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Sarah Polley to Direct Live-Action Bambi Movie for Disney — But Is That All She’ll Do?

Sarah Polley, whose divisive drama Women Talking was nominated for Best Picture despite grossing just $9 million worldwide, is heading to Disney for the biggest payday of her career, as the Oscar winner is in talks to direct a live-action Bambi movie for the studio.

Deadline broke the news, noting that while Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Lindsey Beer were tapped to write a Bambi script in 2020, and Chris and Paul Weitz‘s Depth of Field was announced as the production company on the project, it’s unclear whether any of them are still involved at this time.

Reading between the lines here, I imagine that Disney may have agreed to simply start from scratch with Polley once her deal closes. I bet she wanted to write her own script, or heavily rewrite the existing one, and probably wanted to work with her own group of producers, though don’t be surprised if the Weitz brothers receive EP credits of some kind.

I mean, why wouldn’t Deadline just say that the previously announced elements were still in place? Probably because Polley’s involvement would clear the board — and understandably so, to be quite frank. After all, she’s coming off an Oscar win for adapting Women Talking for the big screen, and if she’s going to make Bambi her follow-up, she has earned the right to make certain creative demands.

I’ll admit that while my instinct was to suggest that Polley had “sold out” by taking a Disney assignment, I’m not quite sure that’s true. Bambi isn’t some run-of-the-mill comic book movie… it happens to be a timeless tale that might actually benefit from a live-action adaptation, so if Polley is going to take a studio assignment along these lines, she could do far worse.

At the same time, though her hiring would be a coup for Disney, it’s also somewhat of a risk, as she’s never made a movie like this or worked with a budget like this before. Then again, how many men are given similar opportunities with even less experience? Plenty… and Polley hasn’t made a bad movie yet. She’s a truly talented filmmaker, and with the right team of technicians around her, she could deliver something special for a generation of kids who have never seen Bambi and whose parents, understandably, aren’t in a rush to show it to them given the plethora of more modern, less terrifying options these days.

Of course, as Deadline notes, everything is up in the air due to the Writers Strike (which may be why the Deadline announcement carefully notes that Polley will simply direct and not write the script, lest anyone think she has pitched herself as a writer or started working on the screenplay already.

For the uninitiated, Bambi follows a young deer whose mother is killed, forcing her to form her own family that includes a rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower. Released in 1942 and based on Felix Salten‘s 1923 novel Bambi, a Life in the Woods, the original animated classic grossed $267M worldwide and received three Oscar nominations in addition to being added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2011 due to its cultural, historic and aesthetic significance.

Bambi is the latest animated classic to get the live-action remake treatment from Disney following Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Dumbo, Mulan, The Lion King, and most recently, The Little Mermaid, which has grossed over $414M in less than a month. This is a formula that works for the studio, and if it ain’t broken, well, you know what they say…

Though Bambi would be a far cry from Women Talking, which examined ongoing sexual abuse within an isolated religious community, it shares certain themes, such as the bond between mother and daughter, and the larger sisterhood to which they belong. Polley’s other credits include the acclaimed dramas Take This Waltz and Away From Her, as well as the award-winning documentary Stories We Tell, in which she turned the lens on her own family.

Polley is represented by WME, Circle of Confusion, and GGA in Canada.

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