Movie watchers who grew up in the 1990s would probably think of Eddie Murphy when they hear “Doctor Dolittle”, as he starred in the titular role for two films by 20th Century Fox in 1998 and 2001. But the character, a doctor who can talk to animals, is actually quite old, being created by British author Hugh Lofting in the early 20th Century; in fact, Murphy’s film is considered a remake of an earlier Fox adaptation of “Doctor Doolittle” in 1967. Now however, Universal is doing their own take on the children’s book character, and they have started casting actors.
The Hollywood Reporter has it that Universal Pictures is bringing in a veritable ensemble of British actors for their movie adaptation, “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle”, hinting that it will hew closer to the original English characters and stories rather than the American remake by 20th Century Fox with Eddie Murphy. The announcement names veteran film stars Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson, along with young heartthrob Tom Holland who became big after portraying Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For the moment no details about their roles have been revealed, but they certainly stand out from the lead actor.
To portray the “fauna-polyglot” Dr. John Dolittle, Universal is turning to American actor Robert Downey Jr., himself a pillar of Marvel Studios’ MCU for being Tony Stark/Iron Man. It should be noted however that Downey Jr. has had plenty of experience portraying an Englishman with a convincing RP accent, having been cast as master detective Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s two blockbuster films in 2009 and 2011. The cast is rounded out by Antonio Banderas as Rassouli and Michael Sheen as Mudfly, who were announced simultaneously with Downey Jr. earlier. They are thus the only cast members with known roles.
“The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle” is being directed by Stephen Gaghan whose past works include the 2005 geopolitics thriller “Syriana”. Gaghan also wrote the script, working off an earlier draft by Tom Shepherd, based on the second Dolittle book written by Hugh Lofting in 1922. The film is being produced by Robert’s wife Susan Downey alongside Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum of Roth/Kirschenbaum Films. Production is slated to start in London on late February, with the film scheduled for premiere on April of 2019.
Two of the new cast, Emma Thompson and Ralph Fiennes, have recent voice-acting roles in recent films. Fiennes was Alfred in “The Lego Batman Movie” while Thompson was Mrs. Potts in Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast”, both films being major 2017 blockbusters.
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