March 24, 2010 / 4:44 AM / 8 years ago

Evil queen from "Sleeping Beauty" to star in film

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Having scored a hit with “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney and screenwriter Linda Woolverton are teaming to bring to the big screen “Maleficent,” a live-action take on the evil queen in the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty.”

“Maleficent” might reunite Woolverton with Tim Burton; it’s one of a handful of projects the filmmaker is circling. His interest in the character was piqued in the summer when he was in postproduction on “Alice,” and the studio and Burton’s camp have been trying to keep a lid on the project, though the Web site Ain’t It Cool News mentioned Burton’s interest in January.

No deal has been made with Burton, and the hiring of Woolverton is the first concrete step forward in the project’s development.

In “Beauty,” Maleficent is a tall green-skinned woman with horns who can morph into several forms, including a terrifying black-and-purple dragon. The character, who has appeared in many Disney books and TV shows and is a popular Halloween costume, is also the most serious character in Disney’s villain stable, featuring a darkness not found in other Disney characters.

Woolverton’s “Maleficent” would tell the classic fairy tale from the point of view of the self-proclaimed Mistress of All Evil, offering a new take on a classic tale as the screenwriter did with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice.”

It is unclear just how dark and edgy Disney — which had no comment on the project — wants to make “Maleficent.” The dragon scenes in the 1959 feature, for example, are notable for their intensity. But if any filmmaker has a successful track record of making the dark and weird work for families, it’s Burton.

Woolverton has a long history with Disney, and is best known for the screenplays of 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast” and 1994’s “The Lion King.”

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