The choice of Zack Snyder by Warner Bros. to direct Christopher Nolan and David Goyer’s Superman: Man of Steel appears to have widespread repercussions for Hollywood’s other superheroes. Vulture has just learned that 20th Century Fox today entered into negotiations with Darren Aronofsky to helm the sequel to last year’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but the director is still being offered other valuable consolation prizes by Warner Bros., like Tales From the Gangster Squad, a high-priority project that this blog told you about last week.
Back in August, Fox brass had been focusing on a handful of directors for Wolverine 2, including Twilight Saga: Eclipse director David Slade and Red director Robert Schwentke. At the time, Fox had actually considered Aronofsky its top choice, as had its star, Hugh Jackman: The pair had collaborated on Aronofsky’s ambitious 2006 movie, The Fountain, and are said to still have a close relationship today.
And despite the financial failure of Fountain, Fox bosses were impressed by Aronfsky’s willingness to work frugally on smaller movies and still get big results: Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to an Oscar nomination with Fox Searchlight’s The Wrestler, and is generating similar Oscar murmurs for Natalie Portman’s turn as a sapphic, deranged, self-touching, wing-sprouting ballerina in Fox Searchlight’s forthcoming Black Swan.
Until last weekend, though, Aronofsky was far more interested in directing WB’s original take on Superman — in which Clark Kent is a journalist traveling the world trying to decide if he should, in fact, even become Superman — than doing a sequel like Wolverine 2. But on Saturday, Aronofsky was informed by WB he was out of the running for Man of Steel, and suddenly directing a sequel didn’t seem so bad. Today, his reps began negotiations with Fox to put him behind the camera for Wolverine 2.
Even as Aronofsky’s Wolverine 2 talks coalesce at Fox, Warner Bros. is still offering blandishments to get back into business. We’re told by knowledgeable insiders the reason Warner Bros. picked Snyder for Man of Steel is that the script by David Goyer was rushed, is still a bit of a mess, and that Warner Bros. needs someone who won’t spend months or even years trying to get it just right (i.e., Aronofsky), because time is the one thing they don’t have: The studio must have a new Superman movie in production by 2011 or they’ll be subject to potential lawsuits by the heirs of the superhero’s creators.
We’re told that Snyder was not really Warner’s first choice to direct Superman, but that a director needed to be hired imminently. Privately, even Snyder has confided to agency sources that the current Superman script needs work, but clearly Warner Bros. believes he can get it done faster than Aronofsky.
And so, back to Aronofsky: Last week, we told you all about Warner Bros.’ efforts to light a fire under Tales From the Gangster Squad, a forties LAPD cops-and-robbers drama that the studio offered to Ben Affleck to direct in the afterglow of The Town. We hear that Affleck has since passed on Gangster Squad (he was also offered Superman, by the way, and he turned that down, too) and now Warner Bros. is offering Aronofsky’s reps Gangster Squad as well.
No word on which project Aronofsky will settle on, though we’re told that Wolverine sequel has the edge — at least for now.