Jessica Chastain said to be “first choice” for Jane in David Yates’ Tarzan

Tarzan, The Tarzan Files


The New York Post (and everyone else) is reporting that Jessica Chastain, Oscar nominee for her work in Zero Dark Thirty, is the “first choice” to play opposite Alexander Skarsgaard as Jane in David Yates’ Tarzan.  My thoughts on this: Yes!  I’ve been a fan of  Chastain since long before Zero Dark Thirty — I first saw her in  Jolene, based on the E.L. Doctorow novel, and thought she was fantastic in that.  Then such interesting choices — The Debt (love that one), Tree of Life (working with Terence Malick? Come on . . .) then The Help, Lawless, and finally Zero Dark Thirty.   She didn’t just burst on the scene this year . . . . she’s done her time and she’s got the chops.   I say  yes . . .  and hope this one turns out to be true.

I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how WB is positioning this movie.  This is the formulation I’m hearing most often:

In this story, Tarzan is fully assimilated to life in London when Queen Victoria asks him to investigate troubles in the Congo.

I have to admit, the ERB fan in me hears this with a little dismay . . . . but the film exec part of my brain says this is pretty smart.  My guess is that it’s heading toward something that has about as much to do with ERB as the last batch of Sherlock Holmes movies had to do with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   It’s hard to really blame them for it.  The origins story is pretty thoroughly “done to death” whereas this formulation — which at least keeps the period aspect (even if a Edwardian London has been swapped out for Victorian) — has real franchise potential if they pull it off.

The story about a diamond warlord being the problem Tarzan has fix seems a little flat . . .  but Yates, with his background in the Harry Potter series, must have a trick or two up his sleeve to make the diamond mine operation come to life as something approaching the kind of “hidden kingdom”  concept that was so much a part of the Tarzan charm.

Anyway . . . . I’m starting to get excited about this — cautiously so, but excited.


  • I had a conversation with someone on another board about Chastain’s age and like Don he had the same reservation, that Jane should be older. So I can understand that concern but it depends on when this story takes place since based on what has been released in what time period does it take place. Is Korak born and if he is he a baby or a young child? If he’s 10 or older than Chastain would be age appropriate but this is just speculation but it might justify her casting. That and the fact that right now she’s a hot actress so I’m not surprised that they pursued her.

    In response to Abe’s post my only problem is that there is a lot of characters from ERB’s books that can be “sidekicks,” from D’Arnot to Muviro. The idea that they have to create one to me just doesn’t fly when there is characters to choose from. I guess I have a problem with that.

  • Skarsgard is a couple years older than Chastain, so I see no problem with perceptions of one being too mature to play off the other.

    As far as the Williams character, every film will be rounded out with a supporting cast, and the idea of Samuel L. Jackson playing that character sounds like a lot of fun. It’s unlikely that Tarzan and Jane will be around each other for the whole adventure, so there is the need for some other character with whom our hero can exchange dialogue. For me, it’s an amused and optimistic “wait and see”.

    Any projections about the overall outcome of the venture are wholly unfounded at this point.

  • Jessica Chastain is an accomplished actress, but I’m afraid at 35 she is too old for Jane. As much as I hate to say it, she would look too mature to play opposite Skarsgard. Of course, I’m not enthusiastic about that choice either.

    That said, as a life long Sherlockian I loathe Guy Ritchie’s travesty of Sherlock Holmes. This threatens to be very much the same sort of thing. Tarzan already has friends and companions in Paul D’Arnot and Muviro. He does not need some synthetic politically correct excuse for a character.

    Sounds like the Titanic is headed for the iceberg already.

  • Agreed that this sounds exactly like Tarzan is about to get the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ treatment.

    Thing is, that could potentially be alright if they make some of the right decisions. Those Guy Ritchie movies go off the deep end of ridiculousity, but they also capture some nice textures and character from Conan Doyle along the way. Not being as deeply attached to those books, I find the movies tolerable and occasionally amusing.

  • Sure, Chastain would be a splendid Jane. I have no problem skipping the origin, and I actually quite like the synopsis as described.

