Now that Disney has settled on Colin Farrell to replace Will Smith in Dumbo, the studio is setting their sights on another actor to play the primary villain. The studio has entered into negotiations with Michael Keaton to play the bad guy, joining a cast that also includes Danny De Vito and Eva Green. This project will mark the first time that Michael Keaton has worked with director Tim Burton since the 1992 superhero sequel Batman Returns. Both the actor and director’s careers were launched with back-to-back hits in the late 1980s, Beetlejuice in 1988 and Batman in 1989.
Variety reports that Michael Keaton will play a circus owner who acquires a much smaller circus, owned by Danny DeVito‘s character, so he can exploit the lovable elephant Dumbo and his mother. Earlier reports claimed that the villain’s name is Vandermere, but that hasn’t been confirmed at this time. Colin Farrell will play a widowed father of two named Holt, who hails from Kentucky, while Eva Green is playing a French trapeze artist named Colette, who works for Vandermere. It remains to be seen how many more major characters have yet to be cast.
We reported in January that Tom Hanks was being eyed for this villainous role, but that report also mentioned that he may be taking a role in the World War II drama The Grey Hound. As it turned out, the two-time Oscar winner took neither role, instead opting to join Meryl Streep and director Steven Spielberg in The Post, which is based on the true story of the Washington Post’s involvement in the Pentagon Papers scandal. The original Dumbo movie centered on a baby elephant born with oversized ears and a supreme lack of confidence. He teams up with Timothy the Mouse to achieve his full potential and overcome all of the obstacles in front of him.
Tim Burton is directing from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger, who most recently co-wrote Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell with Jamie Moss (Street Kings) and William Wheeler (Queen of Katwe). This news may be disappointing to some fans, who would prefer that both Tim Burton and Michael Keaton reunite on their long-gestating Beetlejuice 2 sequel instead, which has been in various stages of development for several years now. This also marks the second recent turn as a villain for Michael Keaton, who will next be seen as the iconic comic book villain Vulture in Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, which hits theaters July 7.
Justin Springer is producing this Dumbo reboot with Ehren Kruger. Disney hasn’t confirmed when production may begin for Dumbo, or when the studio may be planning to release this live-action adaptation, but this is just one of many similar live-action projects that will breathe new life into classic characters. Disney is also developing live-action remakes of Mulan, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, with the studio continuing to find success in this realm with hits such as Beauty and the Beast, which has earned a whopping $396.5 million domestic and $886.4 million worldwide since hitting theaters just three weeks ago. With a star-studded cast already being assembled, it’s certainly possible that Dumbo could be Disney’s next big live-action adaptation blockbuster.