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Live-action ‘Popeye’ Movie in the Works

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Robin Williams in 1980's 'Popeye.'

Robin Williams in 1980’s ‘Popeye.’ Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Preview:

  • The Popeye character is in development for a new, live-action movie.
  • ‘Sexy Beast’ TV scribe Michael Caleo is attached to write the script.
  • Chernin Entertainment and King Features are behind the new movie.

Since his debut in 1920s comic strips, the spinach-loving sailor man ‘Popeye’ has most famously been brought to screens by Robert Altman.

His 1980 offering, which starred Robin Williams as the cackling, corn-pipped character and Shelley Duvall as the sailor’s quirky love interest Olive Oyl, was panned upon release but has since gained cult status. It was also surprisingly profitable, released by Paramount Pictures at a $20 million budget before grossing roughly $60 million worldwide.

Now, after a difficult period as a potential CG ‘toon (see more on that below), someone thinks that the world is crying out for a new, live-action take.

Popeye

Who is involved with making the new ‘Popeye’ movie?

Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall in 1980's 'Popeye.'

(L to R) Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall in 1980’s ‘Popeye.’ Photo: Paramount Pictures.

So far there is only one person attached to the movie –– writer Michael Caleo, who, given his history with gangsters (one of his big early gigs was on ‘The Sopranos’, he most recently created the TV series based on 2000 crime film ‘Sexy Beast’ and he wrote and directed comedy crime thriller ‘The Family’ in 2013), makes us wonder whether his vision for Popeye will be as a vigilante hunting down criminals.

Will regular villain Bluto turn out to be working for the mob? Will this new movie launch a world-wide boom for the spinach industry? We’ll have to wait and see.

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What’s the history of a new ‘Popeye’ movie?

Shelley Duvall and Robin Williams in 1980's 'Popeye.'

(L to R) Shelley Duvall and Robin Williams in 1980’s ‘Popeye.’ Photo: Paramount Pictures.

In 2010, Sony announced development of a CG film built around the character via Sony Pictures Animation and produced by Avi Arad.

Here’s what Arad said at the time to Variety:

“Scot [Sassa, whose company owned the character back then] called me and said, ‘I have something for you.’ I literally started singing the famous ‘Popeye’ song after securing the rights. What always blew me away is the level of the animation. It was so beautiful and unbelievably detailed.”

Then, in 2012, ‘Samurai Jack’ creator and ‘Hotel Transylvania’ franchise regular director Genndy Tartakovsky unexpectedly signed on to direct the CG outing for the studio. Yet despite the emergence of some test footage, Tartakovsky and Sony parted ways in 2015.

Here’s Tartakovsky’s statement on why he left the film:

“I was in love with what we were doing, but I think the studio is going through changes and I don’t know if they want to make the ‘Popeye’ that I want to make. So they’ve got to make a decision. Right now, I’m off that project and moving on to the other one that we soft-announced, which is ‘Can You Imagine?’, an original idea of my own and a very personal story. It was hard to let ‘Popeye’ go, but that’s the business.”

Since then, development on the CG version has crawled to a halt and now the rights are owned by Peter Chernin’s company.

When will the new ‘Popeye’ movie land on screens?

None of the companies involved have revealed a timeline for the movie yet, so we wouldn’t expect this one much before 2026 at the earliest.

1978's 'The All-New Popeye Hour.'

1978’s ‘The All-New Popeye Hour.’ Photo: Hanna-Barbera Productions.

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Buy ‘Popeye’ On Amazon

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