The next Dungeons & Dragons film appears to still be alive—and has rolled a crit on its first major casting decision, ahead of plans to finally start filming early next year.
According to Deadline, the combined powers at Paramount Pictures and D&D owner Hasbro have landed Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Star Trek) for the film’s lead role. This follows reports from 2019 that a solid writer-director duo was attached to the project: Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who co-directed the surprisingly solid dark comedy Game Night (which revolves around Hasbro board games, but in a far-from-family-friendly way) and co-wrote the Ars-approved film Spider-Man: Homecoming.
If Daley’s name rings a nerdy bell, that might be because one of his breakout acting roles—on NBC’s short-lived, critically acclaimed Freaks & Geeks—included one of TV’s all-time best takes on Dungeons & Dragons. In a pop-culture era when D&D references were usually derogatory or one-note, Freaks & Geeks‘ D&D episode took special care to frame the game accurately and amusingly—and it showed how ridiculous ideas like “Carlos the Dwarf” fit perfectly into Wizards of the Coast’s classic tabletop series.
That episode aired months before New Line Cinema dumped a stinker of a film, titled Dungeons & Dragons, into theaters worldwide—arguably to cash-in on Lord of the Rings fever, though not successfully. As Roger Ebert wrote in a December 2000 review: “Imagine a kingdom that looks half the time like a towering fantasy world of spires and turrets, castles and drawbridges—and the other half like everyone is standing around in the wooded area behind Sam’s Club on the interstate.”
On a pure series-nerd level, the 2000 film didn’t even bother leveraging decades of existing D&D lore and canon. Instead, it invented a facsimile of the Alphatian Empire for its very odd tale, starring Jeremy Irons as the big bad for some reason.
Whether Goldstein, Daley, and Pine join forces to deliver a nerd-perfect D&D interpretation, or they play fast and loose with the source material, we’re already optimistic enough to expect something better than what New Line produced 20 years ago this month… although we’ll go ahead and request some sort of sweet Beholder recreation, preferably in stop-motion or puppet form, please.