Sources say a deal is expected shortly. Zemeckis will also pen the script, with his partner Jack Rapke producing through their banner ImageMovers, along with Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro. Del Tor had long been attached to direct, but a scheduling conflict led the Oscar winner to vacate the director’s chair.
Based on the 1973 novel, the film follows a seven-year-old boy who has a run in with real-life witches. Warner Bros. had previously adapted the book in 1990 with Anjelica Huston playing one of the title characters, but sources close to the project say Zemeckis’ version will be more rooted in the original source material, while the Huston pic was a loose adaptation.
The studio had been looking for projects in Zemeckis’ wheelhouse, having previously met with him for their “Flash” standalone film starring Ezra Miller. Zemeckis ended up directing the Universal pic “Welcome to Marwen” instead, but WB execs and the filmmaker were still eager to find something to work on together.
In recent years, Zemeckis has been more focused on adult-centered dramas like “Flight,” “Allied,” and his upcoming “Welcome to Marwen,” and less interested in the tentpoles that made him famous early on his career. “The Witches” could mark a return to that family-friendly genre, like the “Back to the Future” franchise and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which helped turn him into one of Hollywood’s biggest directors.
Zemeckis is repped by WME. “Welcome to Marwen,” starring Steve Carell, bows on Nov. 21.