Why The King’s Daughter Had So Many Production Delays
The COVID-19 pandemic had moviegoers expecting constant delays for highly anticipated films. It doesn’t matter if your movie is an indie, a blockbuster or even who made it. The continued impact of the pandemic on theaters means any feature film is vulnerable to significant delays to maximize its best box office performance. One of the few new large-scale theatrical releases of January 2022 is a title that’s no stranger to major release date postponements. However, for The King’s Daughter with Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelario and Benjamin Walker, such delays happened long before the words “COVID-19” and “social distancing” entered people’s everyday lexicon and reflect a production that has been anything but a happy fairy tale.
The long and turbulent history of The King’s Daughter dates back to the time of Nirvana and pearl jam. Yes, in the 1990s, not only BoJack Rider have a very famous TV show, but this fantastic feature has started production. Based on the 1997 novel The Moon and the Sun through Vonda N. McIntyre, this text had originally his film rights acquired by Jim Henson Productions in 1999 (he was also to share the name of his source material). So far, this company’s biggest feature film feats that didn’t star Kermit the Frog were fantasy projects like The dark crystal and Labyrinth.
This helps to understand why a fantastic novel like The Moon and the Sun, which told the story of King Louis XIV trapping a mystical mermaid, would seem ripe for an adaptation by Jim Henson Productions. Tony-nominated theater director Christopher Renshaw was asked to make his first trip to the world of cinema by directing this production. Despite a team in place and a seemingly perfect production house, The Moon and the Sun went into radio silence after that. The stars were no longer aligned and it was not until 2001 that another update would see the light of day on the functionality.
Producer Invoice mechanic, who had been involved in the original Jim Henson Productions version of this venture, took on The Moon and the Sun to Disney as part of its new contract with the studio in 2001. The revelation of this development also delivered the explosive news that the film’s lead role had been cast: Natalie Portman was on board to play. Fresh out of work in The Phantom Menace, this was a major advantage for The Moon and the Sun while it was also revealed that this film would finally hit the cameras in 2002. It had taken some time for other news to emerge on The Moon and the Sun but what news had come ashore was certainly ideal.
After that, however, no further news would emerge on this iteration of The King’s Daughter. The only mention of this movie for about a decade came in a most unusual place. A profile of Bill Mechanic from Michigan State University in 2010 briefly noted that Mechanic was working on the film and claimed that Daniel Radcliffe was now attached to the star. Given the paucity of developments, you could be forgiven for thinking the project was dead in the water. But the fall of 2013 would bring a surprising development: this adaptation was back. Not only that, but funding had been secured and filming was gearing up to finally begin.
What finally brought The Moon and the Sun back from the dead? One ingredient that proved to be Hollywood’s savior in the first half of the 2010s: funding from Chinese media companies. Hollywood companies were reveling in an influx of money from Chinese studios at this time and this particular fantasy project was reaping the benefits of these ongoing collaborations. The Chinese media company Maodi Group put together a good part of the budget while another entity in this country, Kylin Films, would eventually intensify provide $20.5 million for the film. In addition, Fan Bingbing, a Chinese movie star, was now part of the production.
Australia proved to be even more influential in the production, which also funded The Moon and the Sun while the entire film would be shot in Melbourne, Australia. “We have a great French story, acclaimed English and Chinese actors and the best Australian creative talent, all combined to create a very unique adult fairy tale,” Mechanic observed of this version of the project, succinctly summing up the global fusion of talent that made it possible for The Moon and the Sun come out from the dead. Best of all, this long-gestating project was distributed as Focus Features in North America and Universal Pictures in the rest of the world.
In April 2014, principal photography has finally begun for this production, while four months later Paramount Pictures announced it would take over US distribution duties from Focus Features. This development came with the news that Paramount would launch The Moon and the Sun in theaters on April 10, 2015. While things briefly looked rosy, the film saw its theatrical release outright canceled just weeks before its theatrical release.
Given the total lack of marketing for The Moon and the Sun so far it was not a shock. Moreover, Paramount, at that time, tended to abruptly cancel the release of films like The little Prince Where Same kind of different as me before finding alternative studios to handle their releases. Fans of the source material or those observing this film’s long journey probably assumed that it would be the same outcome for The Moon and the Sun. However, the years dragged on and no further news came out about other release plans, not even when a new regime was installed at Paramount Pictures in early 2017.
Six staggering years after the start of the cameras The Moon and the Sun, news has finally emerged about the feature. Now bearing the title The King’s Daughter, ArcLight Films was now selling the feature to global distributors, with the company also revealing that Julie Andrews was now part of the cast as a previously unannounced narrator. Eventually, Gravitas Ventures would grab the U.S. distribution rights to the project. A step back from previous potential distributors like Disney and Focus Features, Gravitas Ventures’ filmography ranges from Oscar-nominated documentary The Mole Agent to thriller 2019 Cuckold.
Whether or not The King’s Daughter is all good will be for critics and audiences to decide. What’s obvious, however, is that the film’s long, winding road to the big screen is full of more twists and compelling twists and turns than many classic fairy tales. It took so long to The King’s Daughter to reach the rooms that its director, Sean McNamara, has managed to direct a multitude of other films, ranging from The season of miracles at Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite, in the meantime.
The long road to the big screen allowed the various incarnations of The King’s Daughter to inhabit various eras in Hollywood history, including a pre-Bob Iger period when Disney focused primarily on mid-range family films as well as Hollywood’s peak fascination with Chinese funding and talent. To take so many detours to be liberated means The King’s Daughter arrives in a pop culture landscape radically different from where it began filming, not to mention securing the film rights to its source material in the late 1990s. With a theatrical debut finally assured, it remains more than the quality of the feature film to determine whether a happily ever after will finally arrive for The King’s Daughter.
Neil Burger will direct the psychological thriller, which will begin filming next month in Canada.
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