Stephen Gaghan, who most recently directed Matthew McConaughey’s “Gold,” will helm the film from his own screenplay. Tom Shepherd wrote an earlier draft.
The studio acquired the project following a heated bidding war with producers Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum through their Roth Kirschenbaum Films, alongside Susan Downey for Team Downey.
British author Hugh Lofting created the Doctor Dolittle character in his 1920s series of children’s books, in which a Victorian-era physician opts to treat animals instead of humans because he’s able to speak with them.
Lofting’s character was portrayed by Rex Harrison in the 1967 musical “Doctor Dolittle,” which won Oscars for best original song and best visual effects. Eddie Murphy starred in the 1998 film “Doctor Dolittle” and its 2001 sequel, which cumulatively grossed more than $470 million at the worldwide box office.
Exec VP Jon Mone and creative exec Lexi Barta will oversee production for Universal.
The role is a huge get for Collett, who was most recently seen in “Dunkirk” as Mark Rylance’s character’s son.
Collett is represented by Mary FitzGerald and Lucy Johnson of Curtis Brown, Ltd., and Peikoff Mahan.