Warners takes whack at ‘Wonka’

Burton to helm Dahl redo, supervise 'Bride'

Confident they’ve finally unwrapped the Wonka bar with the golden ticket, Warner Bros. execs are enlisting Tim Burton to direct “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the second live-action adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic children’s novel.

It is one of two projects Burton will make back-to-back at WB, as he’s signed to next do the stop-motion animation feature “The Corpse Bride.”

“Charlie” has long been considered one of WB’s most promising properties, one that execs hope will lead to a Broadway musical.

Burton’s WMA reps haven’t yet made a deal, but it’s in the offing after a very positive meeting between the director and WB’s Alan Horn, Jeff Robinov and Kevin McCormick.

The Dahl estate has already approved Burton as the director they wanted most. In the next few days, he will meet with the family in London, where he’s putting the finishing touches on the Columbia pic “Big Fish.” A deal will follow.

Nabbing Burton will cap a long campaign to get the film under way with the blessing of the Dahl estate, which was reluctant to make a deal because the author didn’t like the first screen adaptation, the 1971 Gene Wilder starrer “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

WB began the remake courtship in 1991 and got the rights in 1998. The film will be produced by Plan B, the newly formed partnership of Brad Grey, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, and Michael Siegel, who manages the film interests of the Dahl estate.

Progress on the film has been slow because the Dahl estate has been so protective. WB execs have thus been patient as they developed a new version, first with a script by Scott Frank, then another by Gwyn Lurie, who scripted another Dahl classic, “The BFG,” that is in development at Paramount. Burton will now do his own reimagining of the book.

Candyland vision

The director certainly seems a natural for the film. His strongest efforts, from “Batman” to “Beetlejuice,” “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Edward Scissorhands,” came when he was allowed to conjure up a visually distinctive world revolving around a loner character. The loner in Dahl’s tale is the candy magnate who holds a contest to find a worthy successor. The story offers plenty of room for Burtonesque creativity.

Burton will likely stay in London to shoot “Charlie” as he supervises “The Corpse Bride.” That tale harks back to his stop-motion animation classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which was directed by Henry Selick. New pic takes an equally morbid premise that draws from an Eastern European folk tale about a man who inadvertently weds a corpse. The stop-motion tale will be directed by Mike Johnson based on Burton’s vision.

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