Long-gestating warrior project aims for international cast

Saoirse Ronan is in final talks to star in Disney’s “Order of Seven,” a project that was originally developed as a Kung Fu retelling of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The pic has since been reworked as a standalone action adventure that’s cut all ties to the classic tale. The Mouse House first began developing the project a decade ago.

Ronan would play Olivia Sinclair, a British expat in 19th century Hong Kong, who seeks the protection of a centuries old group of warriors, now a jaded group of outlaws. After the reemergence of an ancient evil empress, Sinclair helps the warriors reclaim their destiny and noble roots.

Disney hopes to boost the international appeal of the pic by casting the roles of the warriors with well-known stars in China, Russia and Japan, creating a global team of heroes. Studio execs have been making trips to those territories to begin talks with local talent.

Commercials helmer and visual effects supervisor Michael Gracey is set to make his directorial debut on the fantasy pic that Andrew Gunn is producing through his Disney- based Gunn Films banner (“Race to Witch Mountain,” “Freaky Friday”). Production starts this fall.

The latest version of the script was written by Jayson Rothwell and Michael DeBruyn.

Project was originally penned by Michael Chabon, when it was set up as “Snow and the Seven” and incorporated more elements from “Snow White,” including a murderous stepmother and magical mirror. Film has been in development at Disney since 2002.

In 2005, “The Matrix” trilogy and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping was attached to direct. Since then, a number of directors have come and gone, including Francis Lawrence, along with scribes Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3″).

Natalie Portman had been circling the project when Lawrence was attached to direct.

Move away from “Snow White” should be smart for the Mouse House given that Relativity’s “Mirror Mirror” and Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” are bowing this year.

Ronan (“Hanna”) is a voice in “The Secret World of Arriety,” that Disney is distributing for Studio Ghibli; is attached to Neil Jordan’s vampire pic “Byzantium;” and will star in Andrew Niccol’s “The Host,” based on “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer’s novel.

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