WB to taste ‘Chocolate’

Frank to pen live-action pic from Dahl's book

Warner Bros. has committed to a big-budget, live-action version of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and hired “Out of Sight” scribe Scott Frank to pen the script.

Management/production company Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, which reps the estate of author Dahl, will make the pic for WB, with Brillstein’s Brad Grey and Michael Siegel producing.

WB already has an feature adaptation of the famous children’s book in its vaults from 1971, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” directed by Mel Stuart and starring Gene Wilder as the zany Willy Wonka.

Frank, a WGA nominee for best adapted screenplay for his work on “Sight,” is such a fan of the candy adventure that he approached WB when he heard the studio was contemplating a remake.

“Warner Bros. has always looked at ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ as a classic, and we’re delighted that (Roald Dahl’s widow) Liccy Dahl has joined us in bringing this ageless story to the screen,” said president of WB worldwide theatrical production Lorenzo di Bonaventura. “We feel that this collaboration will produce an original, entertaining movie that really connects with family audiences.”

Di Bonaventura lauded Grey and Siegel as having been “instrumental” in bringing the project together. WB has been talking to the Dahl family on and off since 1990 (the year that Dahl died) to secure the rights to remake the pic.

“The family recognized that the 1971 film had an enthusiastic and loyal following, but they felt that the full potential of the book hadn’t been realized,” said one source involved in the negotiations.

Brillstein-Grey previously repped the Dahl estate on Hollywood pics “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda.” On the latter pic, directed by Danny DeVito, the Dahl family exercised considerable creative and financial control, receiving an upfront payment of around $4 million against 5% of the gross. Sources indicated that the “Charlie” deal was in a similar range to the one for “Matilda.”

Though the musical 1971 edition was a success, WB is looking to Frank to return to the spirit of the book with the new “Charlie.” In his script, Frank said, Charlie Bucket’s sojourn with the Oompa-Loompas will have more of the book’s “Dickensian quality.” At this point, however, it’s still unclear what creative direction the new pic will take.

“This is a classic morality tale, and an important kids story,” said Grey. “We’re looking forward to getting it into production.”

Frank will begin work on “Charlie” after he finishes writing the sci-fi thriller “Minority Report” for Fox and DreamWorks. Steven Spielberg is directing that pic with Tom Cruise starring.

WB expects to receive Frank’s first draft by the summer, when the studio will select a director, with pre-production beginning in the fall and principal photography earmarked for early 2000.

Brillstein-Grey’s Siegel reps author Elmore Leonard, and he got to know Frank during his adaptations of “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight.” During that time the writer professed his love of Dahl and his interest in “Charlie.” Frank then met with the Dahl family, who were intrigued by his ideas for the pic.

Brillstein-Grey attorney John LaViolette and Jenne Casarotto, of U.K.-based the Casarotto Co. negotiated with WB on behalf of the Dahl estate.

Frank’s other credits are “Little Man Tate” and “Dead Again.” He is repped by CAA.