Neil Gaiman has been tapped to write the scripts for a trilogy of 3-D films based on the classic 16th-century Chinese fantasy novel Journey To The West, which has a very Neil Gaiman-y plot “detailing the events that befall the Monkey King, armed with a magic staff, as he journeys with a monk, a pig spirit and a fish spirit to India to retrieve Buddha’s scrolls in an effort to find enlightenment.” Chinese TV producer Zhang Jhizong has been prepping an adaptation of the 2,000-plus-page story for over a year now, with Zhang “boasting” (according to The Hollywood Reporter) that it would cost around $300 million to make. That clearly sounds about right for Gaiman, as he’s quoted as saying, “We have to do what Peter Jackson did with Lord Of The Rings” in translating one of China’s most beloved stories into equally epic films
So naturally, they’ve begun approaching James Cameron to produce and Guillermo del Toro to direct—two guys who know a thing or two about sweeping, Peter Jackson-esque fantasies and also about spending a lot of money. Of course, del Toro is currently busy with Pacific Rim now that At The Mountains Of Madness has fallen apart, so it’s unclear when he might fit working with his friend Gaiman into his schedule. But even though he’s similarly busy with his Avatar sequels, Cameron’s involvement will be mostly technical, as he helps Gaiman and Zhang assemble the necessary team of computer animators and 3-D gear. The project will also require a large cast of both Eastern and Western actors, while Gaiman and Zhang have their own significant task of figuring out how to distill the epic’s many complex storylines into a “filmic, non-episodic” series. In other words, this is going to be one massive, massively expensive undertaking. But the good news is, American studios don’t have to foot the bill, meaning it might actually happen.