Disney's new The Haunted Mansion movie adaptation has found a director with Justin Simien. The project has been in limbo for almost a decade now, with big names like Guillermo del Toro and Ryan Gosling once in talks to write and star. Now, the film seems to be picking up momentum once more.
The original movie version of the Haunted Mansion was released in 2003. Directed by Rob Minkoff, the film starred Eddie Murphy along with Terrance Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, Jennifer Tilly and Dina Spybey. The movie was an attempt by Disney to capitalize on the famous theme park attraction of the same name as they had done with the successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Unfortunately, the horror comedy received a lukewarm reception from audiences and critics alike, and did not make enough at the box-office to be deemed a true success.
According to Deadline, Disney is looking to Dear White People director, Justin Simiens, to helm the latest attempt at a Haunted Mansion film. Simiens has been in talks with Disney for some time discussing a number of potential projects, with the studio very interested in working with the director following his recent success. Ultimately, they decided on moving forward with the Haunted Mansion project following his most recent story pitch for the movie, which is being reported as different from the original film and something that will stand on its own.
Simiens has been on a hot streak of late, with Dear White People about to begin production on its 4th Season on Netflix. He is credited as creator and executive producer on the series, as it is based on his highly praised film of the same title which he wrote, produced and directed. His other film, Bad Hair, was another hit at Sundance and was picked up and released by Hulu in the fall of 2020.
While Simiens certainly has the credentials to make well-received movies, the real question is whether he has the chops to make a big-budget, special-effects heavy, studio picture with this much baggage. Throw in the expectations from fans and studio execs, especially after the perceived failure of the original, and Simiens has a daunting task ahead of him. Fortunately, the Haunted Mansion ride is rich in lore and ideas to fire up the imagination. That is a big part of what has kept guests of the parks coming back over and over again for decades. If done right, there is a lot of potential for storytelling in a film adaptation. Disney just has to hope Simiens is the right man for the job.