Joe Johnston to direct WOLF MAN

Universal has confirmed the Jurassic Park III helmer to replace Mark Romanek on its remake of the 1941 classic.
Apparently dodging a (silver) bullet, Universal Studios, on Sunday night (February 3), selected Joe Johnston to replace Mark Romanek as helmer of its highly-coveted horror remake The Wolf Man.

The film had been in the hands of Romanek (One Hour Photo) for some time--he developed, designed, cast and location-scouted it before his surprising departure last week. He supposedly took the studio to task for its constraints on the schedule and on the budget, which was rumored to be $85 million plus a $15 million tax break for shooting in Britain. Variety's MICHAEL FLEMING also cited "other creative issues" for Romanek's exit.

Universal, with the steady assistance of producers Scott Stuber & Mary Parent, moved quickly to find a replacement. But, with production slated to begin in March, the studio's immediate options seemed limited. So, it was shocking when the list of rumored contenders quickly filled up with names like Brett Ratner (Red Dragon), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), James Mangold (3:10 To Yuma), Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and John Landis (An American Werewolf in London).

Johnston (who, according to the trades, was one of the early contenders) began as an art director on such Lucasfilm hits as The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Return of the Jedi, before moving into the director's chair himself.

Some Web critics, like AICN's HARRY KNOWLES, are enthusiastic about the choice, while others have taken a more pragmatic stance.

"Though Johnston's best known for his cutesy popcorn flicks, he's undoubtedly still a much more assuring choice than hack-job Ratner," commented Moviehole's CLINT MORRIS.

MRDISGUSTING at Bloody-Disgusting agrees with the last part. "But I'm still pretty bummed that Romanek left. My interest in this project has already hit rock bottom, it can only get better."

After helming such 90s features as The Pagemaster, Jumanji, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, as well as the atmospheric October Sky, Johnston slowed down significantly. Since 2000, he’s made only two movies: Jurassic Park III and Hidalgo.

"But he does have a flair for the retro, if The Rocketeer is any indication," posted JOSH TYLER at Cinema Blend. "I can see him doing something pretty cool with a classic genre flick like this from Universal’s catalog."

Scripted by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en), The Wolf Man (or "Wolfman", as so many are mispelling it) will star Oscar Winners Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) and Sir Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) as the title character and his father, respectively. Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) has been cast as the female lead. Make-up wizard Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) is to handle the creature effects.

Presumably, filming still will begin in London next month, toward a release date of February 13, 2009.

[Thanks to Mania's JARROD SARAFIN, Rafe Telsch at Cinema Blend, Digital Spy's DANIEL KILKELLY, MARK at Defamer and BRAD BREVET at RopeOfSilicon.]
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