The Mouse House is on a roll with announcing their newest projects lately. In just one month, adaptations of Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, and Pinocchio have been greenlit. However, Disney isn't just remaking its animated classics. After about five years of development hell, acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro may finally get his film interpretation of Disney's Haunted Mansion ride set in motion.
Earlier today, The Wrap reported that Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling is in talks to star in a new Haunted Mansion movie co-written by Del Toro. While Gosling isn't officially attached to the project yet, it is perfectly reasonable to be hopeful for the deal.
Gosling, who started his career in Disney as a member of the Mickey Mouse Club, has been spending a lot of time with Del Toro lately. Just a few weeks ago, he was spotted at Disney's California Adventure riding Radiator Springs Racers with Del Toro. It is therefore quite likely that the deal has been in the works for a while. At this year's SXSW, Gosling and Del Toro attended a panel to discuss the making of Gosling's directorial debut, Lost River. It would certainly be no surprise if Gosling ended up scoring the lead role.
Hopefully, Del Toro's Haunted Mansion will come together; the ride lends itself to quite a lot of cinematic potential. The ride is a spooky world-building experience packed with crazy, kooky characters. With the casting of Ryan Gosling, the big question is: "who else could join the film?"
Gosling himself will likely play the role of a man who moves into, or stays at, the Haunted Mansion. His charm and mainstream appeal can fit a likable main character that the audience can root for. Unlike Eddie Murphy in 2003's below-mediocre Haunted Mansion movie, Gosling is less likely to mug for the camera, making him a much more likable lead.
The Ghost Host - Ian McShane?
Ian McShane will likely play the famous "Ghost Host," the host of the Haunted Mansion who hung himself. This is because back in 2010, McShane provided the character's voice in a Comic-Con preview video for the project. McShane is no stranger to movies based on Disney rides; he previously played the intimidating pirate Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides. Also known for his comedic role as Lovejoy on the show of the same name, McShane could absolutely play the humorously sardonic role of the Ghost Host to a tee.
For the role of Madame Leota, an actress should be capable of giving a spooky, lively performance to suit the character. Personally, a few choices come to mind for this part.
Meryl Streep, for example, recently proved her acting talent once again with the Oscar-nominated role of the Witch in Into the Woods. That role required a performance that was both theatrical and lively, so a similar role like Madame Leota could fit her. Since she has experience working for Disney, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for Streep to get the part. On the other hand, her unkind statements regarding Walt Disney may disqualify her from something that Walt himself helped create.
Helena Bonham Carter
Alternatively, Disney could cast Helena Bonham Carter, a regular actress in their live action films. With appearances in both Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella, Carter could definitely return to Disney for a third film. Carter is an actress with quite a bit of variety. These roles range from subtle, heroic roles like Queen Elizabeth in The King's Speech to insane, villainous performances like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, and Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter movies. Her unorthodox style and unique look could be the perfect choice for such a beloved character.
As for the Hatbox Ghost, Del Toro has a few options for that character as well. The character is a favorite of Del Toro, so a big name actor will likely be cast as him. With a lead role in Del Toro's upcoming Crimson Peak, it's possible that Tom Hiddleston could take the role. If his sinister performance as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is any hint at how he could play the ghost, he could make the character truly terrifying.
Willem Dafoe could fit the role as well, as he too has some experience with Del Toro. Dafoe, as seen in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Spider-Man and even the critically derided Speed 2, is perfectly capable of playing a creepy, intimidating villain. He was previously in talks to join Del Toro's Pacific Rim, but those plans fell through. Perhaps Dafoe could get a second chance as the Hatbox Ghost.
If Del Toro follows through on this project, it will be the second movie based on the Haunted Mansion. Back in 2003, the ride was adapted into a misguided Eddie Murphy comedy that was a complete failure with critics and audiences. In 2010, Del Toro stated at the San Diego Comic-Con that unlike the mostly comedic 2003 version, his version would have a bigger emphasis on horror while still being a fun movie. He added that he wants to make his version with:
“a heightened reality, which is super designed, incredibly innovative, narratively and visually.”
Del Toro's next film, Crimson Peak, is already getting a considerable amount of buzz. Famous author Stephen King, who has seen an early screening of it, called it both "gorgeous" and "terrifying." Perhaps if Crimson Peak is a hit, Disney will be even more enthusiastic to back Del Toro on his idea for a Haunted Mansion movie.