The news comes shortly after Universal Pictures won a heated auction for the film, which is based on Hugh Lofting’s “Doctor Dolittle” series. While Tom Shepherd wrote an early draft of the movie, Academy Award-winner Stephen Gaghan will be both directing the film and re-writing Shepherd’s script. Susan Downey, of Team Downey, will be producing the film in conjunction with Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum of Roth/Kirschenbaum Films.
Lofing released the first book in the series, “The Story of Doctor Dolittle,” in 1920. The popular children’s series follows Doctor Dolittle, who can speak with animals and treats them rather than humans. The books are set in the Victorian-era, the same setting as Sherlock Holmes, whom Downey has also played. There are twelve books in total in the series, with the final books having been published several years after Lofting’s passing in 1947.
The first “Dr. Dolittle” film came out in 1967, with Rex Harrison playing the titular doctor. The movie drew from three of Lofting’s tales: “The Story of Doctor Dolittle,” “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle,” and “Doctor Dolittle’s Circus.” Though it wasn’t well-received critically, the film won Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Visual Effects, with a nomination for Best Picture. While there was no direct sequel to the movie, Fox remade the film in 1998 with Eddie Murphy playing the title role. Unlike Harrison’s “Dr. Dolittle,” Murphy’s iteration was not based on the books, instead only sharing the concept of a doctor who can speak with animals. Murphy’s movies were successful, having grossed more than $470 million dollars worldwide during their time in theaters.
While there’s no news yet on the movie’s plot, the title is quite similar to the second of Lofting’s books, “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.” In that book, the titular doctor travels with Tommy Stubbins, his assistant, across the globe to Polynesia in search of the world’s greatest naturalist, Long Arrow, who has gone missing. The book won the Newberry Medal in 1923.
Downey is well-known for playing Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in addition to his roles in “Tropic Thunder,” “Sherlock Holmes,” and “The Judge.” The 51-year-old actor has been nominated for several awards, including two Academy Awards. Downey is currently slated to appear in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War” and its sequel, which is still untitled.
There is currently no release date for “The Voyage of Dr. Dolittle.”