Robert Downey Jr.’s resurgent career has seen him come face to face with 19th century British criminal masterminds in Sherlock Holmes and everything from aliens to robots as Iron Man. For his next cinematic adventure, the actor will share the screen with a whole ecosystem’s worth of wildlife, as he’s signed on to star in a new version of Doctor Dolittle.
Downey Jr. will play the titular character in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, which Universal Pictures just picked up after a competitive bidding war (via The Hollywood Reporter). Stephen Gaghan (Gold, Traffic) will direct from a screenplay he wrote based on an earlier draft by Tom Shepherd.
A physician who can talk to animals, the character of Doctor Dolittle first appeared on the screen in a 1967 musical directed by Richard Fleischer. The movie was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and took home awards for Best Original Song and Best Visual Effects. Later, Fox rebooted the good Doctor in 1998 with Eddie Murphy in the lead role. That film spawned four sequels, though the latter three did not star Murphy and were released straight-to-video. Fleischer’s original was the only one rooted in Hugh Lofting’s original series of novels, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle and Doctor Dolittle’s Circus.
Based on the title of the latest adaptation, it looks like Gaghan is returning to the source material. The book The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle found the Doctor training a young assistant, Tommy Stubbins, and setting off on an adventure to Spider Monkey Island to rescue his kidnapped friend, Long Arrow. The tale involves taking a ride in the shell of a giant pink sea snail, which means we could end up seeing something like this: