Very few writers lead lives interesting enough to warrant a biographical feature film, unless they suffer from bouts of depression and kill themselves like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, or harbor unnatural thoughts about small children like Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), or put themselves in the middle of a whole social milieu like the F. Scott Fitzgeralds, or run with the bulls between torrid love affairs and wars like Ernest Hemingway. Most writers just write and it is a solitary pursuit.
Occasionally, there is the rare writer whose work can be woven into a biography or into an otherwise straightforward rendering of their stories to create a magical film. J. M. Barrie and James Thurber have been treated this way, as has Dodgson. One writer whose life and work can be overlaid to great effect is Theodor Geisel, the beloved Dr. Seuss.
Johnny Depp’s production company, Infinitum Nihil, and Illumination Entertainment are in the earliest stages of creating a film biography of Geisel, who died in 1991. Keith Bunin, who wrote In Treatment, has begun a preliminary script. In addition to Depp and Bunin, Christopher Meladandri and David Kennedy of Illumination Entertainment and Christi Dumbrowski of Infinitum Nihil are the only people currently involved in the proposed film. The only information about the film refers to it as “a perspective” on Geisel’s life, which adds to the idea that the film would weave together Geisel’s fairly ordinary physical life with his extraordinary imagination life.
News of the proposed film comes just six months after Random House released a volume of seven “lost” Seuss stories. They were published individually in magazines in the 1950′s, never collected with any other stories into book form and pretty much forgotten by all but the most dedicated Seussian scholar – like Charles D. Cohen who tracked down the original magazines. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories was released in print and digital format for the technically minded small child in mid-April. The digital format includes the option of an audio track of professional book readers.
Depp had been set to star as Tonto (the Native American sidekick) in a new version of the venerable Lone Ranger, but the film hit some major snags and is currently on the shelf. Having grown up on Jay Silverheels, one of Hollywood’s few openly Native American actors, as Tonto, I would have preferred Depp as the LR and Adam Beech (or any of half-a-dozen young Native actors) as Tonto. There is no word on if or when The Lone Ranger might resume production and take up a few months of Depp’s time. The best thing about the Lone Ranger project is that it could really, really suck and still be better than the last time.
Rumor has it that Depp might decide to play Geisel, which would be a smart choice. The role is going to need someone capable of portraying whimsey, which is entirely different from playing comedy. Depp has already proven he has a talent for whimsey.