New 'The Witches' on Its Way From Robert Zemeckis; Here's What We Know So Far

The Walk

A new, big-screen version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches is on its way from Warner Bros. and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (The Walk, above), according to Variety. Here’s what we know so far.

What’s the source material?

Published in 1983, the children’s book by Roald Dahl follows an 8-year-old British boy who goes to Norway to live with his grandmother after his parents are killed. His grandmother tells him stories about witches, describing them as horrifying creatures who only want to kill children.

After he moves back to England with his grandmother, she becomes ill and they head to a hotel by the sea for her to recuperate. There, the boy is trapped by witches and transformed into a mouse. Inspired by his grandmother, the boy endeavors to kill all the witches.

Dahl may be best known for writing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but he also wrote James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The BFG, among numerous others.

Hasn’t this been made before?

Yes. The trailer for the 1990 version declared that the film came “from the incredible imagination of Jim Henson and director Nicolas Roeg.” Anjelica Huston starred as Miss Ernst, aka the Grand High Witch, with Mai Zetterling (as grandmother Helga), Rowan Atkinson (as hotel manager Mr. Stringer) and Jasen Fisher (as young Luke) also featured.

Warmly received by critics, the film did not fare well at the box office, outpaced by the opening weekend of Sam Raimi’s Darkman. Author Roald Dahl, who did not like any of the film versions of his books, found The Witches “utterly appalling,” per BBC.

Wasn’t Guillermo del Toro interested in making a new version?

Yes. Back in 2008, Alfonso Cuaron said that he would be producing a stop-motion adaptation and Guillermo del Toro would be directing. Cuaron also said that del Toro had already written an “amazing screenplay.”

How will Robert Zemeckis be involved?

Zemeckis is in final negotiations to direct the new version. If things work out, he will also be writing a new screenplay. Cuaron and del Toro will serve as producers on the project.

The new version “will be more rooted in the original source material,” reports Variety, “while the Huston pic was a loose adaptation.” The filmmaker became widely known in the 1980s for his fantasy adventures Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but throughout his long career, he has alternated adult-oriented offerings, like the recent Flight, The Walk and Allied, with family fare, such as The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. Zemeckis’ next film, the biographical drama Welcome to Marwen, will open in theaters on November 21.

When might we see it?

Because of the time required for Zemeckis to write the screenplay, The Witches probably won’t be ready until late 2020 or, more likely, 2021. But we’ll be happy to see it, whenever it’s ready!