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‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Co-Writer to Script ‘The Secret Garden,’ Produced by Guillermo del Toro

Written by on February 4, 2013 

Considering all the discussion that’s surrounded Beasts of the Southern Wild this past year, you’d expect a couple more mentions of co-writer Lucy Alibar. Her involvement isn’t as deep as Benh Zeitlin, not as immediately noticeable as Quvenzhané Wallis, nor even with the force of its score, but the film is, indeed, based on her own play. She still has an Oscar nomination and other sunny prospects, about this I have no doubt — yet it’s all slightly odd.

Nevertheless, said sunny prospects are evidenced by Deadline, who report that Universal Pictures have roped Alibar into scripting a different kind of girl-starring fantastical tale, The Secret Garden, which will get the producing stamp of one Guillermo del Toro. The pairing of scribe and backer ought to indicate what kind of story this is — not to mention when it’ll be a tight collaboration — and your guesses about its content probably aren’t too far off the money. As adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s novel, the tale revolves around Mary Lennox, a spoiled and ill-tempered 10-year-old girl made a ward of her uncle after both parents die from cholera while abroad in India. Solace arrives in the form of a slightly older boy, Dickon, the experiences they have in uncovering a secret garden (nudge nudge) at the manor, and how the pair help out her sickly cousin, Colin — an act that brings Mary closer to her uncle.

Fitting into the Beasts mold a little more, this incarnation will transition action from England to the south, while also hitting something of a Pan’s Labyrinth-ian note by taking place around the early 1900s. (The period setting connection is kind of a stretch, admittedly. Forgive me.) That aspect is slightly concerning for yours truly, so, with any luck, The Secret Garden doesn’t suffer from the same kind of phoned-in look at southern life that, for me, was one of the biggest things which hamstrung Zeitlin‘s film. At least the director of this one is less likely to relentlessly ape Terrence Malick and, at the same time, fail to adapt any interesting style of their own. It’s the small things you stay optimistic about.

What, if anything, about The Secret Garden manages to attract you?

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