in terms of writing a script and going into production when it did," he confessed. "I'm just being very frank about it ... at the end of last year, [Relativity] looked around, and they saw Universal was coming out with a Snow White. But they had a script that wasn't really working, but they knew they wanted to try to keep that, so when they hired me, the first conversation we all had about that was, 'How do we beat that other project?' So it was literally something like, 'We want to beat that other project. We are very, very motivated to do a Snow White project.'"
"I pitched them a take on it," continued Keller, "and in the same meeting I pitched them a take on it, Tarsem was in the room, he said, 'I like that take,' the studio was in the room, they said, 'We like that take,' and that minute, they commenced me writing — this is December — and they opened the art department, they opened the costume department, and they started scouting locations. All in the same minute! It hadn't even been written yet! It was all because there was a derby race. And it all happened to work. I happened to write a script that was good enough in a very short enough period of time to get Julia Roberts, and we didn't then have to wait for art and costumes because they were already going. So it was a super-cool way to write a movie."
Still, Keller thinks there is a crucial difference between his still untitled project (which co-stars Lily Collins and Armie Hammer) and Huntsman: "Ours is not dark. I mean, I know Snow White and the Huntsman is very intense, and lots of chain mail, and armor, and Kristen Stewart has a sword. Ours is an adventure, ours is funny — it's a comedic adventure! And there's some great action in it. It's stunningly gorgeous, and it's fun ... Ours will be PG or PG-13, and the other one will probably be a R. We don't know yet. But ours is nothing like theirs."
Still, Huntsman isn't the only competition that Snow White has got — there are plenty of other fairly-tale stories in fast-track development right now, including a potential third Snow White movie. "Yeah, that happens in Hollywood," Keller sighed. "You know, it goes in waves and you see a movie — Alice in Wonderland basically started this off — and that's how Hollywood works sometimes. We're seeing that now. But they're all going to be unique and cool, the fairy-tale stories. When it was asteroids threatening to destroy Earth, maybe we only saw two movies, but there were probably 37 being developed and almost ready to go into production." So is his Snow White the Deep Impact or the Armageddon of the two? Keller laughed. "Neither!"
UPDATE: A Relativity spokesperson emailed us to state that their Snow White schedule was never rushed in order to beat Universal, and that the date they started shooting (June 2011) was their intended date from early on in the production process, which started back when they bought a first draft by Melisa Wallack in May 2010. “Relativity appreciates the contributions of both [original writer] Melisa Wallack and Jason Keller on our Snow White project. We were actively developing this project since May of 2010 and haven’t altered our production timeline along the way. We couldn’t be more excited about how the film is coming together with Tarsem's unique and visual world inhabited by this fantastic ensemble of actors."