    But after seeing the way Yates bungled all the best parts of the final Harry Potter books, I don’t expect him to show any more respect to the deceased Burroughs than he did to the living JK Rowling (who obviously had some sort of approval). His Potter films are all a baseline level of good, but every time they build up to the parts that are supposed to be GREAT – the big powerful moments in the novels – they fumble and fail. He’s a little like James Mangold in that regard (read CASH by Johnny Cash and then shake your head at the neutered adaptation ‘Walk the Line’). He fails to understand or portray the most important moments of his protagonists evolution – fails to identify the emotional tentpoles of his stories but does apply admirable devotion to the details between them.
    To be fair, these are mostly screenplay problems versus directorial ones, but still.

    Maybe we’ll luck out since this isn’t even supposed to be an adaption of a specific Tarzan story, though. I’d love to be surprised, and have it be amazing.

  • I see no problem with starting the story with a mature and established Lord Greystoke. Origin elements can easily be introduced as flashbacks when Tarzan reflects on his life among the mangani, either when he runs into them (as he did in the books) or when he uses his jungle skills. And no reason that Jane can’t be set up at the African farm, a strong woman in her own right, devoted to Tarzan (real women in love are like that) and still able to function as a separate individual. ERB used parallel plot lines where the Tarzan action and the Jane action could meet up at some point.

    I hate to speculate too much about a movie still in development. Too much unfounded speculation is part of what stabbed John Carter in the back.

    (Oh, and the CAPTCHA thing. I understand why you need it. It’s just that sometimes it refuses to accept even when I’ve typed in the correct code. Also, I’m not getting the notices of any of the follow-up comments.)

  • Pascalahad — is this it? It doesn’t say anything about Jane.

    “Years after he’s reassimilated into society, he’s asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a warlord who controls a massive diamond mine. Samuel L. Jackson is being eyed to play Williams.”

    Re your thoughts about the origins story ….. I don’t disagree. I don’t think it ruins things when you know where the character is going to end up — how he gets there an be quite compelling. But I do think they are better off starting with the mature Tarzan. If they can establish him as a franchise — there will be ample opportunity to do the origins story and if there is a substantial audience in place, they will have the opportunity to do it right . . . .

    Re Jane … I guess it could e that Tarzan is solo in London, hasn’t met Jane yet, and meets her on this adventure . . . . . nothing particularly wrong with that. Maybe one thing they could learn from ERB would be to have him lose Jane and end it on a cliffhanger . . . . . something to look forward to in the second one.

  • Found it! But I just mixed Constantin Films’ Tarzan with the David Yates one…

    “Tarzan and Jane Porter face a mercenary army dispatched by the evil CEO of Greystoke Energies, a man who took over the company from Tarzan’s parents, after they died in a plane crash.”

    As a side note, I check sometimes “”, just to be sure I don’t miss anything. 🙂

  • Michael, I remember copy-pasting here a synopsis of this Tarzan I found somewhere on the internet (Imdb?). I don’t know if you can locate it now, it’s probably buried in the depths of the website. I can’t seem to find it now on the net, so perhaps it’s not accurate anymore. But if I remember correctly, Jane is the daughter of the evil Congo warlord, or of someone at the mine facility.

    For Jackson I found this entry: “Jackson, who just starred in Marvel’s The Avengers, is said to be up for the role of Williams, an original character for the film. Williams would be a Civil War veteran seeking redemption for his part in atrocities committed against Native Americans.” Seems like the damaged-by-Civil-War Carter has a few fellows.

    I take the bet that no one has referred to any of ERB’s novels in the screenplay. And I’m betting too that the movie WILL BE an origin’s story, in disguise, and that the evil warlord will be linked to the death of Tarzan’s parents. I can’t imagine a movie now with the hero not having an “arc” inside it (look no farther than Craig’s “Bond”). We’ll see.

    And I might disagree about the origin story. I read recently the first Tarzan novels (I’m on Tarzan the Untamed and boy is it gross), and I discovered to my surprise a story that was never told. There’s the story of Lord Greystoke himself and Lady Alice first, it’s wonderful and heartbreaking, paralleled with the loss of Kala’s first child. The youth of Tarzan is full of beats never explored, especially if you take into account the “Jungle Tales of Tarzan”. And the discovery of Tarzan himself by the Porter party has more than a few interesting moments. There’s matter, not for a movie, but for three or four (with The Return of Tarzan, perhaps the most problematic adaptation-wise)!

