Idris Elba is set to direct and star in The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Netflix. The actor previously directed his first feature film, Yardie, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to mixed reviews. Elba is also teaming up with Netflix for the comedy series Turn Up Charlie, in which he will also star and executive produce.
The story of Quasimodo was written by Victor Hugo in 1831. The gothic novel has been adapted several times over the years into films, miniseries, and stage musicals. Disney most famously adapted the story into an animated feature in 1996 featuring the voice talents of Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, and Kevin Kline. With Disney turning its classic animated films like Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast, and the upcoming Aladdin and Mulan into live-action films, there have been rumors of a live-action Hunchback of Notre Dame for some time now as well.
Now, THR is reporting that Netflix has beat Disney to creating a live-action Hunchback of Notre Dame. The film will be produced, directed by, and starring Idris Elba in the titular role. Michael Mitnick (The Giver) will write the script. New music will also be produced for the film, described as a “sonic and musical experience.” There is no word yet if this version will feature wise-cracking gargoyles, but one can only hope.
Netflix isn’t the only studio interested in bringing the story of the bell ringer of Notre Dame to the big screen. Since 2011, Josh Brolin has expressed his desire to create a big film around Quasimodo first with Tim Burton and later with Zhang Yimou. Universal’s Dark Universe had also mentioned the character as a potential star of one of their films. There was also rumors of either a film adaptation or TV series based around the character of Esmeralda, the Romani dancer who shows kindness to Quasimodo.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is prime material for adapting. It features a dark story in a romantic, period setting. Despite being one of Disney’s darker films, the animated version was still aimed at children. This means much of the shocking reality of the story (including Esmeralda and Quasimodo’s deaths) was removed. A live-action version could capture the true intentions of Hugo’s novel and more explicitly delve into the mind (and lusts) of Claude Frollo. The most important part of any adaption would be capturing the character of Quasimodo in all his complexity and humanity and doing so in a way that is not offensive.