In 1967, Rex Harrison starred in the family musical Doctor Dolittle as a veterinarian who could talk to animals, based on a character in Hugh Lofting’s series of children’s books first published in the 1920s. The movie was plagued with production problems and late-’60s audiences were not so interested in old-fashion musicals; the challenges were well detailed in Mark Harris’ fascinating book Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.
Still, Doctor Dolittle won two Academy Awards, including one for the original song “Talk to the Animals.” The books also served as inspiration for a 1998 movie version starring Eddie Murphy as the doctor. That version was quite successful at the box office, earning more than $294 million worldwide.
Now a new version is on its way. Robert Downey Jr. will star in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Stephen Gaghan (Gold) wrote the screenplay and will direct. Gaghan, who won an Academy Award for writing Traffic and was nominated for Syriana, is known for his dramatic material, so it should be interesting to see what kind of approach he takes with the project.
As for Downey, he’s already completed his role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due out on July 7, and is currently filming Avengers: Infinity War, due in theaters next year. He’s been talked about for Sherlock Holmes 3 and has a flock of other projects in development.