  • Surprisingly I’m not against skipping the origin story. Even before they went off the rails, both Greystoke and the Disney Tarzan did it so while I would like for once a faithful version I can understand wanting to move past it.

    I can’t really imagine anyone in Hollywood doing a lot better with the origins part of the story than Greystoke did. That doesn’t mean it was perfect — but it was pretty good. I just have a feeling that it would be “meh” in terms of audience and critic reaction to see that all over again, and I think that having Tarzan as an urbane, multilingual, witty (one would hope) English Lord really is fresh — how many of the eighty odd Tarzan movies have shown that?

    Re the diamond mine stuff — I just can’t believe David Effing Yates will let that be as flat as it sounds on paper. The guy that did all those Harry Potter movies has to be thinking about something pretty cool. He would be bored to death with the kind of diamond mine that comes to mind when you hear it.

    As for whether Tarzan needs a sidekick or not — Bond had Felix Leiter, John Carter has Tars Tarkas. . . . .

    Another thought … if Tarzan is already fully assimilated and living in London, what is Jane’s status? How does the Jane role end up being interesting enough for the likes of Chastain?

  • To give my two cents…

    Surprisingly I’m not against skipping the origin story. Even before they went off the rails, both Greystoke and the Disney Tarzan did it so while I would like for once a faithful version I can understand wanting to move past it.

    As far as casting goes I agree for a change that Chastain is a pretty good choice, an excellent actress and hopefully will be good if cast. I also admit that while he may not be one I would have thought of Skarsgard is also a good actor (even though I could not buy him as Taylor Kitsch’s brother in Battleship) and fits the bill physically-more lean and lithe than some muscle bound bodybuilder.

    Where I’m concerned is with two things. First is the character Samuel L. Jackson is reportedly being considered for . Do we need a sidekick for Tarzan? I just have a feeling this is being added for PC reasons to deflect criticism that Tarzan is racist so someone’s idea is to have Jackson make sarcastic remarks or it’s going to be some sort of Django Unchained idea. It just sounds bad and I like Jackson.

    The other area is the whole “diamond mine” concept. I hope you guys are right and it leads to Opar but it just bothers me that despite the numerous antagonists that ERB created in the books that screenwriters never use them. I mean come on, give us Rockoff or Obergatz or La of Opar. Heck even the Leopard Men or something other than just generic bad guys.

    So there’s my two cents. As long as their is no shape shifters and Tarzan doesn’t go all mopey Kitsch on us…;-)

  • Yes, I think they’ve just pushed him back thirty years or so . . . . that doesn’t both me. I can see why they like the idea of having Queen Victoria play M to Tarzan’s 007. Hell, they’ll probably cast Judy Dench, now that she’s out of the Bond series. No . . . I really think they’re got a smart concept, and let’s face — the Tarzan of most of the books, meaning the noble, educated, multi-lingual Lord Greystoke, has the potential feel fresh . . . . .

  • Oops, I’m bass ackwards! Perhaps if we adopt the “Tarzan was born in 1872” theory …

  • Michael Sellers wrote —

    “The origins story is pretty thoroughly “done to death” whereas this formulation — which at least keeps the period aspect (even if a Edwardian London has been swapped out for Victorian) — has real franchise potential if they pull it off.”

    Okay, Tarzan was born in the Victorian era, but he grew to adulthood in the Edwardian era (or whatever comes right after that). So it’s good! And yes, add a lost city with that diamond mine and we’re good to go.

  • Sorry about the Capcha . . . . it’s the ridiculous automated spam commenting that makes it necessary. I had a not-terribly-active blogsite where I didn’t have capcha and ignored the site for two weeks. When I went back to it, there were over 3,000 spam comments waiting for me. That’s how crazy it is. If you know some way to beat it without capcha let me know . . . . . I would love to not have to resort to that.

  • Frankly, I love this idea! Tarzan, Lord Greystoke as Victoria’s 007! Yes! Let’s get past all the “growing up with the apes,” slow-talking, two-syllable ape man and move on to the noble, knowledgable jungle savvy hero we know him to be. Of course, they could still screw it up, but I like the opening. And Blood Diamonds in the Congo is a good place to start — no reason they can’t run into Opar along the way.

    And then Pal-ul-don in the sequel!! 🙂

    P.S. I gotta say this CAPTCHA code thing is a P.I.T.A.!

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